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I've Hit A Flippin' Wall (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
This is so frustrating. Normally, my head is filled with ideas, full stories just emerge and scenes play out with such clarity, I could be watching a movie, but in the last three weeks, a wall has appeared ... a literal wall. This isn't writers block. I've had that many times and easily pushed through it. This is something else, as if my subconscious mind is deliberately sabotaging me.

Firstly you need to understand I have depression. I've had it since I was in my teens. Dealing with it has become something of a philosophical journey, but what I'm faced with right now doesn't feel like depression. As I said above, it's a 'literal' wall. I sat in my bed last night and tried to think of where I need to go next with both Apparition and Filli Dingler but in both cases, I hit that wall. It was blank and black, with nothing on the other side. I couldn't think through it nor see through it. Not even the tiniest detail.

I am not saying it's going to be there forever. I just can't see myself ever becoming an author if I can't find a way through that wall. For all I know I'll suddenly find myself beyond that wall tonight and push on easily, but having had this for three weeks now, I'm not optimistic. I am angry with myself. LIVID! 'I'm a goddamn useless piece of shit'. That's the depression speaking by the way and is responsible for some of my better poems. But that's how I feel right now and it'll only get worse if I don't smash that wall.

So, it's not depression and it isn't writers block. What the HELL is it?

edit: I just realised something that's weird. Because I couldn't think through that wall, I wrote this down as a quick note for a voice I want to work on later, and having just looked at it again, I can't help but think it's related in some way:

The street calls. It draws me through shades to shadows, from shadows to darkness, like the mould in the corner of a lilac room, lost to all but the hand that dares a touch. It’s just rot isn’t it? Something that ‘was’, now shrivelled to nothing. Still, it calls.

Weird, no? Maybe this is my subconscious telling me to take this journey and in so doing break down that wall? Should I write this and put the other two on hold?
 
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Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Write a short piece or pieces that incorporate that wall. I once tried it with a poem and it turned out to be one of my better-than-average efforts. I won't go into it in depth as I don't want to hijack the thread and it did contain political material, but I found it quite enjoyable to write. It's surprising where some of those ad lib efforts can go.
An example off the top of my head:
Not everybody knows about walls, but my father was a bricklayer so I probably know a tiny bit more than the average uninitiated person. Those indentations in the bricks are called frogs and they help with the bonding as the pug squeezes into them while laying the bricks. This was brilliant until a small boy walked past the building site and began crying to his mother; he heard two of the guys talking about the wall and thought they were killing frogs and stuffing them down the cavity. Blah blah blah - there now follows a story about a kid who grew up and got into escapades with animal rights campaigners.
Yes, I know it's crap, but it gets you writing. I wrote it as it came into my head.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Write a short piece or pieces that incorporate that wall. I once tried it with a poem and it turned out to be one of my better-than-average efforts. I won't go into it in depth as I don't want to hijack the thread and it did contain political material, but I found it quite enjoyable to write. It's surprising where some of those ad lib efforts can go.
An example off the top of my head:
Not everybody knows about walls, but my father was a bricklayer so I probably know a tiny bit more than the average uninitiated person. Those indentations in the bricks are called frogs and they help with the bonding as the pug squeezes into them while laying the bricks. This was brilliant until a small boy walked past the building site and began crying to his mother; he heard two of the guys talking about the wall and thought they were killing frogs and stuffing them down the cavity. Blah blah blah - there now follows a story about a kid who grew up and got into escapades with animal rights campaigners.
Yes, I know it's crap, but it gets you writing. I wrote it as it came into my head.
So perhaps I should investigate that mould? I'm loath to put TWO projects on hold. That's the problem. I fear I may not get back to the mindsets that allowed me to write them. I haven't had this wall before but I have written something I thought was really good but could never get back to that voice. I fear not finishing something. I really FEAR it. I usually push through but this goddamn wall isn't anything I've experienced before.

