Liars Club

Keeping it Flowing

by Marie Lamba on June 28, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

Today we kick off  our Liar answers to Burning Question #6: Writer’s Block – is it real? How do you break through? It’s part of our series on Burning Questions about Writing and Publishing.  For past questions and answers, click on the FOR WRITERS tab above, and check back often to see how other Liars respond to this question. Better yet, subscribe to our site! Here’s Marie Lamba’s take on this…

I’ve heard so much about writer’s block over the years…mostly from writer’s magazines that seem to have a fascination with this phenomenon. Like it’s a scientific fact, something to be studied and treated. And aspiring authors often raise their hands at q&a’s to ask how it can be overcome.

So it’s no wonder that in the back of my mind I think, jeesh, writer’s block is going to happen to me. Probably at the very worst time. And what the hell would I do about it?

I mean, words just come out of some subconscious place, spilling onto the page.  It feels mystical, magical, mysterious.  We writers might have an idea for a story, but making that idea into a book? You write and write and write and stuff just, well, appears.  And somehow it makes sense.  We don’t really always feel in control of this, and that, I think is the root of the problem. If we don’t fully control this process, then do we really have total power over keeping the flow flowing?

For me, my problem isn’t writer’s block, it’s writer’s delay.  I check my email.  I play spider solitaire. A LOT of spider solitaire.  I do a ton of important things when I should be writing.  The starting can be an issue, but the truth is that once I start writing, it’s hard for me to stop.  The words do flow.  Time flies.  It’s wonderful.

There was one time that I was sure that writer’s block would still my hands, and wow, it was the very worst of times.  I had a book contract, with the novel due the following year.  It was August and I’d written about 60 pages. Things were good.  Then my editor shoots me an email. Can I get the book to her by the next month so it’ll come out next year?

WHAT????  But the contract says…

Yeah, that’s more of a guideline, actually.

I was able to push the deadline to the end of October.  Two months, one novel, no problem.  Unless I hit writer’s block.  Very early every morning I’d sit in that chair and start. No spider solitaire. No emails. Just raw fear and flying fingers.  Raw fear, because if I hit writer’s block, I was truly doomed. If those words stopped flowing, I was screwed.  I felt this trembling terror each day as I began.

My cure? Just pushing the insecurity aside and diving in and typing and typing and typing.  I was amazed how the story poured out. I wished I could always write with this intensity (minus the raw fear, of course).  I wrote until late at night each day. My back hurt. My ass really hurt.  But it was great. I loved the novel, and when my editor got it, she loved it too.

So, moral of the story? Dive in, plow forward and go for it. If raw fear threatens your creativity, you just have to shove it aside and keep on going. Have faith, and have a comfortable chair.  If you are serious, you’ll be sitting there a lot, and it’ll all work out. If you don’t trust me, trust yourself. Trust that inner mysterious story source. And type like hell.

Marie Lamba is author of the YA novel WHAT I MEANT… (Random House) and her work appears in the anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering, as well as in many national magazines.

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