by Sonia Irabor
I read somewhere that it is best – especially at the beginning – to free yourself from sentences and paragraphs and to instead jot down ideas, create outlines and use images. When the time is right, the idea will be built upon. If you do lose interest, then leave it. Store it in your idea box and return to it later.
Sometimes I stare at my computer and I just want to shut it and throw it out of the nearest window.
I have a lot of ideas dancing around in my head – a kaleidoscope of ideas if you will. Yet sometimes I sit there rearing to go, but my brain refuses to allow me commit my thoughts to paper. So there I sit, a girl in front of her computer, willing it to telepathically articulate her ideas – to no avail. But we are not alone; when asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway said, “A blank sheet of paper.”
From the lack of a concrete idea, to the cacophony of thoughts so loud, they can’t be arranged into tidy stories; the myth of writer’s block presents itself in different ways. After years of panicking, I finally understand that instead of throwing my computer out of the window (not an ideal option should you be considering), I need to just make sense of the problem. So here are some of my experiences of the block and my (and Google’s) ways of getting over it:
Sometimes, under the strain of a looming deadline, I stare at my laptop screen for minutes with zero thoughts in my head – sometimes I forget to breathe. In these moments I have absolutely no idea where to begin; I am blank. So I step away and allow my brain to loosen up, I think about situations I have experienced and the outcome, I think about how things would have gone if the outcome were different. Sometimes I take a walk, inspiration is all around and there is no need to force it. Let your mind roam freely. The truth is I don’t think there is such a thing as having ‘no idea’, I think we just denounce the ideas we do have for being bad, bizarre, stupid. Never condemn an idea, write it down, and build from it, you’ll be amazed where it might lead.
You can’t commit to one idea:
Sometimes I lose interest or I find another story that I feel works better.
I read somewhere that it is best – especially at the beginning – to free yourself from sentences and paragraphs and to instead jot down ideas, create outlines and use images. When the time is right, the idea will be built upon. If you do lose interest, then leave it. Store it in your idea box and return to it later. Do not feel responsible for each and every idea you have, allow yourself the opportunity to build on a thought that lets you tell the story you really want to tell.
What happens next?
Oh I hate this one! The ideas are flowing; you are so into the writing process, so immersed in the storytelling and then BAM! The proverbial wall is hit. What happens next? When you freewrite for a considerable period and then walk away from it, you sometimes return to the page and it looks like a blizzard of words and punctuation – you are lost. When this happens, I read through in the hopes of understanding the story so far. It can inspire you to introduce a new dimension to the narrative to help pick things up again. But sometimes, all you need is a recharge.
There are times when one sentence can truly determine the course of the rest of the paragraph or story so there is no harm in wanting to ensure you get the tone and words right, the danger is in spending too much time trying to construct the perfect sentence. Pick your battles. Sometimes you just need to pick a verb and move on.
There is no such thing as a perfect draft, let that idea go. Don’t expect all ideas and intentions to come together in perfect harmony at once. Allow yourself a few drafts to really find your meaning and rhythm. Margaret Atwood once said, “If I waited for perfection, I’d never write a word.”
Finally, focus on creating a body of work that you can take pride in. If you are confident in your work, it will be conveyed. Do not focus on trying to convert every single non-believer into a believer.
The beauty of the writing process is that it is yours. It is therapeutic if you allow it to be. Be patient, take breaks, value each idea until it proves unusable in that instance and do not – I repeat, do not – throw your laptop out of the window, no matter how frustrated you get. I realise now that Writer’s Block is a construct; an excuse to stop when you get frustrated. But you don’t need an excuse, if you are tired, take a break and recharge.
Sonia Irabor is an Assistant Editor and columnist at Genevieve Magazine. She writes the monthly columns, ‘Editorially Yours’ and ‘Here’s the Thing’. She also works in PR and is a writer of fact (-ish) and fiction. Her pieces have been featured in publications in London and Nigeria and she hopes to continue to add to that library. She is an avid peruser of comic books, admirer of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and hopes to one day think as logically as Spock. In her spare time, she is a ukulele-strumming, music-loving, fan of film and theatre who has resolved not to have chipped nail polish in 2014.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.