Ideas for writers: Use a social media post to stimulate a story
Lev Grossman (@leverus)
“Why is writing so much harder for me than it is for everybody else?” — every novelist ever, secretly to themselves, all the time
Is this Twitter post a call for help or an expression of exasperation? I don’t know. Maybe it just signifies a case of writer’s block and the author has now got over it.
Maybe Lev might read books like those in the featured image to find clues. They, after all, have been written by writers who have probably suffeded Lev’s dilemma.
Why, though, do some people find writing such a difficult thing while for others the words just flow across their screen?
My partner experiences difficulty such as Lev Grossman tweets. But that’s because her brain in that of a technical person. It operates according to the laws of logic. It comprehends code. It understands numbers. It calculates. It is of a different order of intelligence than mine. It relies on me to make what it writes intelligible to humans.
Writing like I am doing now is writing of a different kind. It is more like typing my stream of consciousness as words on my screen…
I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t suffer Lev’s disorder, if that is what it is. Probably because I’ve been a journalist, I guess. That, though, was more to do with reporting events and ideas and it called for the discipline imposed by column-centimetres and that in turn called for a sometimes more formulaic style of writing.
Writing like I am doing now is writing of a different kind. It is more like typing my stream of consciousness as words on my screen. Ideas rise and other ideas connected to them rise in turn. I write them down. Later I will re-read what I have typed out and maybe make some changes if it is too nonsensical. The final product probably reflects my muddled thought processes. Maybe I would be happier with that logical flow of thoughts and ideas that my partner enjoys.
…if novelists are stuck like Lev seems to be, why not just make up something?
I can’t solve Lev’s dilemma. Anyway, I’m not a novelist like him. Maybe he could try the ‘what if?’ approach. Invent an incident in your novel then ask if what if that happened, what could follow from that, which characters would it effect and how? That leaves you with a linear chain of cause and effect and, novelists being an inventive lot, they could take that into interesting side trips with interesting outcomes.
A novelist’s malaise?
The way Lev describes his dilemma suggests it might be a malady suffered by novelists in general. I don’t understand why this should be so as, unlike in journalism where you are supposed to write verifiable fact (the tabloids excepted), novelists have this incredible luxury of inventing fact, people and incidents. If they are science fiction writers they can even reinvent the laws of physics.
So, if novelists are stuck like Lev seems to be, why not just make up something? If it doesn’t work, then make up something different.
A trouble I don’t share
I wrote before that Lev’s is a dilemma I don’t share. I understand writers’ block because I have suffered that disorder. I was cured, though, by taking a break, brewing a pot of coffee (no, not that degraded instant stuff that bears no relationship to coffee other than the word appearing on the can; I mean authentic coffee of the grounds kind) or, if it is late in the day, pouring a glass of good Australian or, as a secondary choice, New Zealand wine and, cup or glass in hand, taking a seat, putting your feet up on the windowsill and peering out into space for awhile.
Perhaps I should call this ‘productive space therapy for writers’ and write a book about it so as to make a lot of money from gullible-but-stuck novelists. Like the fiction Lev is trying to write, it too would be fiction, though fiction masquerading as fact.