Writing groups. I love them and I’ve recently joined my second. critters.org, my first group, elevated me from hopeless flounderer to hopeful author. I couldn’t have sold my first story without them. My second group is made up entirely of writers based in Adelaide and the first exercise they’ve offered, since my joining, is to participate in a blog chain on writer’s block. So here goes.
I’ve touched on this before, but at this stage so few people have read my blog—due to the fact that I have yet to tell anybody I know that I’m doing this, until my first short story gets published later this year— that it can’t hurt to rehash small parts of my story.
I don’t suffer from the more well known symptoms of writer’s block, that of the staring contest with a blank page or the more modern tale of dread, an eternally blinking cursor. My struggles have come in the form of writing off more than I can chew.
~Begin a haze of flashbackness~
Up until two years ago I read, on average, under one book per year. That all changed when I moved away from the city fringes of Adelaide and out toward the coast, to the beachier suburb of Birkenhead. I acquired an e-reader to make my weekdaily train ride in and out of the CBD more entertaining. I wish I could remember why in more detail, it might have been a whim or I might have been given a voucher from work for JB for the exact cost of purchasing one—what can I say, I’m thrifty.
Anyway, I had always wanted to read Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Mostly because every time I had read about what to read—which I did a lot for some reason—the internet told me to. So, I began my journey into the regular reading of science fiction with one of the classics. Over the next nine months I read many more of his stories and other seminal works of the genre and within a year something strange started to happen, but allow me to digress.
If you were to ask anyone who knows me, right at this moment, what I wrote two years ago, they should tell you that—besides hilarious work emails—it was music. I picked up music shortly after finishing school, far later than most, but as soon as I found an affordable guitar it poured out of me. I could pass a construction site and transform its natural rhythm into a riff. I could hear a coin spin through the air and be inspired by its ringing. I actually sampled the sound once, slowing it down and using it as the synth lead for an electronic track.
Within five years it had ruined my tertiary studies and within seven I was, technically, a professional musician. Professional meaning that I earned more than half of my income from music, which at the time was very little and the rest of my income was often nothing. During this time my head was full. Bursting with music of every style for every instrument. I couldn’t not hear it. I swear, if I’d met the right person at back then they might have coaxed a symphony out of me, but I never did. I had fun, but never found the business acumen to my product surplus.
Eventually, I got a day job, the one I still have and love today, which meant that I spent less and less time in bands. My musical tastes and output became more experimental and eventually all I could create was echoic soundscapes on my guitar and delay pedal(s) or V A P O R W A V E—which is essentially post-music, that everyone unfamiliar should check out—on my computer. This music was still pouring out of me at all times, up until the strange thing from three paragraphs ago started happening.
As I read more and more, and listened to music less and less, the creative part of my brain began pumping out settings or characters or, when I was at my luckiest, entire stories. This was the day the music died.
Now, back to the part about writer’s block. Like I said, or didn’t, I struggle with managing the size of the stories I want to tell, not their inception. I’ve been working at this new creative outlet, at the time of writing this, for a little over a year—August 15th 2017 was the day I created the word file of the first draft of my first piece of fiction since high school. If I was bigger on rituals I might have to start renting a Chevy every mid August and pilgrimage a drought ridden levee .
My head is busy with new ideas. I think it’s getting used to the sensation. They’re exciting, the ideas, and they can even be distracting if they occur before their previous sibling has been completely brought to life. What my head isn’t used to, is the satisfaction of finishing these ideas. I believe the longest short story I’ve written that I would consider a complete sense-making work of fiction clocks in at roughly 3600 words.
Currently, my writing goal is to birth a first draft of a novella length story—so 20,000 words—with a clear beginning, middle, end, and most importantly of all, a character that I would want to learn about and grow with. I’ve cracked 10,000 words with four different stories now. I’ve even got one that surpassed 20,000 words. But, even after all those words, I can’t identify why the protagonist is going on their journey. Each one of these has been shelved, for now.
What I did to move past this, at the point of giving up on each one of these stories, was read. I’ve read 29 books this year so far, which is a personal most. Each time I finish one, my desire to create is reborn, stronger than before and the next thing I work on ends up being a little bit longer and a little bit stronger. I’m an earthworm, moving forwards, blind through a world full of tales, digesting them and giving back not waste, but more stories—hopefully some of which are as nutritious as their source material.
It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.
– George Orwell, from Keep the Aspidistra Flying
The following writers from the group, Writers of Adelaide, have taken part in the chain: