Another question I’m often asked is: Do you ever get writer’s block?
The answer to that question is yes AND no. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. But there are days when I get stuck, when my story seems to be turning to drivel or I can’t get it to hold any emotional tension. That’s when I know something is wrong. I’ve taken the story where it wasn’t meant to go, for lack of a better way to describe it.
Fortunately, there are ways to get myself “unstuck.” Experience has taught me to step back and evaluate the manuscript from a macro perspective, always asking myself, “Where did you go wrong?”
I start from the beginning and check the story as a plumber might check a series of pipes for leaks. I feel my way along, testing the story to see if it’s still “holding water.” I read, consider, read, consider and read some more until I find the “break” or part that isn’t in harmony with my intuition. Sometimes I do this by reading the manuscript aloud to my husband and asking for his input. Then we both search for the reasons my story isn’t coming together. Maybe I’m forcing my characters to do something these types of characters would never do. Maybe I’m ascribing a certain trait or pathology to my villain that just isn’t ringing true. Maybe I’ve veered too far away from my “core story.” It’s a bit of a hassle to go back, and definitely risks some unraveling and rewriting, but if I take the time to do this I almost always find the point that’s troubling my subconscious and interrupting my ability to proceed. And then I can fix it.
Sometimes my production will fall not because the story isn’t working but because I’m too distracted to concentrate properly, or I’m emotionally exhausted. At these times, I need to “refill the well” by listening to music I find deeply stirring, reading quotes or poems that resonate with me or watching movies. The musical score from Les Miserables fires me up every time. Same with Phantom of the Opera--or watching my favorite movie, Last of the Mohicans. That emotional scene where the hero (played by Daniel-Day Lewis) is forced to leave the heroine (played by Madelyn Stowe) behind at the waterfall never fails to rejuvenate me. Taking a break to be with people helps, too. Laughter is a general cure all.
I’ve learned not to overreact when I run into a difficult patch, because overreacting only makes it more difficult to fight through it. Occasionally, all I need to do is sleep. Somehow my subconscious continues to mull over the problem--and when I get up in the morning, the path is once again clear. Hallelujah!