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Fox Tracks
by Christian O'Kane
©1998 Chris O'Kane -- all rights reserved

Right there in the middle of lunch it comes to you, the perfect idea for a story. It's terrific! You're sure it will get nothing but rave reviews from everybody on the list.

The rest of the day is spent thinking about your great story. You can't wait to write it down. Racing home you sit down in front of the computer and your hands poise over the keys... and your mind goes completely blank. Argh! Writers block.

We've all had that happen. We have a great idea in our heads but can't set it down in a story. No matter how hard we try, nothing comes out. Writer's block is a real bummer.

How do you overcome it? That's the big question. One I still find myself trying to answer.

The first thing is the atmosphere you're trying to write in. I need a place without the distractions of the TV, the telephone, or even other family members; someplace nice and quiet.

I always have some music playing in the background. Usually something calm and mellow, mostly classical. For some reason that always gets me going. The strangest things I've ever listened to while writing are Gregorian chants. I wrote most of Long Patrol listening to Spanish monks singing thousand year old Latin music. I played the CD so many times my family was beginning to wonder if I was going to become a monk. :) That music helps me to relax and concentrate on writing, and that's what matters.

OK, so you've locked your family out of the house with no result, and thousand year old music only succeeds in putting you to sleep. Now what?

Maybe you're trying too hard. Stop writing and do something else. My favorite one is to go for a long walk. As I'm strolling along, in my mind I'm working on the story. I'm using and discarding all the crazy and weird ideas that come to me, writing and rewriting the story in my mind over and over again. Try doing something else entirely different. Watch TV. Go build a model ship. Play a computer game. I can happily report that my score in Rampage is over two million!

Don't forget your friends at times like this. If you're stuck, ask someone for advice. I can't begin to tell you how much help I've gotten in chats with people like Phil, Matthias, Kitsune or a dozen others while on IRC. I'm proud to say that I've returned the help too. I hope.

Well, you've tried the chat groups, the music and you've walked several hundred miles all to no avail, but you're still blocked. My best advice then is to stop working on the story altogether. Save what you've already done in a secure place and work on something else. Leave it be for a while and come back to it at a later time. You'll be surprised how well things move along when you do return to it.

How long do you wait? There's no set time for that. I'm just finishing a story I hadn't touched in almost a year. Sometimes just going to bed and going at it again tomorrow, when you're rested, can do the trick.

Try writing a different type of story. The change in mood and settings can help. While writing my six-part Metamor Keep (MK) story Long Patrol, I got writers block around part 5. I put Long Patrol aside and wrote a story for Pandora. No writers block with that one. I knocked out the basic story in one sitting on a slow Saturday afternoon. When I went back to Long Patrol several days later I was relaxed and full of all sorts of new ideas. I did both parts 5 and 6 in no time at all.

Some final advice: Writing is never an easy thing. No great story ever came about easily or quickly, so don't despair if the words just won't come at first. Keep trying and don't forget the List. There are plenty of us on TSA-Talk willing to offer advice and encouragement. So don't be afraid to ask... and keep writing!

Christian O'Kane
The Lurking Fox

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