Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Research!! (AKA: I've got nothing)

If any of you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this photo....

... accompanied by this painfully true caption:
"This note on my office 'idea wall' pretty much sums up my writing life these days."
I've been working away on my second novel, and it's been going well. Ideas, character profiles, timelines, it's all been coming together. Until recently. I blogged about this casually and skirted around the problem, but it's time to come clean: I haven't written, not really, in weeks.

Granted, before this current slump, I'd already gotten some good work done on the new MS. The last few weeks, though? I've felt like a dried up lime -- completely useless for prose, guacamole, invisible ink, you name it. I think I'm a bit burnt out, to tell you the truth. Lately, when I get home from work, my brain has been rebelling against any thoughts that go beyond the existential depth of "fork or spoon." All I want to do is eat cereal (Chex), read other people's books (so far in this rut I've read Runaway, Beautiful Ruins, On the Road and a ton of shorts) and maybe, if the mood strikes me, watch an episode of 16 and Pregnant.

Even my body is struggling. When I do sit down to write, my shoulders tense up and my carpal tunnel screams, all of which results in 1.5 hour-long massage treatments that leave me feeling like a piece of steak hammered flat by a Gordon Ramsey-type and my poor RMT exhausted, probably turning to booze for the comfort that her magic hands cannot provide to her own body. Oh the tragic irony of the life of a masseur!

So instead of writing, I've been doing what every writer does when they cannot write but are desperate to appear as though they are still "working": research. On the weekend, for example, I went to Toronto's CNE -- likely the smelliest, stickiest seasonal fair in the world. After giving disapproving looks to the connoisseurs of deep fried butter, wandering by endless lines of carney games and rides that were likely bolted together by that guy who picks through your garbage at night, I managed to find some stuff to climb into and on top of that could be counted as inspiration, creative lubricant, whatever, for novel #2:


As much as I love writing, not being able to write is a pretty low feeling that makes me wonder about writing altogether.

That's why "research" for literary types was invented. It gives us permission to wander our cities, our world, our Internet and take a break from WORDS. Without research, the weight of the blank page would crush us to death.

Oh, and hilarious GIFs help too:


  1. Wait! Writers do RESEARCH when they can't write?! I thought the cure was liquor! Doh!

    Maybe try writing a short story. Or some backstory that you know you'll never use in your novel but that's always nice to have on paper. Or character sketches about people you know.

    If you can't write your novel, maybe you need to just go at it sideways and write other things that will inspire you to go back to the novel.

    Or just give yourself a break and eat chocolate.

    1. I really, really like the chocolate/break idea, Linda. But I'll probably end up writing a new short. Fewer calories in fiction.

  2. For me, I find that on the rare days when I can't write, I can ALWAYS revise. And since revision has both elements of analysis + creativity, I don't think it has the same pressure as straight-up creation. When you're feeling up to it, just pick a random place + read as an editor. Even if all you find are typos, a few split infinitives, even if all you do is tighten up one metaphor or create a few more sensory details in one essential sentences or remove one sloppy analogy, you're still writing. Even if you cut four sentences from a ¶, which changes the cadence of the ¶, or helps zoom into the next ¶, then you're writing. Maybe that help you just a little. Good luck with your writing!


    1. That's great advice, Jackson. I'm going to take it.

      Yesterday was a fairly okay writing day, actually. I think the drought is finally over!