Lately I have been doing a lot of reading. Reading articles, reading novels, reading blogs, all sorts of reading. It’s been great for inspiration and stirring my greymatter into a creative frienzy but there has been a downside. That damn brain of mine keeps getting in the way, I’ll be writing, or (more recently) trying to write and the stupid voice in my head says “is that a good choice? would the character do that? is this even worth writing? why are you spending all your time trying to make this dumb story?” It’s unpleasant and annoying. I’m sure every writer has that voice, if not you are a god or not human, or the more likely option increadibly lucky and confident. I on the other hand am not so, and for some reason it has been getting the better of me.
I wish I had some solution, I wish this a post where I offered a way out. But I get the impression that is basically the holy grail of writing… So if you also have these issues feel free to leave me a comment and we can comisserate together!
So I took an extended break from writing for nearly 3 months. It wasn’t on purpose but I became busy and occupied creatively with a game I’m designing. Over the recent holidays however I found myself taking a break from game design. I dove headfirst into my shelf full of unread novels. I read one, and as soon as I finished I picked up the next. The first was a spy novel in the Daniel Silva series, the second was a favourite of mine, Pillars of the Earth. As I began Pillars I quickly became full of inspiration and new ideas. I had forgotten the feeling of creating and exploring a story. Rereading an old favourite helped me a great deal to think about my writing and story structure and the more minute details of the story.
I would not have guessed this to be the case, but looking back now it makes total sense. Reading a book for the first time is like watching a movie or playing a game or even listening to a song for the first time. It’s difficult to analyze something critically on a first play through or read through, or at least it is for me. I am most often totally distracted by the story (unless it isn’t a good movie or good book). I find it easy to become immersed in the world of the story and forget about plot holes or discrepancies or other issues. But on multiple viewings or readings those wholes appear.
This is when a good story is obvious, on a second or third go you appreciate the story all the more when it’s good, the wholes may be small but forgivable or maybe there aren’t any.
I noticed this especially when reading through Pillars for a second time, I could pay more attention to the quality of the story telling and writing because I knew where it was going. This is why I felt so inspired, I saw errors in my own writing or how my own story was faultering or missing something which inspired me all the more to go back to writing.
Now I have written a few thousand words and the flow is back. So maybe if you’re in a lull try taking a little break and reading a good story, it may be more helpful than you think.
PS: I know a lot of writers say its important to read almost as much as write, I never felt this was that important but now I see. But any old reading isn’t necessarily the best, reading quality works is definitely important and now I really understand why.
Based on previous posts you may know that I have been struggling to write lately. The block has become a wall, one that I have yet to surmount. The odd thing is, I know what I want to write. I’m currently working on a chapter, which I have totally planned out, I managed to get about halfway through and ran into the wall. Last week I had a day where I basically sat in front of the screen knowing what I wanted to write but the words did not come.
It has been very odd. So I turned to YouTube and blogs, what have other writers been using to get over the wall? Based on my not so extensive research I have figured out that most successful writers tend to figure out there own method that works best for them. Some use planning and deadlines, they have to hit a daily wordcount. Some write other things as a distraction to warm up their fingers and minds. Some outline in even more detail until the block is worked through.
I haven’t used or tried any yet. The block still persists. However I watched a lecture by an author and I really want to try what he said. He said to set achievable goals (it’s what he did to finish his book). So during a time of block instead of trying to set wordcounts or planning intricate outlines, set a more simple achievable goal. Write something. Write a sentence or a paragraph or a page. But just write something.
So I’m going to try that.
I’ll let you know how it goes.