Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Wall

Sometimes you're just chuggin' along, writing your story, happy and productive, and then...BAM! You stop. You look around, wondering what caused this sudden stop, but there's nothing but open fields all around. There's even some flowers and a light, refreshing breeze. You should be sailing, FLOATING through your writing at this point. Maybe you even have an outline. Maybe your draft is done and you're revising. This stop was unplanned and unsolicited.

So, you take a step forward, anticipating getting your groove back. Except...your foot hits something hard and invisible, and you can't move. You try again, with more effort this time. But nope, there's something in the way. Something huge and invisible. Something that is STOPPING YOU from writing.

No, it is not "writer's block". You have ideas and you know what needs to be done. The problem here is something far, far different:

You've hit The Wall.

The Wall is a point at which you cannot seem to go on. You have halted, and you don't know why. "Noooooooo!" You say in slow motion with a deep, tortured voice. And to that I reply "Yes," in an annoyingly calm tone. Now, I'm no expert on The Wall. The Wall can take on many forms and can be battled with many weapons. Here, I will list just a few of the ways that you can battle The Wall.

1. Go around The Wall. This may seem obvious, but The Wall is actually quite long--endlessly long. The tactic for this is to acquire an automobile to DRIVE you around The Wall. Attempting this by foot is not advised. Every hundred feet or so, you must veer sharply in the direction of The Wall to see if it's still there. If it is, keep driving. If it isn''ve found the end of The Wall! Note: The time that it takes you to find the end of The Wall may be considerable. During this time, it's suggested that you have a brainstorm sesh and go over your outline for inspiration and motivation.

2. Burrow under The Wall. Your weapon of choice here is a shovel. Yes, you are going to work up a may-jah sweat. First, you must assess WHERE you are currently standing in relation to your writing. You want to be able to emerge from the other side of The Wall at the exact place where you wish to continue. This means that you must take a good, long stare at the writing that you have already done to gain vision for the writing that lies ahead. Is what you've already written REALLY what you wanted to write? Did that character take a wrong turn somewhere? Did you go on a sub-plot tangent two chapters back and now you're stuck in a place you don't want to be? Could that thing have happened differently in a better way which makes that other thing possible? You need to figure this out before you start digging, or else you'll end up far, far away from the vision on the other side of The Wall. Once you've figured out where the problem is, FIX IT, and then start burrowing. You will be on the other side of The Wall in no time. (Actually, it will probably take a while. But the point is that you WILL be on the other side of The Wall!)

3. Climb over The Wall. The evident choice here would be to use a ladder, but if that's what you were thinking, you have clearly underestimated the sheer HEIGHT of The Wall. They don't make ladders tall enough to climb over the wall, or EVERYONE would be climbing over their Walls and there would  be no point to this post, now would there? No, you must use a long rope with a grappling hook to SCALE the wall. First, you must find the point at which you want to throw the hook. As with burrowing under the wall, proper placement is key. You have a decision to make now: Do you throw the hook right where you stand, and just continue on with your writing wherever you land on the other side? Or, do you aim to throw the hook so that you end up on a new path? This is a tough decision, but quite necessary to battle The Wall. Think hard.

4. Demolish The Wall. Weapon of choice: wrecking ball. Some of you may not want to take the time to brainstorm, go over your outline, or rewrite stray scenes. Maybe you don't care if you will have a mess to clean up later, you just want to KEEP GOING. If that's the case, this is the tactic for you. It's quite simple and straight-forward, really. You must LAUNCH the wrecking ball at The Wall, which may or may not require you to operate heavy machinery. Watch with glee as The Wall crumbles, invisible pieces of it flying everywhere. Repeat this until there is a gaping hole in The Wall which you can walk right through. Once on the other side, DO NOT look  back at the mess you have made (though it is invisible, you will be able to FEEL it). Just keep going, and worry about the mess later.

And so, as you see, you have many options for battling The Wall. Currently I am standing in front of my own Wall, assessing the situation. Normally, I think I'd  be more of a burrower, but since I'm still at the beginning of revision and there won't be too much of a mess, I think I'll go with demolishing it. And anyway, one of my writer friends graciously loaned me a wrecking ball.


  1. Ha! Loved this. And you're welcome for the wrecking ball. (I, uh, will probably need it back sometime…but hopefully not soon.) ;)

  2. Oh, my goodness, I LOVE THIS. Such a fun way to look at it!

  3. I love your insights! And I love reading your blog! (Is the ultimate writer sin still starting your sentence with "and"?)