Once upon a time, there was a writer who was smack-dab in the middle of writing what she felt was her best story yet when everything ran straight into a wall. She smacked her computer a couple of times, succeeded in breaking her favourite pen when it accidentally hit the wall a little too hard on the backswing, spilled black ink on the carpet, made a huge, ugly blotch in her attempt to scrub out the ink, bashed her knuckles against the desk leg in the process, got rug burn on her elbow while she fell over from the shock of bashing her knuckles, lay on her back, looked up without really seeing anything and burst into tears. Her eye liner had just reached her ears when, lo, an angel appeared before her, bright as the sun and pretty gorgeous besides. The writer sat up, tears forgotten, and tried to wipe the streaks of eye liner from her temples.
“FEAR NOT FOR I BRING A WORD FROM THE LORD!” the angel cried. “HE HAS SEEN THY SUFFERING AND HAS COMMANDED ME TO TELL THEE HOW TO END IT!” He paused, arms held out and face to the sky, waiting for a gasp or other, similar sounds of astonishment.
“Excuse me,” the writer said, ears ringing. “Could you please speak a little quieter? I’d like to still have my hearing when I’m fifty.”
The angel glared at the writer down one side of his nose.
“Sorry, I know this is a dramatic moment and all, but I’m a little concerned about my eardrums, that’s all.” The writer shifted to a more comfortable position, folded her hands on her lap and stared attentively at the angel, who rolled his eyes.
“As thou wish’st. I shall indeed lower my voice, but remember well that this great moment has been quashed in part by thy selfishness.”
“Now! Attend well to this, thy message from the Most High!” The angel lifted his hands towards the ceiling, which the writer noticed had a large cobweb in the corner where two walls met that she thought she should probably warn the angel of before he hit it. She opened her mouth to speak, but the angel had already not only knocked white bits off the ceiling in his exuberance, but had also immersed his fingers in the sticky stuff. The expression on his face changed to one of profound disgust and he looked up slowly. His eyes widened to the approximate size of ping-pong balls when he saw what engulfed his hand.
“What. Is. That!” The angel curled his lips, every other muscle frozen, reminding the writer of an offended cat.
“A spider web. I’ve been meaning to clean-”
“HOW DARE THOU ALLOW’ST MINE HAND TO FALL UPON SUCH A… SUCH A…” The angel’s other hand windmilled helplessly.
“Gross?” the writer offered, clapping her own hands over her ears.
“SUCH A GROSS SUBSTANCE!”
“It’s not that bad. Spider’s silk is actually quite beautiful when-”
“DOST THOU NOT RESPECT THAT I AM ONE OF THE LORD’S MESSENGERS?” The writer winced.
“It’s not like I could help it. They’re not even visible in certain lights.” The angel turned his gaze back to the writer, his expression of such intense fury that she was positive that tongues of fire had started burning behind his irises. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, closed it again. Then he vanished, taking the cobweb with him.
Writers get blocked sometimes. We’re writing at full speed, loving every minute and then we hit a spot in the story where we realize we haven’t the faintest clue what on earth is going to happen next. We know exactly what’s happening directly after this gaping hole, but we haven’t enough to fill the hole so that we can get to the other side.
The problem is, much as we wish it, there isn’t going to be an angel come to tell you what to write next. Neither will fairies wave their wands and give us new ideas. So, what do we do? Here are a couple of ideas:
1) Move on.
Pretend the hole already got filled, or fill it with something vague like: “they traveled for a while, doing interesting and exciting things” or “events of unknown entertainment caliber occurred” or, if you’re really stuck, “something happened”. Then keep going as if the whole scene (or scenes) has already been written. Barring a revelation partway through a later scene, revision will be the time when the hole can be assessed. It might end up that the story works better without that hole even being mentioned.
2) Go do something that isn’t writing-related.
It’s like talking with a friend and forgetting an important word, only to remember it hours later when in the middle of something completely different (for me, this usually happens when I’m trying to fall asleep). Thinking too hard about the story can impair your ability to write it. So, don’t think about it. Do some housework, feed the pets, play an instrument, take a walk… whatever will give you a break and free your subconscious to formulate awesomeness without being under scrutiny. Take some time to relax, even if it isn’t very long, and it will do wonders.
Even if an angel comes, it’s not likely to be very helpful. But neither is bashing against a brick wall, hoping that, this time, it will fall. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, thinking that we’ll get different results. Let’s try for sanity, shall we?
After a moment of processing the bizarre encounter, the writer got up, made herself a cup of coffee, and then went out to rent a steam cleaner. Hopefully, if she wrestled with the ink stain long enough, something story-related would shake loose.