Pigs, Truffles and Writers

My own personal philosophy as a writer is that I’m like a pig snuffling through the underbrush, rooting around for truffles.  The truffles are already there; I just have to find them.  And once those truffles are in my hand, my job is to shake off the dirt until I’ve got something ready to offer.

Occasionally I’ll run across a phenomenon known as writer’s block.  That probably means different things to different writers.  But for me, I’ll get to a point in my story where I just stop.  I will sit there for some extended period of time unable to proceed.  That’s about when I wonder if my toilets need scrubbing or if I ought to go clean the lint screen from the dryer—anything other than sit there and feel useless.

I have discovered that my writer’s block usually stems from one of two different problems:

1.  Plot issue(s).  The dog won’t hunt, as it were.  Ever try to walk a dog with a burr in its fur?  That dog will sit down and refuse to budge, no matter what.   Similarly, when I’ve got writer’s block, my plot may have gone on strike.  It will refuse to move forward until I exorcise whatever mischief is causing the problem.  Sometimes the mischief involves too little conflict.  I need to juice up the clash-factor.  Or occasionally I’ll have gone down some dark alley with my characterization and I need to get back to the main thoroughfare before I get mugged.    Once in a while, although I hate to admit it, I’ll have bored myself into a stupor with a scene.  I either have to change the action or scrap the scene.   But if it’s not a plot issue, we move to door number two…

2.  Fog Head or Molasses Brain.  I’ve written something that is overly vague.  My story has fallen and it can’t get up.  You know the drill.   Now I can continue to write with Fog Head if I want, but I’ll end up generating…more fog.  Going back to the pig analogy, the pig can’t find a truffle if he isn’t directed to the right place.  So to fight Fog Head, I get very SPECIFIC.   I decide characterizations (sometimes writing pages and pages of back story for a character), locations (Internet images are great for this one), or even costumes (Internet clothes shopping…what fun!).  I’ve even been known to draw maps or pictures of a “set.”  Occasionally I’ll even “cast” the parts with actors I think look right.  Do all those details make it into the story?  No, of course not.  Some will, and that’s great.  But what it does is help me break through the haze enough to move forward again.

Good hunting.

– S.G. Rogers

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