Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Writer's Block Means to Me

I've started another video. It  all happened while driving -- my iPod was on random (as usual) and I heard "Don't You Need," and before I knew it, I had the insane idea to try to pull enough clips from "Blood Fever" to make a Voyager video.

Problem is, all the relevant clips from that episode are dark -- lit by the actors' handheld flashlights -- and they are filled with talky-face.  I may end up making slight exception, despite the generally accepted vidder's rule that talky-face is bad.

So now I'm left borrowing clips from other episodes -- mostly in the third season, when the producers randomly decided to go the Tom/B'Elanna route instead of the Harry/B'Elanna route -- while still trying to make the narrative make sense.

(The main narrative is, of course, the story of B'Elanna's increasing desperation as the pon farr makes her more and more...err...feverish.)

I don't have the series on DVD but of course it's -- cough -- available in other venues -- cough -- not that I would ever -- cough -- acquire the series that way.  I am, of course, simply -- cough -- story-boarding at this point.


What was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  Writer's block.

So the other night, just for fun, I opened most of my active stories in Word and just cycled through them.  Lots of words.  Some in script format, some in narrative format, and some half-and-half.

Dialogue remains my weakness, as does my tendency be very straightforward and information-dump-like in my descriptions, so I have a few stories I'm working on specifically to force myself to describe things better -- in particular stories that force me to work within certain limitations (for instance, a Blood Ties story from Vicki's point of view in near-darkness (she has night blindness, or a Sue Thomas story where I can't rely on Sue picking up on tone of voice).

One thing I've learned over the past few years is that different things draw me to different stories, characters, and even shows.

For instance, the large majority of my Farscape stories are centered around a few isolated moments.

Like, say, Aeryn in "Till the Blood Runs Clear," because I find the interplay between her fierce desire to be independent despite her temporary blindness and her wide grin when Crichton compliments her ingenuity to be fascinating.  I saw a brief snippet of that episode when it first aired, and for years after -- even though I didn't yet watch the show -- my memory of Aeryn was her abrupt "Don't help me, Crichton!"  In fact, my first Farscape story was based off that moment.

Most of my other stories are centered around the following: Aeryn's breakdown in "The Way We Weren't," the aftermath of Moya!John's death (which is one of only two stories written from anyone other than Aeryn's point of view), the aftermath of Aeryn's torture, and the aftermath of John's collapse in The Peacekeeper Wars.

With other shows, of course, it's other moments -- but that's why I tend to write missing scenes and episode tags.  I'm drawn to the moments and want to explore them more.

So, anyhow, when a bout of writer's block comes along, the first thing that begins to happen is that I watch these moments themselves, or I'm reading something, or listening to a song, and start thinking: "Wow, if only I had that gift with language."

Which brings me back to the beginning of this.  I realize song writing is an entirely different thing than fiction writing or prose writing.  But when I read the lyrics to "Don't You Need," I'm invariably struck by the powerful imagery -- and it's something that always seems like it's beyond my reach.

In fact, imagery is one reason I've always been drawn to Melissa Etheridge's songs, ever since a friend gave me a copy of her self-titled album because it didn't fit on her CD case and I liked the song "Come to My Window."

(That song was immediately over-played and is probably one of my least favorite of her songs now, but whatever.)

So I've got these open files, especially the ones that are in script format, and I wonder: Can I come up with words to bring the images in my head into being on paper?  Lately, it seems like the answer is no.  The images themselves are as clear as ever -- I generally picture it like a movie in my head -- but when I try to describe them, it ends up sounding like an instruction manual.

Writer's block, for me, is not a lack of ideas.  It's not a lack of story lines, of plots, even of dialogue.  Writer's block is self-censoring.  It's me stopping myself from writing something because I know -- I know -- it's not up to snuff.

It's times like this that I have to remember what I did during the Summer of Drama, when I finished my first long story -- write a little, every day, on every story -- even if it's just a word, just a sentence.

Even if it sucks...because I can always go back and change it later.

Today's lesson in self pity was brought to you by the letters W and B and the number 47.

(W and B for writer's block, of course, and the number 47 just 'cause.)

No comments: