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I’m having a hard time focusing on one story. I keep trying to finish a story but nothing seems to help. I’ll get halfway through then move on to the next story. Any suggestions on how I can focus better?
Steve from Cheeseland
I know exactly what you’re talking about. I too have experienced difficulty sticking to one story and following it through all the way to completion. The phenomenon is known as Addiction to the Honeymoon Phase, and it goes a little something like this:
1. A new story idea appears. You feel an immediate attraction to it. It’s just so…so unexpected. So unfamiliar. So exciting. Maybe your eyes meet across a bustling coffee shop where you are diligently working away on your current story, which, if you’re honest, hasn’t really been making much effort lately. Not like it used to. The current story, the old story, used to leap to its tiptoes and twirl across the page to meet you every time you thought about it. It just couldn’t get enough of you. There was dialogue crackling away in your head in the shower, towers of increased stakes rising before you were even properly awake. Nothing was off limits. Even while you were driving to work late, you’d sometimes have to recklessly pull over to attend to the story’s insatiable demands. These days it doesn’t even look up when you open your laptop anymore. Dragging it out here for a latte and a few hours of honest attention was like pulling teeth. I mean. I mean. You know?
2. Or perhaps you accidentally brush hands with New Story Idea while reaching for some of those wonderful little fruit candies they keep in a bowl by the register at that great new sushi place. You’re dazzled by the bright blinking of New Story Idea’s startling structure, the easy set of its theme slung across one shoulder, the growl in its throat as it apologizes for taking the last pineapple candy. When the sushi fellow calls out “Rainbow Sexy Boat and Spicy Monster” and you both reach for the same bag, I mean—what are the odds you’d both have the same order? There is such a thing in this tired old world as fate, surely. There is kismet. Old Story won’t even eat sushi anymore. It was just for you, and now that we’re together we don’t have to do that kind of shit anymore. There must be fate. Destiny. There has to be. Right?
3. Or maybe it’s a late night and you just had to get out of the house. You had to. You couldn’t stand listening to Old Story’s heavy sighs and stomping around in those damn floofy slippers anymore. So you’re out, and you’re stalking the streets, hands jammed into your pockets and a dozen rehashed arguments blenderizing around in your brain and you turn a corner and bam. New Story Idea. Hands jammed into its pockets, shocked out of its own blenderized thoughts by your sudden appearance, eyes only for you, wearing shoes that look like they could run straight up the side of a building, gravity be damned, and your breath catches in your throat and you grab New Story Idea’s hand and the two of you run, and run, and the night air is blinding you both, and tears are streaming and hair is whipping in the starlight and someone’s screaming and flashlight beams are crisscrossing the street and New Story Idea stops short and drags you sideways out of the light through a tiny ornate gate you’ve never noticed before even though you’ve stalked these streets for a thousand nights and the shadows yawn open to reveal a sunken garden replete with jeweled flowers and a glowing pond filled with transparent moon fish and some kind of phosphorescent night birds are circling and the leaves on the trees are smiling and the screaming and flashlight beams scream past and fade away and you’re here, and you’re safe, and New Story Idea’s eyes are glowing and its mouth is opening wider and wider and its teeth are glittering and your heart is pounding and your life is about to turn into something absolutely, positively—
I’m sorry, Steve. I really am. I’ve got nothing.
Can you please give me some tips and tricks for overcoming writer’s block? Too often I’m left waiting for inspiration to strike, staring at my computer screen. The muse must be allergic to me, how can I get her back?
Bill Anksheet Parchment, MI
The Affliction Which Shall Not Be Named—we’ll call it W.’s B.—is a leather-winged plague perching on the houses of writers from Parchment, Michigan to Ink, Arkansas and from Inspiration, Arizona to Story, Indiana. Its idea-sapping thirst can render any keyboard mute. It may curl its merciless sucking tendrils into any inkwell at any time, blocking out the imagination’s world-giving glow with a tenebrous caliginosity of stifled, maundering brain blot.
Once upon a time, Bill, I too felt the pain of W.’s B. I suffered at its mercy like every other writer, until I happened upon a piece of information which banished its parched fingers from my throat and opened wide the inky floodgates for good. The information of which I speak is a means of striking up a vigorous and resilient bond of communication with none other than your own personal horror story muse. It’s not so much an incantation or summoning verse as it is… an irrevocable invitation.
Having established an uneasy peace with my own unique horror muse, a chrome-quilled Disastrix known as Sissle the Pinion Wraith, I was able pull a few strings to discover the nature and name of the horror muse assigned at birth to none other than one Bill Anksheet of Parchment, Michigan. And—great news, Bill—I even saved you a step. I issued an invitation to your muse on your behalf.
Your special harbinger of dark inspiration, Bill, is a jibbering, gravel-voiced Nociceptrix who goes by the name of Crikka Dreadwell. She’s been waiting for you. For so long. She’s been waiting all your life for permission to fly to your side. She’s hollow with desire to flood you with ideas. She’s a cavernous, lightless void teeming with characters, conflicts, stakes, emotional beats, all waiting to swirl around you and into you through your eyes and ears and all of your pores, tuning the xylophone of your every bone, slicing through each tender fold of your mind and screeching along the curved chambers of your heart, ratcheting up and down your nerves, shrieking along every artery and vein and finally gushing out of all your fingertips onto the page. She’s coming. She knows where you live. You won’t have to wait much longer. Is that the spark of a flinty hoof on the front walk? Is that the scratching of one obsidian nail at the door? It’s time, Bill. Your long wait is over. Throw the door wide and prepare to be inspired.
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