Tag Archives: Writer’s block

Listen To The Voices


Oh yes, they can be mean, those voices. They’ll lead you down the primrose path and then, suddenly, they’re gone. Like a tribe of helpful desert nomads who have agreed to take you across the Sahara. You wake up one morning and they’ve abandoned you to the vast, endless, sea of sand. You find yourself alone. They didn’t even bother to leave you a compass.

They come back, though. At least, they have for me. But I’m aware of the fact that there have been those extreme cases where they didn’t return for years. I can imagine that would be a bit of a problem if your writing is paying the mortgage.

But, most of the time they just leave for a while. Question is; do they really leave or do we stop listening to them? I think, sometimes, what happens is that we stop paying attention to them and head down our own path. As if we know better than the voices. They were doing fine but somewhere along the way we decided that the voices were wrong. The voices hate that.

I wrote a story, a while back, that involved a character going to a gypsy camp to steal a potion that his friend desperately needed. The friend could not go because he knew the gypsy witch who had the potion and he knew that she would not give it to him. They had a history, you see. It was going great and the words were just flowing out of me. I was really in the zone on that one. I got to the point in the story where he was about to get the potion and I decided that the story needed some action. “No,” the voices insisted. “It’s not that kind of story.” I told them they were wrong. I decided that he was going to snatch the vile from the sorceress and there would be a thrilling chase through the woods on horseback with whips slashing and guns blasting. But, no matter how I tried, it wasn’t working. I just could not get it to where I wanted it. I stopped writing and paced up and down, complaining to my wife that the voices weren’t talking to me. It was their fault, of course. She told me to let it go for a while.

“Forget it for tonight,” she said in her infinite wisdom. And I did. We watched a movie and I went to bed.

The next day I went back to it. I was ready to listen to the voices, again. “Okay,” I sheepishly said.  “What do you want me to do?”

It was simple. The sorceress would just give him the vile. She’s a witch. She knows why he’s there. And for whom. “How did you plan to get it?” she asks him. “Grab it and run? Your throat would have been cut before you even left my wagon!” And, laughing, she simply hands it to him! It was perfect. I also realized that the action scene would have taken a lot away from the surprise ending. Yes, the voices had been right.

That hasn’t been the only time I’ve tried to ignore them, I must admit. There have been others, and yes, it always went badly. Always I returned to the original direction. I’m getting better at listening to them, though.

Now, there are times, of course, when we can’t hear the voices because we have too many other things on our mind. Real life has a habit of interfering with our writing. That can’t be helped.

But sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck in the middle of the desert with no oasis in sight, only endless sand dunes. Most likely its because you tried to tell the nomads which way to go. They hate that.


im free!!!!!!!

I can understand that girl in the picture. Not just because I’m the one who drew her, but because I just finished my first novel.

It took a ridiculously long time. Three years. Now, someone told me that isn’t so bad. He says it took him ten years to finish his. Now that’s commitment! I would have managed to misplace it long before that. “Oops, I accidently hit the delete button. Oh, that’s too bad.” But another author I know seems to complete three books a month. All right, that’s a slight exaggeration. But she’s prolific.

How does she do it? Does she eat? Sleep? Use the bathroom? She seems healthy so I’m assuming that she does all those things and yet she still manages to put down plenty of words. And somehow they’re good, too. And she not only has all of those books, but several blogs.

It’s downright embarrassing. But, hey! I finished! That’s all that matters. Right? Right…? (Crickets can be heard rubbing their legs together in the distance).

In all fairness, it wasn’t really three years of writing. I stopped. A lot. I would get distracted by something shiny in the corner of the room and go over there. I’d get short story ideas that I just had to do. But always the novel would sidle up to me and whisper, “You haven’t forgotten me…have you?” No, I hadn’t. How could I?

“So, how’s that novel coming along,” someone would ask.

“Um…yeah…fine, fine,” I’d answer as a bead of sweat worked its way down my forehead.

“What chapter are you on?”

“Nine.” I’d be scanning the area around me, like a nervous cat, seeking a way out.

“Weren’t you on chapter nine three months ago?”

“Yeah…listen, I have to go and write. See ya!” I would slink off, cursing myself for having told someone that I was writing a book. Yes, I could feel their eyes drilling into my back as I slithered off into the shadows. They knew my terrible secret. I was writing a novel that would never get done.

And yet, there were the days of joyous inspiration when I’d bang away at the keyboard and loved every word I was seeing. Yes! I’m doing it! Look at me, I’m finishing the book! And just as suddenly the writer’s block would come back like a recurring bout with Malaria. My family had to go through this roller coaster ride with me. The days when I’d have a big dumb smile on my face because I had just finished another chapter, and the days when no one better talk to me because I had just spent the whole day staring at a blank computer screen. Luckily, my wife is very understanding. Well…except for those times when she’s not.

But I actually finished it. And I think it’s good. And I did love writing it although, like the lady in the cartoon, there certainly is that feeling of finally being free of it. I’m no longer finding it hard to sleep because I can’t get that scene just the way I want it. Or quickly getting up from the dinner table because I just figured out how I want to begin the next chapter and I have to do it right now before I forget.

You’d have to be crazy to want to put yourself through all of that. I guess that explains why I’m working on my second novel.