From Writer’s Block to the Finish Line

The first article I sold was about a thoroughbred horse, real name Oh Don’t Worry, who hated racing but won anyway. She’s become an inspiration to me and can be for you, too, especially if writer’s block sometimes pulls you up short.

Personally, I’ve always refused to accept writer’s block as a thing, so when I found it happening to me, my attitude hovered somewhere between denial and disbelief. Real life was often to blame—illness, loss, the sorts of things we all suffer now and then; and the confidence rollercoaster was so old I had already learned to ignore it. So why was my work going nowhere? The problem needed a closer look.

My first stumbling block revealed itself to be research. Apparently I would rather muck out Oh Don’t Worry’s stall than ask a mechanic how to disable a school bus or a rock climber about his fondness for granite. Eventually, I realized my subconscious had been inventing busywork and convincing me it was urgent. Busted! Research may not be your most dreaded writing chore, but you might ask yourself what is.

My other hurdle is always plot. When I lost track of the murder weapon in the middle of my first mystery, an outline suddenly seemed like a great idea. Planning ahead got me through several books, but as my work evolved, so did my method. For mystery No. 9 I plunged ahead without compass or map then discovered I was lost two-thirds of the way in. Nice complications, I congratulated myself, now let’s see you solve them. Clearly, there were difficult decisions to be made. Focusing on what I didn’t know forced me to work out the answers.

Oh Don’t Worry’s secret was to run as fast as she could to finish something she thoroughly disliked. Pretty smart when you think about it.

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