Shelley Widhalm

Finding a way back to writing

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on August 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Though I have writer’s block (or did), I decided I needed to be writing. I needed to be writing something, because without writing, I feel pretty lost.

Being lost is worse than writer’s block, because during block, the words don’t come, while the other state is a loss of purpose (even if temporary) that, for artists, is anchored by the art and producing the art (and hopefully then selling the art).

To get un-lost, I started my sixth, yet-to-be-published novel, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’s about a waitress dealing with trauma unable to play her music (kind of like me, at least for awhile while I was unable to write after dealing with upheaval in my personal life).

In mid-June, I started writing a short story, feeling pretty useless I hadn’t been writing much except a few (a very few) poems. I saw the story could be a novella or a novel, so I figured I’d keep going with it and began writing a couple of times each week. I dived in, but not so deep, taking a no-commitment approach as far as days and times. It was a whatever-happens approach.

Now, I’m at 12,000 words, not actually sure what the arc or climax is, but I have a sense of the ending. I’m not a pantser writer, but like to have a plan, if not exactly an outline. It’s become a matter of what comes out when I sit down to write, and taking this approach, my subconscious seems to be doing more of the work, and the characters seem to be taking over.

However, when I’m away from the work, I get afraid I won’t know how to get back into the story. I’ve become a little insecure because things aren’t laid out with a big grid of what to do next.

Despite the lack of a plan, during each session, I write 300 to 2,000 words (with past books, I required myself to write 1,000 words before I could stop, and would write more if I could). I feel good I’m writing words and adding them up toward—something, I hope.

At the start of the novel, and sometimes now, I struggle with getting into the writing, like a lawnmower needing several pulls to make the engine go. Once I forget I’m writing, I get lost in the scene, almost like I’m reading. I lose the noises of the world around me and the keyboard under my fingers and become absorbed in storytelling, character development, laying out the scene and describing what’s going on in my imagination.

I become what I am, a writer in love with writing, wanting nothing more than to be doing the writing. That’s why I become lost when I’m not writing, because it’s like I lose part of me. It’s like my blood and bones escape out of my body, and I can’t breathe.

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