Every marathon runner reaches that point in the physical and psychological journey of the race when he or she hits the proverbial wall, that moment in the competition in which exhaustion hits so solidly that it can feel like a physcial barrier more than a metaphorical one.
Last week explored the topic - again - of writer's block, an all too real affliction with which I have been suffering on and off for some time, the better part of a year and a half, really. Lasat week was my clumsy metaphor of writers' block as recovering addict model. I'm hping that this metaphor might be more apt and somewhat less controversial. Because I've hit The Wall.
In running, The Wall is a barrier that, despite the training that's been undertaken, makes it seem insurmountable that one could continue to the finish line. Different runners offer different strategies for overcoming The Wall,and the startegies variously describe moving over, past, around and even through it, though the last strategy sounds the one to cause the most pain in its effort to thwart the pain experienced by encountering The Wall in the first place. Likely there's no silver bullet that works for everyone but The Wall is a common enough experience among runners to warrant a great deal of research and writing on the topic. In common is the intensity of the phenomenon and that it tends to occur in the latter half o the journey, often when the finish line is darned near within sight.
In writing, more specifically, in my writing, The Wall is perhaps not in the latter 'half' of the journey per se - I'm probably in the second third of W3.doc - but it parallels the running experience as I understand it in that a significant portion of the journey is completed when we encounter The Wall. And it doesn't matter how strongly one starts. The first part of the race may have gone off like gangbusters, continued at a steady, consistent pace, been well planned and was flowing and on track to a timely finsih,maybe even a personal best. But despite those primarily positive conditions, I have hit more than just writer's block but what could more accurately be compared to the marathoner's Wall. It feels real. It feels tangible. It's visceral. At times I'm sure I can actually see it - that very real sense that I could amost reach out and touch it with my hands.
This isn't even the result of heavy drinking.
Thus, again, despite how fired up I appeared to be with my twenty minutes per day regiment, I am stalled. And this stall feels like a big one. Because like the marathon runner, I know exactly where the finish line is. I've seen it. I've planned for it. I know what happens and have a very good idea what my characters and story line will look like when I get there. I know that just beyond The Wall there may still be some bumpy parts on the road that I have yet to experience, but this damned Wall won't even let me head down the path.
In practical terms, I just killed someone. Don't get me wrong: I think he needed to be killed. I created a character that I found kind of charming, enough of a threat to my protagonist that frankly, he had to go. But also his death really does propel the story forward, created a plot point that seriously increases the stakes for Winston and adds legitimacy to the actions he has been taken. And it's thrown a nasty Wall in front of me.
So for now, I'm going to be revisiting some writer's block exercises, reviewing the outline of the story and the scenes I've already created and see if I can find the way over, under, around or through this barrier.
If you hear a loud bang, I've either resulted to the Wile E. Coyote school of demolition or my brain has exploded.
Next week: premature outlining