|The Grand Canyon - photos don't do justice|
There are pros and cons to approaching writing this way. The pros? You don't have to have everything figured out right from the beginning. You can let the characters tell their own story, in their own way, acting in ways that come naturally to them. The creative juices can flow freely, without being bound to a plan. I'm sure there are more. The cons? You don't have everything figured out from the start. Characters can be bossy; they can direct things where they want them to go, even if their ideas are crazy and lead you to the middle of nowhere. Readers can buy anything as long as it makes sense, but what if it doesn't? And what if you have a good idea of your story's conclusion, but the story's taking you somewhere else?
That's sort of what happened to me a few years ago. The story was humming along nicely, I knew where it was going to end up, and all of a sudden I hit a wall. How did I get from where the story was to where it needed to be? It was like I'd hit a dead-end and couldn't figure out how to turn around, or like running into an unhelpful local who told me "you can't get there from here."
I set my novel aside and started working on other things. I wasn't happy about it, but what else could I do? The novel had come to a standstill and I needed to take a break from it until inspiration, hopefully, struck. I wrote personal experience stories instead and two were published in Chicken Soup books. I wrote poetry. Every once in a while I reflected on the larger oeuvre and wondered if I could move past the obstacle. Nothing came to me. Eventually I wrote the ending, thinking that might help. It didn't, though it was satisfying to see the conclusion wrap up nicely. Finally, I wondered if I needed to go to the place in which the last part of the story takes place - the Grand Canyon. It was a long way to go and would cost a fair bit of money, but it was worth it if I could move the story forward.
This spring I went, I witnessed, I worshiped. Felt chills up my spine as I looked over one of the world's seven wonders. It is indeed a grand canyon. I took lots of pictures, made some notes. Saw some other beautiful places while I was there, returned home.
So now you are wondering where my story is. I confess I haven't touched it since my trip. It's been a challenging year and I haven't had time to do much more than post blog entries, work on a new website, continue with shorter pieces. But I do feel that life will ease up a bit soon or I'll get better at self-care and I'll get back to the novel. I do feel that going to the GC was an important step in getting over the bump in the road.
I believe that writer's block is best overcome by working on other projects and/or doing more research on the current one - even if you're a pantser like me. What don't you know that you need to know in order to continue? Let ideas percolate in your mind as you take an active rest or do some homework. If the piece is meant to be completed it will be. In God's economy it's just a question of time and timing. In the meantime, be patient with the story and with yourself.
You can read more of my writing at www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com