Have you ever had a problem with a relationship or with work that seems to go away or become more manageable when you talk to a friend about it? You don’t know how you feel about someone. You hate your job, or your job hates you. You complain, your friend listens, and then you receive some deceptively simple advice that, even if you don’t follow it, helps.
That also works for writers.
When I have trouble with a story, I talk to my twin brother. (Caveat: we don’t do it telepathically. Usually it’s while we’re having a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sorry to disappoint you.) We have a lot of the same interests, but he doesn’t write a lot. In terms of the genre of the different books I write, he’s the best person to talk to at short notice. It usually involves me telling me what I’ve written so far, and then concluding my summary with, “But I’m not sure what to do here.”
Now, I’m not going to pretend my brother even gets a chance to give advice. Usually I’m telling him what I want to do, with three or four different variations. This is a big problem when I haven’t planned something properly. (Specifically, when something in the book isn’t in the plan, because inspiration struck.)
The help you can get towards beating Writer’s Block by talking to a friend are two-fold.
On the one hand, you can think out loud. (That is, you can think out loud without anyone judging you for talking to yourself in public.) On the other hand, you have someone present to give you feedback. Add to this the benefits of working with someone on generating ideas, and you have a winner.
It has been pointed out frequently in the past that a pair of people do not merely bring two sets of ideas to the table. While each person in the conversation has their own ideas, they can also create a third set of ideas. The simple act of working together means that two minds can create as many ideas as three individuals. For a writer struggling with a scene – for anyone struggling with a problem, really – talking to someone about it is the best way of getting as many ideas as possible, through the combination of ideas and patterns of thought.
I personally recommend a face-to-face conversation for this sort of talk. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to meet up with somebody – especially difficult if they live across the country, or in a different one altogether – but it does help to get to see someone’s face, and for them to see that when you’ve stopped talking, it’s because you’re taking or reading your notes. It’s also much easier to communicate when you can look someone in the eye; simple audio doesn’t quite cut it most of the time.
If talking to a friend hasn’t helped, check out other posts I’ve done on the subject of Beating Writer’s Block. Alternatively, wait for tomorrow’s post: Ask Another Writer.