“Obstacles are instructions, not obstructions.”
Hitting a writing roadblock is no fun. These potholes of the page can take many forms: We can find ourselves struggling with a thorny plot point or a character whose energy seems to be draining away as our story unfolds. We may be fighting to find time to write, but find that life is getting in the way of letters. We may be wrestling with a first chapter and find that it’s tough going (tell me about it!). We may be working our way through a revision and find that we’re losing steam or direction. Or we may be facing a case of classic writer’s block. The list goes on and on.
Whatever obstacle you may be grappling with right now, take a tip from our pal Brian and think of it as an instruction — a guidepost, a bit of advice from the universe, a sign that you are off course. Reframing the idea of an obstruction can be so helpful: it transforms it into something positive rather than negative — and that can make all the difference in managing it effectively.
The trick here, of course, is figuring out what the obstacle you’ve hit is trying to tell you, so you can get back on track and keep moving forward. Let’s say you’re losing your enthusiasm about a particular character you’ve created. What does this tell you? First and foremost, if you’re losing interest writing about the character then your audience will surely do the same when reading about him or her. So it’s pretty clear that you have to up the ante and give the character more juice. Second, your flagging interest may point to the fact that the character’s dialogue is lackluster or clichéd or that the stakes are too low for the character in your story. Or it could be that the character’s role has to be either reduced or expanded. Pondering any or all of these options may provide a helpful solution.
Sometime over the next few days, the chances are good that you are going to run into some kind of roadblock, something that impedes your forward motion. If you can think of this obstacle as a flag post — an alert designed to get your attention — and approach it gratefully and positively, then you may have a better chance of handling it more quickly and with less stress. So, if and when you hit a roadblock this week, take a deep breath, step back, and figure out what it’s telling you, so you can adjust your course and keep moving. Remember, think instruction, not obstruction. Write on!