Talking It Out

So, yesterday morning, I asked for twitter's help deciding what to blog about, because that's turned out well in the past, and Libba pitched in:

Well, why not?

I learned many things about uvulas yesterday (fun word to say, and it sounds a little…dirty, doesn't it?)–that some people pierce them, that it's possible to get a bee sting there, that a friend knew someone when she was a kid who had two and could make them dance, that someone had a college instructor who mixed up uvula with an entirely different word to unfortunate results. WHO KNEW that the uvula's power to fuel anecdotes was so mighty? Not me. In fact, if Straight Dope is right, we don't even know what uvulas are for. But we do know they help us make some sounds and so that's awfully close to talking and talking is a suitable blog post topic.

All writers get stuck. There are the little stucks, the flummoxed by a scene for a day, or an hour, or a week. There are the bigger stucks, where nothing feels right, and we stall out or stutter-step forward, only to end up deleting a few steps back. Everyone. Gets. Stuck. And so everyone has to get unstuck.

There are various methods to this, as with all things. Some people walk away. Some clean the house. Some bang their head against their desk repeatedly. Some despair. Some move to a new city and assume a different identity. I have done all of these things myself at one time or another. Well, except the last one. That one I've just fantasized about when truly stuck.

But my most usual method for getting unstuck–and even, at times, just for moving forward, pushing ahead, figuring out a story–is talking it through.

Now, I'm lucky in this regard, because I'm married to another writer. He may not always be a captivated audience for these burblings, but he is a captive one. (Mwahaha.) I'm also lucky to have a number of writer friends who are happy to indulge in long talks to clear the fog or overgrowth that's hiding the path forward. Call on your writer friends, if you don't have a captive loved one, or call upon any friend or loved one to indulge your talking it out.

Often, it's just the very act of articulating the problem out loud that provides the solution. I think this is for a couple of different reasons:

1) Forcing yourself to explain a story knot or roadblock to someone else makes you have to explain it to someone else. And often that entails stepping back just enough to be able to see it more clearly. It also engages a different part of the brain, a different kind of thinking. Talking through possible solutions, your reaction to them will often reveal what's important to you about the story, and that is always a good thing to know.

2) You have to set your ego aside. Look, everyone gets stuck. But admitting you're stuck, not caring who knows, not letting that make you feel like a failure (see this fabulous post by Marie Lu on imposter syndrome), and asking for help, even if it's just an ear–that's a useful thing. It reminds you that this is about the story, about making it work, and not about you. It's hard to move forward with the full weight of the ego pressing down on your shoulders.

Another bonus: It's often fun, which being stuck isn't. Kicking around various solutions, talking over story issues, you can sometimes cover a lot more ground than you could cover in six weeks or six months at the desk making words and deleting them. The act of admitting you're stuck can also lead to commisseration, which in turns leads to less misery and feeling of awful aloneness. Ultimately, the solution comes from your fingertips, and yours alone, but there's no reason you have to suffer everything by your lonesome. Make others suffer with you. And suffer with them. This is the beautiful symbiosis of writer friendships.

The uvula wants you to talk it out. And remember:

As you were.

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