When your imaginary friends won't talk to you.
No I don't have writer's block. Since the time when I first considered myself "a writer" I have never experienced a lack of or a loss for words. Oh sure there might be a piece I had to set aside for a day or an hour but blocked -- never. I do remember the experience from my undergrad days. Back then I didn't understand the craft of writing. Not only did I not get the whole concept of outlines and paragraph structure but I lacked what fortunately I now have in abundance - inspiration. So many stories, so little time.
I do use one technique on the order of a cheat sheet, which is simply that I have a lot of projects going at once and more often than not have the luxury of choosing what I want to work on each morning. Deadlines do come around, but I am generally ahead of the curve on the ticking clock issues. There is a little trick I stumbled on when I sat down to finish my dissertation. Back in 1999, I had just left an all consuming job in Silicon Valley and needed to complete my P.D. dissertation I had put on semi-hold; twas time to close a life chapter, which required a check mark next to the grad school experience. I had continued to do weekend research on my topic: Exploring the nature of qualitative research: Assumptions, attributes, definitions and antecedents. But I was not producing text or content. So my first day back at the desk, I did a little sorting and pencil sharpening before producing the updated outline of the entire project. An introduction, five chapters and a conclusion.
Then I broke each chapter into sections and those sections into sub-sections. When the parsing was done I had ninety three little pieces, some done, some drafted, others outlined and a few with just notes or question marks. Then the process was simple, each morning I would drift through the list and find something that interested me to start the day. Slowly the list of potential bits became drafts, drafts were polished and finally there was just the task of stitching the quilt together and fixing the then's, than's and that's.
Today I know as soon as I hit publish on this post, I will be working on a query letter for a novel (Grey Angel) that has been back-burnered for several months. Inspiration struck in the wee hours this morning, my bedside notepad was full of restart ideas when I rolled from the covers a short time ago. I am both inspired and infused with a new direction for that story. Another project, also fresh from several months in a temporal cul-de-sac surfaced this past week, that will be project #2 on my list; unless, of course, we experience a muse war, in which case I will offer up another blog post.