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The dreaded block

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I find it almost impossible to write these days. I’m not too sure why.When I was at university, I was just as busy, if not more-so, than I am now, but I still filled out a lot of time writing. But perhaps it was part of the culture I was in. I did an art degree, and was surrounded by other people in various artistic disciplines. I could often write for hours (time permitting) and actually got the entire first draft of “the book” finished in a little under 8 months.

Now it’s almost 8 years later and it languishes in my flash drive. The few times a month I do look at it, I can barely edit a few pages; and all that involves is reading through it and changing the occasional word! And it isn’t fatigue with my work, or the story, or the characters. God no, I could comfortably live with these characters for many books (though I’m not a fan of serialisation for the sake of it), nor is it that I have particular issues with editing. I’m not such a fan of it as I am of generating new material, ideas, situations, characters and so fourth, but I find it to be an intense slog.

Maybe I just don’t have the stamina for it.

Part of it I guess is the many distractions. Other people may call it “life”. Life totally gets in the way, because lets face it, writing is a very solitary exercise. It takes an incredible amount of focus and determination, and it’s not exactly something that you can do socially. And editing is, well it’s the nuts and bolts of the whole process isn’t it? The actual writing part – generating the raw material, that’s fairly easy, if you’ve got your head on right, and you have a decent idea you can follow through on, but the editing of it – that’s something totally different.

I’ve never been someone who’s suffered from writer’s block before. I know that may not be a terribly big help to someone who does, but I do suffer editor’s block. Could this affliction be worse? It’s fine coming up with new ideas, rewording things, but I usually do so when I don’t have access to a computer, and when I do come to edit, then it never seems as good when I do write it down.

Something else which I’ve recently thought is that I haven’t really written anything new for a long time. All the writing I work on is stuff I originally wrote years ago, and have been caught up in editing since. It’s one of the dangers I guess of writing longer fiction. I mean, short stories – a few thousand words, you can write it in a few hours, do a few weeks of editing on it, and be happy with the result.

A book, or a full screenplay, can be much much more difficult. You have more words to correct for a start, a full complex story, several plot strands, a whole host of characters to round out, clichés to eliminate… And usually, when I’m editing something, I may throw in a new idea, change the flow of the story, which can make radical changes later, so most of the final chapters need to be entirely re-written. I guess this part I don’t mind so much, but just having to adjust one or two little details in search of ‘perfection’…

So how do I get rid of the block? How do I eliminate all these distractions that life will throw at me? How do I find the stamina to blast through to the finish line? Well, it’s strange to think of it this way, but when I write, I never actually write. I type. I uncovered a piece of mine a few weeks ago – one that I’d printed off, and I was reading through it, and found it so much easier to edit on paper than I did on a screen. And as much as I hate to waste paper, I guess I’ve found that actually writing is the best way to beat the block.