A few months ago, I ran into some difficulty while neck deep in a particular writing project. My deadline was looming and I was going nowhere fast. Day after day I would sit down at the computer and beat my head against the wall, trying but repeatedly failing to drag forth the requisite pages that needed to be written that day.
It wasn’t due to a lack of organization. I had a detailed outline in front of me. The action and emotional impact in each chapter was scripted out and I even knew from which character’s viewpoint the scene would be written. I was excited about what was to come; the scenes were well constructed and drove the story forward at a decent pace, the characters were interesting and unusual. I was perhaps better prepared to write that book than any other I had written previously.
And I had long since passed the point where I could write only when “inspired” to do so. My muse had long ago been hunted down, captured, and chained to the demands of a professional writer’s schedule – you write when you need to write, not when you “feel” like writing. Writing when inspired was for sissies. I was a professional, damn it!
But it was not to be. Day after day I struggled, producing, on a GOOD day, about one fifth of my usual output and that only after hours of painful effort. The bad days weren’t even worth talking about.
As the time passed and the lines through the days on the calendar made it increasingly obvious to me that I either needed to do something drastic or shoot myself, I made a decision.
It was time for a change.
For years I have written in the quiet confines of my office, my trusty desktop with its 20 inch monitor my only companion. Music was a big no-no; too often I would find myself typing the lyrics to the songs I was listening to rather than the words of my tale and even purely instrumental numbers were a problem as I could get lost in the notes as easily as the lyrics.
To shake things up, I purposely changed everything I could think to change. Rather than work at my desktop, I would use the laptop. Rather than sit in my comfortable leather chair, I would use one made of hardwood without a seat cushion. Rather than work in the privacy of my office, I would go to the library or the deli or the local Starbucks. immerse myself in noise and people. Rather than create in silence, I would graft headphones to my ears and submerge myself in pulse-pounding and bass-cranking music if necessary.
Imagine my surprise when it worked.
The words that I had struggled so hard to find poured effortlessly from my fingertips in the midst of that Starbucks, an iced vente mocha frappuccino at my side. The action sequences that had seemed so scripted and flat previously now jumped to life while the words and music of Nickelback pounded in my ears. My output shot up to my usual levels and then kept going, until I discovered that I could write faster and with better results than I ever had before – all because I took a chance and changed the usual way I did things.
Is something in your writing process stuck? Are you getting frustrated by your inability to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself?
Then step outside the problem. Come at it from a totally different direction. Take your usual process and turn it 180 degrees in the other direction.
Change your perspective – you might be surprised at the results.
I know I was.