Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad; whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
- John le Carre
Get your grubby fingers off that keyboard and step back. This can't be good for your health. You're all hunched up punching letters, losing sleep, forgetting you were supposed to eat like...five hours ago. And don't even look at that cigarette like that. That's for when you're done writing the book. And remember, you can only have one because you got on this health train a while back. Or have you forgotten that too?
A long walk would do you good. Clear up your mind. Only thing is, the sky's dumping more ice outside, the wind is whipping it around in circles, your face hurts just standing there and your dog would rather be toilet-trained than walk in this jacked up climate. I guess you're out of luck. Perfect. Maybe a short walk will do.
It feels like you spend more time fleshing out your characters than hanging out with your loved ones. You've been stuck at that paragraph for hours now, how about just walking away from all of this?
It's really easy.
Step 1: Store what you've written so far in a flash drive
Step 2: Turn the laptop off
Step 3: Waste your time playing video games instead
But nooooo. You're too obstinate to do that so you'll continue to put those words together because you have a story to tell right? Because you think you can do better? Good. Maybe you can. Maybe you are.
By the way, there aren't any secret tips or tricks you'll find that can get you through this. All your writing buddies can only stand by the sidelines and cheer you on. But they're busy wrestling with their own little writing demons. When it comes right down to it, it's between you and a blank screen. The blinking cursor like a tapping finger fidgeting alone in a vacant space.
I dare you to write something.
Some days it's effortless. You sit down and your hands are cramping from typing too fast, trying to write down that sentence before it disappears from clear view only to be replaced by another one. And another one. And another one. It's nice when that happens. Like a surge of feverish madness in which the puzzle fits just so, no struggle, easy does it.
Then some days it all feels so forced and unnatural. It feels like you're trying to pull a splinter deep from the tip of your finger and it just keeps embedding itself deeper under your skin. Because it does get under your skin.
Maybe not during the outlining phase, or the first couple of chapters but it will get you. It turns into an obsession that overrides all logic consuming you during your waking hours and sometimes even during slumber.
There are nights when the characters refuse to let you sleep. They chatter, whisper, and confess their dirty secrets. Like they're trying to channel themselves through you. Don't fight it because they're not going away until you jot down what they're telling you. Don't silence their voices because you'll be sorry you did. Two things can happen.
1. They can come back screaming and wailing, asking you why you haven't been around.
2. Or they give you what you want. Silence. The voices retreat in their designated hiding spots. You panic because you don't want them to leave you alone for too long for fear of them vanishing altogether. So you come back and knock on their doors. "You wanna come out and play?"
Distraction is the enemy. Its naughty little imps are everywhere setting up traps for you to fall right into. "Over here, just a little bit closer to the edge, almost there, just a few steps more..."
You've come this far, just a few more chapters and you're through. Only then you can say that you've conquered this. Quitting time was 8 chapters ago. It's too late in the game to abandon your post now.
The people that inhabit your story are waiting. Their feet firmly planted where you last left them. What's your next move huh? Who will lead and who will follow. Who are you gonna kill off now? Who's your hero? Who will step up to the challenges that you've set up for them. Who will fall victims to the plot? Who will collapse under pressure and who's going to endure? Which ones will band together and form an alliance? Which ones will turn their backs and betray you?
Imaginary people will haunt you. So let me ask you again...
What's your next move?