A wise man once said to me:
“Put two of them [characters] in a cafe. Let them order coffee and cake … Sit down and write that short story. Don’t have a purpose for the scene. Just get into the rhythm of it. Let your characters have fun.”
He said a bunch of other things too but this particular bit made a world of difference to me. (Thank you, Josh!)
It’s no secret I’ve been struggling to write. Okay FINE I’ve been suffering a major case of writer’s block. I talk about it a lot here on the blog and often tweet things at the height of my frustration. One of those tweets led to a conversation about my anxiety.
You see I’ve been so full of anxiety that the mere thought of writing would send me into a tailspin of negativity and yuckiness that I’d rather not get into. So when he suggested I just write without purpose I was like huh, that might be just crazy enough to work!
I decided to pull two characters from two different novels (and genres!) and have them sit down, have a coffee and a chat and see what happened.
The first character I selected was James. He’s the Reaper (and main character) from my fantasy series The Reaper Chronicles. He’s hands down one of my favourite characters. I think about him a lot … like he’s a real person or something.
The second character I selected was Clara. She’s a 16-year-old angsty girl who – despite being a near genius – is desperately trying to discover herself through teenage rebellion. As one does. She’s the co-lead of my unfinished, untitled YA novel. For the purpose on the scene I aged her a year because reasons.
The result of my little experiment was 14 pages and a scene that I’m so excited about that I’m literally smiling. 🙂
I felt the flow, my friends. I felt the SHIT outta it for the first time in eons. If I wasn’t smiling I might be crying from joy or relief or a combination of both.
I wrote actual words on paper with a pen and it felt DAMN GOOD.
There was no pressure. No direction. No pleasing anyone but myself. I watched my characters interact and I enjoyed every damn minute of it. The scene ended with great possibilities and nudged me to go back to those original novels and work on them too.
Why did this work? Well, I think it has a lot to do with how I’ve approached my writing as of late. When I began researching agents I came across a lot of their ‘wish lists’ and well, my novel wasn’t on it. I began rethinking everything. I questioned my plots, my characters, their identities, EVERYTHING. I tried changing things to be more ‘desirable’. And that’s when the words stopped. I stepped out of my writer brain and jumped into my how-can-I-make-this-profitable brain. Writing stopped being about the story and more about the publishing game.
Giving myself permission to write without direction or purpose – without worrying about what other people might think – took all that pressure off my back long enough to actually write. I mean, it’s not gone completely. Haha, I wish. But it helped. And I’ve been so frustrated lately that I’m willing to try ANYTHING. Just like nixing my to-do lists, there’s no proof that this correlation is the causation. (If you’ve taken any statistic class ever you’ll have this phrase drilled into your brain!) But again, I WILL TRY ANYTHING to make things better. And this made things better.
Every day we as writers have a choice. We can choose to write what is popular (dictated by the publishing industry, trends, fads etc.) or we can choose to write our truth. The truth of our stories and our characters. Maybe what’s popular and what’s truthful end up aligning. Or maybe they don’t. But ultimately I choose to write my story’s and my character’s truth. Because only then am I in that flow.
To end this post I just want to say how much I appreciate all of you who have read these posts and reached out. It means the world to me. I hope one day to share my stories with you. ❤