In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let me tell you about Green Days from a writer’s point of view. No, we’re not discussing the history of Saint Patrick or Ireland or the migration of the Irish to the United States as a result of the potato famine.
We’re talking about those days when you, as a writer, look at the blank screen and think, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Those are “Green Days.”
If you have read any of the Lilian Jackson Braun, “THE CAT WHO . . .” series, you have probably encountered Braun’s protagonist, Jim Qwilleran and his way of filling his column when he has no idea how to fill his column. For those of you who may not have read these charming ‘cosy’ mysteries, he would take a word, such as the color ‘green’ and then force himself to write a thousand words about it. He would define it, describe it, quote examples of its use from literature, and on and on.
I write almost every morning. My morning sessions include progress on my current novel, GABRIELLA’S DAUGHTER, polishing previous work or writing in my journal. It is rare when I can think of nothing to write.
However, the truth is that interesting events don’t happen that often in a writer’s life. If he is doing his job, the author is in his office sitting in front of his computer (or whatever writing device he uses) and the interesting stuff is happening in his mind.
It is inevitable that a morning arrives when no words spring forth, no emotion flows, and I have absolutely no idea what should come next. I call those frightening days “Green Days” after Qwilleran’s column-writing technique. Rather than thinking in terms of writer’s block, I imagine the big charming character with the oversized mustache writing a thousand words about the color green. If that doesn’t break my mental log jam, I may have to move to more drastic idea-generating measures like flash writing, or my favorite, computer conversations.
Flash writing is just what it sounds like—writing as fast as you can without stopping and without self editing for a predetermined amount of time, probably five or ten minutes. This can be free form or it can have rules such as creating a complete story within the allotted time. Free form writing works well if you are out of writing ideas. The thoughts that float to the surface of your mind will frequently solve your problem and possibly give you the idea for a new story.
A computer conversation is not quite so obvious.
If you don’t want to enlist family or friends to solve your writer’s block problem, you can pour your heart out to a non-judgmental listener, your faithful writing companion. So to engage in a computer conversation, you create a new file on your computer and then begin typing as if you were talking to another person.
“Good morning, Computer, I’m having some trouble deciding whether to take my main character off planet.”
“Why on earth are you writing a science fiction book in the first place? You read mostly romantic suspense.”
“Well, Computer, you know that I firmly believe that we humans have more potential than we ever develop . . .”
This exchange continues until I’ve dug down into my subconscious and discovered why my protagonist has to go off planet.
Green days happen to every writer. The writer then can feel worthless and used up, or he can grit his teeth and keep writing something, anything until the ideas start flowing again.
Keep reading, keep writing, and remember, you haven’t failed until you stop trying. Here is an Irish Blessing to help you on your way:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the Lord always hold you in the hollow of His hand.
**(Forgive the gender simplification. Since we don’t have a good word meaning “he and/or she,” I tried the old “his/her and also “his or her”. Totally clumsy. I think we all know that both men and women write. Some of both genders even get published from time to time.)