Struggling to write a scene

Part one of two

Write drunk; edit sober.

Ernest Hemingway

It’s not easy exposing yourself by writing. Aside from the crippling self-doubt of wondering who will read your writing and the perpetual grimace folks get when revising their own work, sometimes you struggle to write anything at all. Both the previous unpleasantries fade increasingly with time, practise and exposure, but the third problem is a real irritation to a lot of people who like to write.

Being human and open to abundant delightful needs, like to eat, sleep, work and whatnot, it’s nigh impossible to sit down and write an entire novel in one sitting. Hell, even writing a single chapter or a short story is hard! That’s not even mentioning those evenings where stringing together enough words finish a single sentence feels akin to being Atlas for a day. Sometimes you will struggle to write a scene for the thing you really want or need to be writing it for.

Wait a second, don’t you mean writer’s block?

No, not quite and, brace yourselves, I don’t believe writer’s block is a real thing.

Sure, sometimes the words don’t flow as easily as you’d like them too, not everyone can be Shakespeare and write 154 sonnets celebrating and reviling the love of your life at the drop of a hat. (If you are doing this, check out You on Netflix for further dating tips.) But I do believe you go through phases of struggling to write for the thing you want/need to be writing for, which is a very definite difference to throwing in the towel by declaring that you have writer’s block, so you couldn’t possibly be expected to write anything at all.

Sounds harsh? Frankly, it is. But not as harsh as giving into a made-up creative malady, so that whatever you were working on stalls and, most likely, never gets completed. That would be the real loss of this scenario.

On the other hand, if you no longer enjoying what you’re working on and make the conscious decision to stop, then that’s absolutely different. You should be proud of making the active decision to stop pouring your efforts into a thing that you don’t get any satisfaction out of anymore, rather than let your writing project fizzle out into nothing. Practise is practise, and everything you write is time well spent honing your skills: even if you truly think it’s terrible, then that’s just an example of how you don’t want to write in the future. Often there’s gems in there for you to extract and use in other writing.

On the other hand, if you stop writing because you’ve hit a bump creatively or in your motivation, that’s giving up. Declaring writer’s block is often just a convenient mask for saying this. Honestly, I know this from experience: want to know the number of creative pieces of writing I’ve actually finished after saying I had writer’s block? Zero. Saying you have writer’s block gives you an out, an excuse, to not do the writing you say you want to be doing. Again, this is very harsh and I promise the rest of this post will be much gentler after this segment, but I just want to accentuate how important it is to not be self-defeating when writing, by giving yourself an unbeatable enemy to creativity.

Say it with me: writer’s block isn’t real; I just struggle to write what I need/want to some days.

It’s really not very catchy, sure, but the truth doesn’t always have to rhyme.

So now we’re on the same page over writer’s block being a fallacy and that we’re human so sometimes we struggle with our motivation – how do we continue to write when we’re struggling to write a scene?

There’s a few ways. I’ve created a list that works for me personally which will be going up with the second half of Struggling to write a scene, but let’s start by briefly going into some detail into one of them here…

Number one: alcohol!

Okay so I’m not talking about getting wasted having a few whiskeys and downing a bottle of wine alone, but the focus here is letting yourself relax. Too often, people pop themselves down at a keyboard and a blank screen and get so flustered over writing the perfect first line, the perfect title, hell, the perfect file set-up for the chapters of the novel they will never write, that they never write anything because they’ve completely stressed themselves out before even having anything written to edit. Take a deep breath, calm yourself and remember the passion for why you wanted to write in the first place. If having a drink relaxes you, have one. If going for a run or a session of yoga does it, go for it! Have a bubble bath, get frisky with your other-half, listen to a song that gets you going (take that as you will, I don’t know what you’re writing!), honestly anything goes for this: whatever personally relaxes you and you are best judge of that!

Personally, I have a dram or two of peaty whiskey, pop on some instrumental music, dim the lights and after fifteen minutes it feels like there’s only me and the words racking up on the screen. Mostly because I can’t see anything else and the instrumental tracks I listen to are about 12 hours long and without ads, so time mostly becomes ethereal at that point. Turning your phone on silent and moving it elsewhere helps an ungodly amount too.

Not like I would ever recommend knocking back a whiskey every time you’re struggling (seriously if that’s the case, get help, alcoholism isn’t fun or sexy), but the method is tried and tested for a reason. Try anything (legal please!) that relaxes you enough to put words to a page. Image: Obvious State

Part two of Struggling to write a scene will be up on Monday, so subscribe from the main page for an alert as soon as it goes live!

Share in the comments what you like to do to relax and get into the writing zone…

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