Bum on Seat, and by the Seat of my Pants.

I mentioned in On Writing, that I’m a pantser.

In the past I’ve tired plotting the entire book, to know where the protagonists will be, what they’ll do, who they will meet, and much more. It’s never worked for me. I think it hasn’t worked because I don’t know the characters well enough. It’s through writing them I’m taking them from an outline to a portrait. And as I know them better, I know how they will react to situations, what it is they want, and it’s their wants that push the plot along. My original ideas are there, but who I get to those ideas, those plot points, is different.

The other thing that has changed was that I thought you had to write from point A to Z, in order. Now when I get a little stuck, I just move on. If I’m bored with one conversation, then I just write a few words about needing to improve the section, and keep on with something else.

I know that the focused brain can’t be creative, you have to be in diffuse mode, where your brain will take various inputs and ideas and combine them. So forcing yourself to focus on something hoping you can crunch out a solution isn’t a great use of your time. Instead work on something else, change your environment, and let your brain get on with doing what it does best on its own.

Therefore, when I hit road blocks, I skip over them rather than force myself to find a path through them. Quite often I’ll step back in the story and tidy something up: add some description, add some dialogue. Or move forward a scene or two and start to work on something that is coming.

I think it’s a bit like a watched pot never boils, or when someone is watching you intently as you do something, you suddenly can’t execute as well. So rather than force something in my writing, I move on.

In the past I would have tried to create an outline where all the plot points are laid out in order, and once I had a problem I would try to resolve it through shear force of will and determination. I would try to continue, but would always be thinking there was a problem, and eventually stop writing knowing that there was a hole in the story.

Now I think that I haven’t learned the characters well enough to know what they’ll do in the situation, and until I do the problem will still exist.

I skip ahead, I go back. I learn who the characters are. And the diffuse mode of the brain never fails me. Ideas come, and the story moves on.

This is what I think writer’s block is. Trying to force your brain to write creatively in focused mode. Focused mode is to be used sat in front of a screen and getting the words out. Then give yourself a rest and let your brain work on the problem without you watching over yourself.

Let the pot boil on its own.

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