Writing around the rosy: encircling writer’s blocks in a dance

My brain is sort of lucid tonight for the first time in a week.

I’ve had a long week: first a visit, then recovering from the visit. And getting the sugar out of my system after the visit. Sheesh!

And the time hasn’t been wasted – I’ve generated several thousand words ABOUT the scene I’m working on, without being able to actually write a new draft of it. The brain is mulling. I do it on paper (no mental storage capacity or processing power).

Then, when I’m finally writing the scene, I have all those thoughts on paper strips (real scissors – cut by hand), and I can tuck them (paste – I use real tape) into the scene at appropriate places. If I don’t record my thoughts, they are gone forever. The manual arts-and-crafts approach engages a different part of the brain – useful for brain fog.

I used a new technique this week, suggested by Rachel6: not only did I let a character tell her story in first person, I added a psychiatrist, and let the psychiatrist try to dig the story out of my character. In almost no time I had generated 800 words!

I’m trying to extract the story from her so I can tell it as she experienced it, but she has emotional issues with telling anyone, even a trusted therapist (or me), exactly how she feels, because it means admitting things she doesn’t think she should feel.

The psychiatrist (I envision a man, maybe a beard, definitely steepling his fingers and pointing at her as he speaks) feeds off of her responses, and tells her what he sees, as I’ve experienced therapists doing. Which gives me ANOTHER idea (and another way to postpone writing this scene?): change the gender of the psychiatrist. Or make the psychiatrist court-appointed (and thus going to report back on what she says).

It changes things, doesn’t it?

I’m feeling brave (thanks to Lily White LeFevre), and so here is a snippet of the conversation. It will NOT appear anywhere in the scene (1.10.5), but will help me guide K (Kary) into telling her story to me, so I can present it faithfully.

P: Is she beautiful?

K: Stunning.

P: You are competing with her for Andrew’s attention?

K: What? No. I couldn’t compete with her. Or any of her kind. She just made me glad I have kept my damn mouth shut and my feelings to myself.

P: You have feelings for Andrew?

K: Who wouldn’t? Most women would kill to have him.

P: Most women would never get a chance to compete for him.

K: And I won’t either. Don’t worry – that would be supreme foolishness. Intentional foolishness. And really, really stupid. No. Not something I would ever risk. But he IS a nice guy – and he’s becoming a bit of a friend. He will end up with some little beauty like Miss Bianca, and have a nice little family when he’s ready.

Thoughts? How do you write around your blocks?


8 thoughts on “Writing around the rosy: encircling writer’s blocks in a dance

    1. ABE Post author

      I recommend Scrivener, if you have the time to learn how to use the basics. Just put each snippet into its own file, and Scrivener can help you reorganize the bits any way you like – and still keep them separate. Put them into folders (which could later turn into themes or chapters) for organizational purposes.

      If you put them all into one big file, it will be a pain to manipulate afterward – moving the bits around within the same big file can be a bear to keep straight.

      Scrivener was cheap – I think $46 – and has massive facilities you don’t need to learn all at once. That plus a Scrivener for Dummies, and you’re on your way. It is a native Mac, built-from-the-ground-up writer’s tool, and you can go straight from your organized bits to a completed ebook if you like (and learn to use the Compile option).


  1. Rachel6

    I start by letting the problem sit for a while. Usually when I go back, I find that some paragraphs ago, I meandered off track. So I delete everything that isn’t working and set off on a new tangent.

    Oddly, I only use pen and paper for poetry.


  2. Alice Audrey

    Most of my blocks come from a lack of faith in myself. If it’s a rough draft, I can get around the block by telling myself I’ll fix it later. Revisions are harder. I save multiple drafts and give myself permission to make radical changes, even in what is supposed to be a final polish. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, but it works for me. Most of the time. 🙂


  3. Lily White LeFevre

    One of the worst experiences of writer’s block I’ve ever had came from a scene I had a bunch of notes on. The notes made the set-up sound so easy “hero finds her brother losing hard at a table.” So all my focus was on what came after that discover. But getting him to that point was hellacious in ways I absolutely did not expect. The scene beyond geting him there was super easy, though! 🙂

    I like the visual idea of having notes on your computer screen when you are working. I am a post-it-note kinda gal. I still rock a lumbering Word doc with all notes, outlining, scene sketching, and alternative versions in the same place. It can be frustrating to keep track of all the variables I’ve already considered when I go to actually write one of the important scenes I’ve gone over and over in my head. Like you, I forget thoughts if I don’t jot them down.

    Great post! The therapist idea is interesting. Make them tell you what they were feeling in order to tell the reader….


  4. Circe

    Thank you for more clarificaton on nitty-gritty details. I do find that I only use what I write online, so with that in mind should stick to jotting down the briefest of notes. Printing and cutting and filing had not been working very well, but something physical, and something away from the computer, has appeal and has been strongly recommended. The hitch in my system was not pasting or taping right then and there.
    Thank you for the further clarification!


  5. Circe

    You are the second person who has mentioned what I call the “rock, paper, scissors” style of organization. One of my problems is that when I do leave the laptop behind, and try to write out of a block with pencil and paper, I almost never transfer or use what I have put down in hard copy. What kind of paper do you use? Lined? Yellow? White? Do you save this draft material in folders, just in case, or is the very next part of your writing process to start your cutting and pasting (or taping)? This has been suggested as a great technique for ADD brain. Maybe I should try it again. I forget about little papers once I put them in folders! Do you?


    1. ABE Post author

      It all ends up in the computer eventually, but since I started using Scrivener (which has endless space and is very quick to pull up as many files as you need), my tendency is to think on the screen, and print it all out. That way it is already digitized when I need to use whatever ends up in the final version.

      I have almost entirely stopped writing on paper – but I ALWAYS edit on paper: fresh printout, scissors and tape, mechanical pencil. Rearrange all the pieces, and then go back to the computer to find the various pieces in whatever file they are and select the lines that go into the final version of a scene. I only type in the pencil changes and additions. I can’t do the messy part on a screen.

      I hate losing pieces, and I hate retyping what I already wrote – one of these days I will use my Dragon software and read the 20-odd notebooks into Scrivener files (yeah, right – when I have free time and nothing else to do).

      The physical things – paper, pencil, scissors – activate a part of my brain that I can’t get to when staring at the screen. Sometimes I’ll carry all these printouts – plus scratch paper (old printouts) – to the dining room table so I’m physically removed from the computer. I’ve decided computer paper and ink are cheap compared with my time, so I don’t hesitate to print it all out again, and then take it somewhere quiet and mechanical to process.



Comments welcome and valued. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.