I like that story by the way and think you should expand it out.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
This is what outlines are made for. Put a bit more detail in your outline, even if it isn't the best ideas. The point is to not stall out too long. Keep writing even if it's some of the worst crap you've done. You can't edit a blank page.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
This is what outlines are made for. Put a bit more detail in your outline, even if it isn't the best ideas. The point is to not stall out too long. Keep writing even if it's some of the worst crap you've done. You can't edit a blank page.
I've taken the advice of Phil Istine and I'm writing about the wall, or at least the subconscious lilac room I mentioned. I've got bits everywhere now and I hate it. I'm beginning to wonder if it's trying to write for the comps on here (nothing wrong with 'em!). It's likely a 'me' thing. When I was writing 'The Glass Tulip', I set aside some time to write 'The Gunslinger' for the comp. After I'd finished that, it took me ages to get back in the right mindset to continue 'The Glass Tulip'. When I was writing 'MotherHUD', I look time away to write something for the comp (never finished it), but once again when I returned to 'MotherHUD', I found it hard to find my feet again. I took time away to begin a story for this months comp and started the story 'The Incredible Filli Dingler'. I didn't continue it until I realised for whatever reason, I couldn't find the tone again for 'Apparition'.

It could be as simple as that. I'm not good at having more than one project at a time, and if I take too long from one project, I find it difficult to find my way back. My aim then, is to finish this little side peace 'The Wall', finish 'Filli Dingler' and then dedicate every moment I have to 'Apparition'. Multitasking isn't me apparently. Assuming that's the reason for this wall.

I can't begin to express how annoyed I am with myself.
 
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
I know you said that you don't believe it's Writer's Block, but to me that sounds exactly like Writer's Block (at least, in my experience).

I also agree with your conclusion that working on new projects might not be helping. All that does, for me, is redirect my passion toward something else. Instead, what I usually need is to find a way to funnel my passion back into my current project(s).

Sometimes this means deleting from the end back toward the beginning, until I reach a place in the story where I find my enthusiasm again. Other times, this means just coming up with a new twist or direction to spin the current story toward.

As the adage goes, "Make ninjas fall from the ceiling." Which is just another way of saying: try throwing some unexpected conflict into the mix, just to shake things up.

I'm not a huge fan of Tarantino's work, though I am a big fan of his passion for writing. And one thing he likes to talk about is how he tries to surprise himself, when writing the story. Because surprises are fun, and they create new developments for the writer to unfold. So perhaps, instead of trying to think of where the story should go, you might consider thinking of where the story could go. Perhaps, the stranger the better.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
First of all, don't imagine you're on an island with these issues. Getting stuck for the next idea is most writers every week. LOL Switching voice and/or style between separate projects is a concern for anyone engaged in doing that.

Discussion for "Next idea": Happening to me about every half hour while I'm currently plotting my murder mystery. With the goal of a puzzle mystery, I have to have a list of suspects and reasons why the reader might peg any of them as the culprit. In my novels where I'm into the manuscript (and I typically only have general notes and a very few scenes mapped out in advance), I also get to "what next?" places. Your post here was helpful, because it made me think about what I do to get the story going again, and my answer is "A Character".

In my current plotting, when I'm getting stuck for what to do next, I look at my list of characters, identify one that hasn't been in rotation in the story for a while, and think, "What can that character be doing right now? What's their reaction to what just happened? What can their contribution be to add to or solve the current dilemma?" I haven't been doing that as a conscious plan, but I realized as I started this note that's what I'm doing 75% of the time to continue the story.

In my last novel, the same thing, but I wasn't staring at a list of characters. It wound up turning what might have been a one-off character in a discrete set of scenes into a major character with important contributions and a fate, at the end of the novel, yet to be decided. However, I did have a double cast list for the novel, and a few times I did scan it to decide who would appear next who had never before appeared, and that gave me a direction for the next scene ... normally a next chapter start. So it helps me to have a toolkit full of interesting characters to pull out and play with.

