Sometimes it takes hours to write one sentence. Those are the most agonizing hours of a writer’s life. You start off sitting at your computer, your hands hovering over the keyboard ready to type some brilliant prose, but nothing happens. You pace back and forth for a while or doodle on some scrap paper or play several dozen levels of Angry Birds. Finally, you find yourself lying on the floor thinking, “Why do I have to be a writer? Why can’t I be like normal people? Why can’t I go sit in front of the TV and eat nachos and forget all about this story I’m writing?”
Of course the right thing to do is move on to another sentence. Maybe skip to the next scene and save this problem for another day. That’s what successful, responsible writers like J.K. Rowling and Steven King probably do. But you can’t because your brain is stuck on this one sentence. You’re obsessing over it, and you’ll keep obsessing over it no matter how hard you try not to. Your frustration increases until you stop and say to yourself, “Seriously, why am I doing this?”
I suppose each writer has a different answer to that question. Some of us have multiple answers. Sometimes I tell myself I’m doing it because I love my characters. Sometimes it’s because I love my readers. Other times it’s because I want a new career with a more flexible work schedule or because I think I can do better than some of the trash that gets published these days or because I believe God chose this path for my life and I must follow it. This can get very deep and philosophical. Sometimes I think about the purpose of literature and art in a functional society. Sometimes I wonder about mythical archetypes and the collective unconscious. Or maybe I consider the possibility that I’m the fictional character and my story is real and that the reason I can’t figure out what to write for this one sentence is because out in the “real” world that part hasn’t happened yet.
So why do I do this? I don’t have an answer, but at some point after contemplating my existence and determining that the meaning of life must involve ice cream, I suddenly realize I know what that one sentence should be! Why didn’t I think of it sooner? Back to writing!
So how do you get through those days when you can’t write a single sentence?
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