writing through the wall (or writing 101)

i don’t know why or where or how i was under the impression that you only had to break through writer’s block just one time and that once you were through, it was all SUNSHINE and HAPPY THINGS and TRA LA LA LA LA all the time from your fingertips.

not so. oh, not so. you have to break through that wall EVERY. SINGLE. TIME you sit down to write.


this post by jessica corra explains it all so much more eloquently, especially the part where she relates it to sports, specifically running. just because i hit 3 miles yesterday doesn’t mean that running today is going to be easy. i mean, it might. the weather might be cool and crisp and my legs might be fresh, but then again, the humidity might be solid and my legs could feel like that as well. who knows? all i know is that i have to push through and keep running because once i’m done that’s when i feel all ENDORPHINEY and SHINY and TRA LA LA LA LA LA and GOOD.

i want to get to that place from writing and the only way to do so is to finish. and to finish, i have to start. each day (or, you know, most days). word by word and sentence by sentence, the pages will fill up. sure, the rough draft is going to be icky and horrid and unfit for all human eyes (save my own), but that’s when the EDITING and POLISHING and SERIOUS WRITERLYISHNESS comes in.

getting that first draft down and out has been difficult for me. i’m not going to go all psychotherapist on myself to figure out why, but instead be grateful that i’ve stumbled into one bria quinlan who’s the funniest type of taskmaster. she’s getting me to put my butt in the chair (at the thinking cup and/or at california pizza kitchen and/or at my own house) and i’m writing. i really am. (look ma, no hands!) (wait…)

the other thing this fast drafting process has shown me is that i’m so busy working i don’t have time to sit and think, “hey, this is really bad and these characters all sound the same and the plot? what plot? and UGH, i stink and what’s dangling participle again?”

i’m just there in the moment writing.

like with running, i don’t have time to think, “hey, my arms aren’t swinging enough, my foot falls on its heel, do i look weird?” because i’m watching for traffic and deciding to go left or right and pushing forward and feeling how my lungs are doing.

i’m just there in the moment running.

it would appear that by just doing [said task], i’m able to push through that wall, which, for me, is composed (brick by brick) of self-doubt. your wall might be made of a different foundation, but the point is not what it’s made of. the point is not to give yourself time to think or worry or ponder, but to get around, over, under, through, past it any way you can.

and if you have trouble getting going, i think it’s okay to start by writing ON the wall.

22 thoughts on “writing through the wall (or writing 101)”

  1. “It would appear that by just doing [said task], i’m able to push through that wall” — yes, yes, yes! It’s like what Uncle Big, there’s no way out of this but through :)

    I was thinking the other day about one of Maggie Stiefvater’s many wonderful posts about the discipline required of writers. People assume that just because we all read and use words every day, it’s easy to be a writer — we all know how to form a sentence, so we just sit down and write, and voila, a book!

    Which is a ridiculous idea, if you think about musicians. No matter how much talent you might have, it’s the discipline and the endless hours of boring practicing that would get you to a point where the art you’re creating is fit for others’ ears. So why are we surprised that writing requires hard work and hours and hours of writing crap? But in chair, one word at a time. That’s the only way :)

    Now hold on just a sec as I climb down from my soapbox… :)

    1. it’s a bit weird you mention Uncle Big because i was listening to a bit of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE yesterday while on the elliptical and that combined with the exercise really got me thinking. i went home and adjusted some things in the beginning + add some more words to the end. 10K+ and counting!

      this is the start of a good writing habit, i hope.

      also, yes! to your point about musicians. i can’t say i was ever very accomplished, but i can play a mean rendition of “16 going on 17”, but if i had kept it up (and sometimes i really wish i had), i might very well be on my way to carnegie hall.

      i suppose you never know what you’re capable of until you set your mind to it.

  2. Whenever I hear about that “runner’s high” I get so jealous. It sounds blissful. Unfortunately, I have exercise-induced asthma, and tend to turn blue and pass out before I ever get to it. Also, too much sweating gives me a rash. So I get my endorphins from chocolate. ;)

    I do, however, totally agree with your writing analogy — you have to figure out a way to get over, under, or through that big wall every single time. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, your muse provides you with wings, and you sail right over. Other times (most times, for me) you have to pull out a shovel and dig deep to find the words. Or a pickaxe, and just keep chipping away until you’re through.

    Hey, writing ain’t for sissies… *grin*

    1. “writing ain’t for sissies” is totally my new mantra.

      and here’s hoping i’m actually digging a tunnel under the wall instead of just down to china. my words barely make sense in english, i’m not so sure they’d made sense in chinese. OR MAYBE THEY WILL.

      *gets out shovel*

  3. Linda, I’m totally onboard for the idea of a Writer’s High. Where can I get one… I have had those, “I can’t go to bed no matter how tired i am because I’m writing nights…” *occassionally* More of those would be great :)

    Oh no! Maybe I”m a sissy!

    Abby, love ya toots… Now, go write.

    1. *salutes* yes, m’am.

      p.s. i’m 100% sure you are NOT a sissy, at least in terms of being a writer. the other areas? i’m still learning about. ;)

  4. This–“like with running, i don’t have time to think, ‘hey, my arms aren’t swinging enough, my foot falls on its heel, do i look weird?’ because i’m watching for traffic and deciding to go left or right and pushing forward and feeling how my lungs are doing.”–is the opposite of garbage. Schmarbage.

    10K woowoo!


    1. so when i’m talking about schmarbage, you know what i’m referring to?

      also, that’s a VERY clever use of some song lyrics as your name. creative liberties ahoy!

    1. that sounds like a very good idea (the growling and the leaping) and i suspect that latter involves a liberal use of my imagination, which is what this party needs!

  5. I am firmly in the “Write Every Day” Camp. Nora Roberts spoke very eloquently of this many, many years ago. She said, just do it before Nike did. (Don’t tell them though.)

    It doesn’t matter what you write, but you have to write. That is the mental stretching you need to get the creative juices flowing. For me when I am in the zone it normally includes a Super sized Coke Zero, some loud music pulsing though my ear buds and me and my keyboard in complete harmony. Does this happen every day? Heck no, but more often than not I am getting there. Mainly because I’ve let myself realize that sometimes what I want to write about today doesn’t relate to anything I may currently be working on. But that’s okay. I’m writing. And that’s what count.

    1. write every day. true. i’m learning to say no to things so i have time in the day to write.

      in other news, i love hearing about everyone’s methods of writing — or, to be more specific, what they have surrounding them when they are writing. you with your music + your caffeine. me with my silence and “stolen” time (i like it when it feels like i’m not supposed to be writing, but am.)

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