Essay–The Book’s On FIRE!

Writers suffer from writer’s block. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, imagine sitting at a keyboard, typewriter, or at a desk with pen in hand and your brain goes DEAD. Not a single word comes to mind. The characters you’ve crafted refuse to tell you what to do. The neatly designed plot falls apart into millions of unrelated threads. Or worse, your interior voice, the one that hates you so much, tells you what a loser you are and that you’re writing complete shit.

I was at a writer’s conference when I was seventeen. Someone from the audience asked about writer’s block. The author panel included the infamous Joe R Lansdale and Warren Norwood. Norwood started to answer the question and then Lansdale over-rode him. Basically, Joe said something like “writer’s block is bullshit.” This started a riot on the stage as four writers argued among themselves as to whether the condition was real or just another pop-psychology myth.

When they called Joe on the carpet, he finally loosed a salvo about how writers needed to learn to stop being lazy. If a story dies on you, switch to something else and come back to it. He more or less said that there was no excuse for not getting words down.

All these years later, I know for a fact he’s correct. At least for me. I switch back and forth between WiPs now all the time. It helps me keep fresh and makes that horrible feeling of wasting my f’ing time disappear. And that interior voice? Well, I’ve learned, for the most part, to tell it to shut the fuck up while I pound the keys on a story. Mostly.

The reason I bring this up is because I’m working on a new novel. It’s not Flames. It’s not Track 9. It’s not Crusaders. It’s something completely out of my wheelhouse and yet it’s not. It’s a blast and I’m having a damned good time writing it. Hopefully it won’t suck. But even if it does, it’s the foremost thing on my mind.

I stop in mid-sentence, I come back, and I roar through another thousand words. I don’t plot too far ahead. I’m getting to know the characters. I’m starting the main plots and sub-plots. In other words, the real fun hasn’t even started yet.

So everything is downright peachy. Yet I KNOW it will happen. There will be that day where I stop writing in mid-sentence, come back, and I’ll have nothing to say. My brain won’t have untangled the next plot knot. I’ll be stuck and I’ll feel like the lowest piece of refuse on the planet.

When that last happened on Flames, I ended up writing a 6k word short story in two days. Why? Because it was there. When I turned around, IT WAS THERE and it was something I’d never even thought about writing. I didn’t feel guilty for abandoning Flames for a few days. I didn’t feel guilty at all. I enjoyed working on another story that had nothing to do with any of my series and was completely, again, out of my normal genres.

That’s the good news and there is no bad news. I have a deadline for this book. I’m way ahead of where I budgeted my word count. And that’s awesome. Will I slip? Hell yes. Will I falter? Yes. Will I fail? Fuck no. If you’re a creator, you can’t let the current project completely derail you. At least that’s what I’ve learned. As always, your mileage may vary. But if you’re stuck in writer’s block hell, try  moving onto something else. Hell, try grabbing a story that died on you. You’ll be surprised how your brain might have already solved the problem that made you quit the tale. Then start writing. It’s what we do. And if we’re not writing, we’re not writers. Period.

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