Discussion of "Voice": After finally finishing my first novel (heroic fantasy), compiling content and then writing 20-25K words to top off three other heroic fantasy, writing a prequel/sequel to the first novel, and writing the sci-fi novel, I had two more works hanging: one in a hip first person voice, and one in a classic fairy tale voice. So we're talking four voices here, and these last two started years ago. I was VERY worried about picking that first person voice up again, but it happened. I wound up not completely continuing the classic fairy tale voice. I probably could have, but I thought it might be too heavy for the entire work, so I tapered it off by segueing into a lot of dialogue. I dropped the classic voice back in here and there to remind everyone (starting with me) that we're still in a fairy tale, but I wasn't enjoying that voice as a constant style the way I did when I wrote the first 3K words years ago.

But my strategy in both cases was to read over what I'd started with several times to get that voice back into my head, and overall, that seems to have worked.
 
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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
First of all, don't imagine you're on an island with these issues. Getting stuck for the next idea is most writers every week. LOL Switching voice and/or style between separate projects is a concern for anyone engaged in doing that.

Discussion for "Next idea": Happening to me about every half hour while I'm currently plotting my murder mystery. With the goal of a puzzle mystery, I have to have a list of suspects and reasons why the reader might peg any of them as the culprit. In my novels where I'm into the manuscript (and I typically only have general notes and a very few scenes mapped out in advance), I also get to "what next?" places. Your post here was helpful, because it made me think about what I do to get the story going again, and my answer is "A Character".

In my current plotting, when I'm getting stuck for what to do next, I look at my list of characters, identify one that hasn't been in rotation in the story for a while, and think, "What can that character be doing right now? What's their reaction to what just happened? What can their contribution be to add to or solve the current dilemma?" I haven't been doing that as a conscious plan, but I realized as I started this note that's what I'm doing 75% of the time to continue the story.

In my last novel, the same thing, but I wasn't staring at a list of characters. It wound up turning what might have been a one-off character in a discrete set of scenes into a major character with important contributions and a fate, at the end of the novel, yet to be decided. However, I did have a double cast list for the novel, and a few times I did scan it to decide who would appear next who had never before appeared, and that gave me a direction for the next scene ... normally a next chapter start. So it helps me to have a toolkit full of interesting characters to pull out and play with.

Discussion of "Voice": After finally finished my first novel (heroic fantasy), compiling content and then writing 20-25K words to top off three other heroic fantasy, writing a prequel/sequel to the first novel, and writing the sci-fi novel, I had two more works hanging: one in a hip first person voice, and one in a classic fairy tale voice. So we're talking four voices here, and these last two started years ago. I was VERY worried about picking that first person voice up again, but it happened. I wound up not completely continuing the classic fairy tale voice. I probably could have, but I thought it might be too heavy for the entire work, so I tapered it off by segueing into a lot of dialogue. I dropped the classic voice back in here and there to remind everyone (starting with me) that we're still in a fairy tale, but I wasn't enjoying that voice as a constant style the way I did when I wrote the first 3K words years ago.

But my strategy in both cases was to read over what I'd started with several times to get my head back into that voice, and overall, that seems to have worked.
I know you said that you don't believe it's Writer's Block, but to me that sounds exactly like Writer's Block (at least, in my experience).

I also agree with your conclusion that working on new projects might not be helping. All that does, for me, is redirect my passion toward something else. Instead, what I usually need is to find a way to funnel my passion back into my current project(s).

Sometimes this means deleting from the end back toward the beginning, until I reach a place in the story where I find my enthusiasm again. Other times, this means just coming up with a new twist or direction to spin the current story toward.

As the adage goes, "Make ninjas fall from the ceiling." Which is just another way of saying: try throwing some unexpected conflict into the mix, just to shake things up.

I'm not a huge fan of Tarantino's work, though I am a big fan of his passion for writing. And one thing he likes to talk about is how he tries to surprise himself, when writing the story. Because surprises are fun, and they create new developments for the writer to unfold. So perhaps, instead of trying to think of where the story should go, you might consider thinking of where the story could go. Perhaps, the stranger the better.
I know this sounds very much like writers block but I don't believe in writers block. It's just a moment when your imagination isn't firing as well as it has before, and the solution is to just push through it, regardless of the quality of the work.

