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I still remember the first time I heard the term Writer’s Block. It was on the show Golden Girls, an 80’s sitcom about four mature ladies living as roommates. Blanche Deveraux, a southern belle and very randy senior citizen, had decided to write romance novels. After sitting fruitlessly in front of a typewriter for hours she swept out of her room in her long flowing negligée and declared she had writer’s block. Estelle, the oldest of the bunch, sat on the couch witnessing Blanche floridly describing the difficulty of her situation: the frustration, the waiting, the straining! As Blanche waxes on Estelle slyly compares Blanche’s writers block to constipation.

It was a funny scene.

At the time I thought it must be awful to suffer from writer’s block but I was young and the writing compulsion was only just beginning to surface. I had no conception of what it might actually be like to be a writer. Since then I have gained a little more experience. Certainly I’ve sat in front of a blank page but there was always some avenue to coax a story out of me; some glimmering shard of a first phrase or sentence to build on.

More difficult is when a scene stumps me. Perhaps I don’t know how a character will react or how to make the scene convey what I need it to or maybe I just don’t know what happens next but never do I feel blocked.

If I don’t know what a character will do or say next I can do character exploration exercises or write possible options and revise as necessary. If I’m having trouble making a scene say what it needs to I start by outlining those things so I have a clear picture of what I need and then explore what elements within the scene will meet that need. If I don’t know what happens next I review what happened before and what that will naturally lead to. I may get stuck in a scene but there are always ways to move forward. And if I think that I need some time away from a scene to get it right then I use the time to work on the next scene or another project. And there is always another project.

I might get scene-block or even novel-block but writer’s block? I don’t believe in it.

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Today I was doing research for a story I want to write about genetically modified foods.  I thought it would be a fun project for nanowrimo 2009.  I’m interested in health but I didn’t have an agenda.  I wanted to write an engaging story, not propaganda.  My choice of topic was something I peripherally knew to be a hot issue.  I grew up with food-wise hippie parents and I thought I knew the basics behind the arguments and research would only yield necessary details to build a realistic framework.

I may never eat corn or canola oil again.   The truth is already so much more evil than what I had concocted.

The current situation provides a framework that perfectly supports the dystopic future I am envisioning.  The nightmare scenarios I have envisioned for my fictional novel seem like potential prophecy.  Do I really want to give these corporations more ideas?

I am somewhere between being desperately excited that I have a brilliant idea for an engaging and believable novel that taps into a a very real fear in our society and should act on it now and wanting to crawl into a hole and hide from the terrible truth.

(Obviously I’m going to choose the option where I write.)

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