Monday, February 24, 2014

Going primitive

I once read a post by a female writer who said she would do anything to avoid writing. She would read any stupid thing on the internet, clean her closets, color-coordinate her clothes - anything to avoid facing that blank page. On a mini-scale, I can relate.

My writing motor is running smoothly again, but I did have some rough months. What I did to avoid writing was move my writing materials - ideas, notes, research, etc. - from one program to another, and then to another, and another ad infinitum. It was all about getting ready, an amorphous thing for a writer. But I finally realized that getting ready is something that happens in my head, not in computer apps. And this allowed me to begin writing again.

I abandoned my digital aids and returned to writing notes in, of all things, a notebook. It was a good move. I feel like I'm home each time I pick up my pen and write something down. (Mind you, the actual writing of the novel occurs in Scrivener, the world's best writing program. That's a given.) Without notes, I'm flying blind. They're a necessary tool for writers.

I discovered something long ago, but forgot it. I can record my ideas by typing them into a program, but there's something about writing the old-fashioned way that burns the idea into your brain. It's as if writing the idea down on paper makes the brain allocate a set place for it. That counts. I seem to lose many things that I type into a program - they're still there but I don't remember them or consult my notes to find them. But my handwritten notes are always there, always retrievable. Although I'm a very digital guy, I am reminded that writing by hand has benefits. I was happy to rediscover this.

I guess writer's block has similarities with baseball players who lose their swing. It's painful to watch them during these periods. They'll try anything to get their groove back, so they take advice from everyone and end up unable to play. And when they finally do find their swing again, they almost always say that the solution was to return to what they used to do when they were playing well. That's what I did. Notebooks are part of the way I write. I need them, I've got them and now I'm writing every day.

I know it sounds simple but that's how it worked for me. I'd love to hear about other writers' experiences...but that never happens on this blog. I used to write regularly about being a fiction writer. I hoped other writers would visit and share their concerns, habits, tricks, etc. The idea was that we could all benefit from hashing things out.

But I gave up. Why hold a party when no one ever arrives? Any writers out there? How does it work for you? A comment or two would be very nice. I'm not going to hold my breath, though. One learns from experience.