This is an actual 'wall' in my imagination. I know the scene I'm writing next in Apparition. It's of the villagers marching up to the farmhouse with their torches in their hands. I even know it's at this point Arthur notices that the sky has remained overcast and dark, even though it's stopped raining. It's night in the day. I can't see it! I can't visualise it! I don't know why. All I can see is blank. It's as if the cinema screen I usually depend on has gone.
 

LCLee

Financial Supporter
I just went through a bit of that myself. I wrote a piece trying to show how someone could come out of a comma and be completely different, and in this case he was a rebel from the states to a Manchester snob. It was crap and the more I worked on it, well; you know.
I offer up a scenario that I will never write about: Where a plane crashes next to a glacier and the pilot and his dog have to cross the glacier to get food and shelter.
 

jenthepen

Staff member
Mentor
Maybe you are concentrating too much on the problem. From experience, I'd say it's like 'pushing a horse' - the harder you shove at The Wall the more it resists you. Take two days away from the problem. It's been there for 3 weeks so a couple of days won't make any difference and you might be surprised how much it can change things. Don't be scared that you will never be able to regain the mindset for the stories on hold. A refreshed mind will mould itself to any task. If you can, go for a walk outside. Don't think about the problem at all but focus on the things around you and let your mind dream around those things. Resist any small inkling to get back to the stories and give yourself the full two days. I'm pretty sure you'll find that 'the horse' will be ready and willing when you decide to give it another go.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Maybe you are concentrating too much on the problem. From experience, I'd say it's like 'pushing a horse' - the harder you shove at The Wall the more it resists you. Take two days away from the problem. It's been there for 3 weeks so a couple of days won't make any difference and you might be surprised how much it can change things. Don't be scared that you will never be able to regain the mindset for the stories on hold. A refreshed mind will mould itself to any task. If you can, go for a walk outside. Don't think about the problem at all but focus on the things around you and let your mind dream around those things. Resist any small inkling to get back to the stories and give yourself the full two days. I'm pretty sure you'll find that 'the horse' will be ready and willing when you decide to give it another go.
I have considered whether I've overstretched myself, but what happens when I take this writing malarkey seriously come Feb? If I'm really serious about it, how can I justify taking time off? Stephen King writes 6 pages a day. I know different authors write different amounts and have different routines, but I can't let something like this get in my way. I won't allow it to get in my way ... but it bloody well is in my way!

I might finish this 'The Wall' piece and then do as you've suggested. I have no aims for 'The Wall', have no structure and don't know where it's going, so visualising the next scene isn't a problem. The writing is leading me there naturally. I'm still attempting yet another style/voice though ... doh! I can't stop myself.
 

jenthepen

Staff member
Mentor
I have considered whether I've overstretched myself, but what happens when I take this writing malarkey seriously come Feb? If I'm really serious about it, how can I justify taking time off? Stephen King writes 6 pages a day. I know different authors write different amounts and have different routines, but I can't let something like this get in my way. I won't allow it to get in my way ... but it bloody well is in my way!

I might finish this 'The Wall' piece and then do as you've suggested. I have no aims for 'The Wall', have no structure and don't know where it's going, so visualising the next scene isn't a problem. The writing is leading me there naturally. I'm still attempting yet another style/voice though ... doh! I can't stop myself.
I think you're suffering from burn-out. Sometimes, the mind just needs to relax and reset. If you can't bring yourself to take two days off then give yourself an hour of focus and meditation on something that is not a screen or a book. I agree that you should write The Wall piece first - it won't give you the peace you need while it is buzzing in your head - but then take a rest and let it all go. Your stories won't be lost, they are simply out of reach of your conscious mind at the moment.
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
From a personal standpoint, my work tends to be better if I have at least three projects going in tandem. That way if I need to shift gears to fit my mood I can and do. (It is the same reason I have at least four books in the process of being read at any given time.)

