Every writer gets that feeling. You know the one. It’s unpleasant. It makes writing sessions seem unproductive, no matter how man pages you bang out during them. I’m talking about the feeling that you’re just not writing scenes that work, that the work you’re doing is going to have to be undone and redone soon.
Last week, I complained a bit about not having accomplished as much as I had wanted to. I’d set a goal of 60 pages by the weekend, but only came in at page 50. Immediately after, though, I cruised ahead to 64. Then, I crept to a halt again, dragging myself painfully through another 3 pages that I just knew were not going to be in the final draft. The dialogue was feeling forced and going nowhere. The characters’ motivations were unclear and unnatural. As a whole, the scene was just not working. And I knew this.
The big question, though, was whether to push through it (did I say it was painful?), make myself sit in front of the computer for an hour a day, and just see what happens, or was it best to turn away for a few days and let things settle? Luckily, I didn’t really have much of a choice. In a weird twist of coital timing, my sister and I share a birthday, though we’re four years apart. So, the whole family went down to where my sister’s in school for the weekend. My laptop stayed up here in NYC, which meant that I wouldn’t be doing much writing at all for three days.
The break proved to be what I needed. (Full disclosure: I write this now without having returned to the script yet, but I feel less cluttered.) Sometimes, knowing that progress won’t come makes it difficult for me to even just sit in front of the screen for an hour. Many writers will tell you that it’s better to at least commit the time to sitting, even if you don’t produce a single word. This process helps you to get used to a writing schedule, if nothing else. And typically, I’d agree with this. Perhaps the fact that I had a trip coming up is why I allowed myself to step away for a few days. Had I stayed in town, I surely would have spent a few potentially unproductive hours in front of my computer this weekend. Right now, though, I’m grateful that I had an imposed break, time away from the script to get my mind in other places and reduce the stress level I’ll feel coming into tonight’s writing session. Just as stepping away from a script can be incredibly helpful after you complete a draft, stepping away from one (ideally to some other project) can be equally soothing for a few days if you’re feeling particularly stuck.