On Writing and Writers’ Block

Disclaimer:

This blog is entirely my own work and is not intended — in any context, sense, or by any definition or meaning — to be a duplication of my blog detailing my experiences with the National Novel Writing Month 2014 that I wrote for and published on the Desi Writers’ Lounge (DWL) blog. The piece I have published below is meant to be a cathartic exercise in fighting off the writers’ block that I sadly suffer from. Whereas the blog I wrote for DWL was meant only to detail my experiences and the lessons I’ve learnt in the month (of November) just gone by.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy the piece that will follow.

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Earlier this year, sometime in May, I decided that 2014 would be the year in which I will embark on the hellish ride that is known globally as the National Novel Writing Month. I had prepared myself mentally to the extent where the energy and passion was present, but I had no structure, no plan for the story that had been germinating in my mind for the last four years. Therefore, I was in no position to actually start the novel. I conveniently procrastinated on starting the planning process; technically, I should have started in July or August, but it was October when I realised that I had only one month in which to plan an entire 50,000-word novel right down to the most minor detail. Despite this realisation, I didn’t start planning until the last couple of days of October; even then, my plan was brief and sketchy, not as comprehensive as I’d have liked it to be.

I started writing on November 3, two days late. About a week later, and having averaged only about 1,000 words a day, I lost all my energy and passion. I had reached a block, which seemed insurmountable to me because I haven’t trained myself as yet in the methods of how not to be encumbered by the infamous and terrible writers’ block. I forced myself to start again in the last ten days of November, and I never even reached the 10,000-word mark. In any case, November is now over. I have lost the challenge.

I had stopped wanting to write. I just couldn’t continue anymore without it feeling like my entire being was revolting against being forced to vomit out a novel. Maybe it was due to the lack of a clear plan for the novel. Maybe it was because the original story idea has now begun to reek like stale piss, or alcohol; a possible signal that I should just scrap the idea and discover other story ideas.

I even had other matters to take care of, an excuse that no serious writer should ever make. Writing should never be a pastime for someone like me, who is serious about writing and wants to be published one day. I want to make it my vocation, a job, from which I earn money for writing about things that I am passionate about. I want to attend writing workshops across the globe; but in order to be selected for these workshops one must provide some good writing samples that show my writing skills and help identify the spaces for improvement, both for me and any potential writing mentors. But, I barely have any writings to show to anyone.

Maybe I should start with something small: writing exercises in how to structure a plot, describing a setting, a dialogue, in characterisation and character development. Maybe I should actually write down those short stories that I have made notes about on my phone. Hopefully, that will help me to get over my writers’ block.

Also, I need to read more, a lot more than I already read. I need to read more Chetan Bhagat, even though he can be a terrible writer. I need to read more prose pieces that are both published and unpublished, on various online blogs and forums that I follow.

Read more terrible fiction so I know what things to avoid in my writing. Read the good stuff so I can be inspired to write something good.

Read about the tropes of literary fiction, of the South Asian literature in the English language, of crime/mystery/thriller fiction. And, most importantly, I should read that eBook version of The Elements of Style by W. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Most of all, I should write in my bloody journal more often so I am better able to confront the myriad of events that occur to me and my loved ones every day; and, about the people that I have met in my own life, so they can come to life and even reach the ends they deserve in my writing. Make notes about the people I meet, those I have known for years, the ones I dislike or am disgusted by, and the ones who evoke a warm and fuzzy, happy feeling in my heart. Create characters out of them for my characterisation exercises.

Do writing exercises, at least once a day, or twice or thrice a week. As long as I am writing, I will be fine, safe, secure, and as exhilarated as I get when I am flying through a book. That’s what I want to feel from writing: a sense of exhilaration that I also get while reading. Although I confess that until now, I have mostly felt just a sense of forcedness; like whatever I am writing is just being forced out of me. There is no happiness or exhilaration, no sense of comfort or relaxation. In a way, this could constitute pain. I think writing will remain a painful activity for me until I reach a point when I can write, without thinking what others will think, what my parents will think when they read about what goes on in my mindscape. I should stop worrying about that, seriously. This niggling self-doubt will never let me become the writer I want to become because I always let it take over my mind.

That’s another thing I need to start doing. Start taking control of my mind by first understanding how exactly does it function; what goes on in there; how can I understand and then use my creative and thought processes to aid me in my writing.

Practice with formal-looking font styles. So far, I like Georgia and Garamond fonts for writing. Georgia easily mimics typewriter fonts. I can fool myself into thinking that I am writing on a typewriter. Times News Roman is better suited for any professional work-related writing, like those reports I wrote for Piler.

Oh look! I’ve managed to write over 900 words on writing and writers’ block. I believe it’s time to write that short story. First, I’ll just go with the breakdown of the plot, setting, character, and theme before I start writing. Then, I can polish it up before the next meeting on December 9. Woohoo!

Postscript: I made a few changes, here and there, and now this blog’s word count stands at exactly 1,075 words, including this postscript.

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