There are days where I don't have anything to write about, so I just let my brain be. If I get a glass rabbit moment (an idea that is overly clear or persistent) I sit down, put my music on and write about that. I let the fluidity of the creative do its thing. Once I clear the static I can return to my prior projects. One major cheat I do have is the direct link my playlists have to my projects. I have soundtracks for them all, a weird touchstone that helps to ground my mindset after following a rabbit.

Oddly enough, my glass rabbit pieces tend to be some of my better work and usually end up in key pivot points when I get stuck. It is an abstract form of problem solving for issues that have yet to present themselves.

As annoying as it can be, listen to the idea. Work with it and follow it to a logical conclusion. Then set it aside. It might come in handy later. Who knows.
 
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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
There are times when I stop writing because I seem to have hit a dead end. My latest trick is to move on to the next big scene and come back later when I have something to aim at.
It's actually 'seeing' it that seems to have deserted me. I can sometimes bring myself to tears imagining the plight of another person, scare the living daylights out of myself by imagining someone's standing behind me. I know they're not really there, but my imagination effects all my senses. I often listen to new musical compositions in my head as if I've got headphones on. I can literally see it and hear it. But for some reason, when I was laid there in bed the other night, all I could see was nothing. And the more I tried to see, the more tangible the wall became.

Now, I'm putting this out there in the hope typing it might unlock a possible truth. I've always struggled to see the 'links' between scenes. Not that there always needs to be one, but in cases when there does need to be one. I'm wondering if that's the wall. I can see the scene beyond the link. Not as well as I would normally but it's there. It's of villagers marching up to the farmhouse with torches (not medieval torches!) They've been called by Heather and they're all the people who hung her husband (minus some that died).

The last part I wrote was a highly changed moment when Arthur storms through to the kitchen and Sarah shouts through she saw him sneak into the barn (to see Heather). He's angry Sarah has brought up his infidelity from years ago, and Sarah is showing the first signs of jealousy.

That scene is a high tension scene and not quite finished, and the villagers marching up to the farmhouse is a high tension moment, yet to be written. Arthur will take that anger outside when eventually he confronts the villagers and asks them what the hell they're doing on his property. I can't see it ... Perhaps that IS the wall I'm experiencing?
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
It's actually 'seeing' it that seems to have deserted me. I can sometimes bring myself to tears imagining the plight of another person, scare the living daylights out of myself by imagining someone's standing behind me. I know they're not really there, but my imagination effects all my senses. I often listen to new musical compositions in my head as if I've got headphones on. I can literally see it and hear it. But for some reason, when I was laid there in bed the other night, all I could see was nothing. And the more I tried to see, the more tangible the wall became.

Now, I'm putting this out there in the hope typing it might unlock a possible truth. I've always struggled to see the 'links' between scenes. Not that there always needs to be one, but in cases when there does need to be one. I'm wondering if that's the wall. I can see the scene beyond the link. Not as well as I would normally but it's there. It's of villagers marching up to the farmhouse with torches (not medieval torches!) They've been called by Heather and they're all the people who hung her husband (minus some that died).

The last part I wrote was a highly changed moment when Arthur storms through to the kitchen and Sarah shouts through she saw him sneak into the barn (to see Heather). He's angry Sarah has brought up his infidelity from years ago, and Sarah is showing the first signs of jealousy.

That scene is a high tension scene and not quite finished, and the villagers marching up to the farmhouse is a high tension moment, yet to be written. Arthur will take that anger outside when eventually he confronts the villagers and asks them what the hell they're doing on his property. I can't see it ... Perhaps that IS the wall I'm experiencing?
Hmmm...
You could try visualization. Relax, close your eyes and play what you have written in your mind like a film. Pick suitable music to accompany.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
You’re all going to die. And then closing scene of skeleton keeled over keyboard. A single ant scampers across his skull.
 
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