Writer’s block isn’t so much a problem of words as it is a problem of ideas. I have no trouble writing words. What I sometimes have difficulty with is getting an idea to write some words about. It is that problem – no ideas – that is the bane of all writers.

At a loss for words

I’ve been playing around on my writing forum again. MWC (My Writers Circle) is based out of England but has participants from around the world. I was once very prolific over there and then found I was wasting more time than I had to spare. I gave myself a time out and retreated from the site for a couple months.

I got finished with several projects I had set for myself at home and once again found myself with time to spare. But it was also once again November. November, for you non-writers, is NaNo month. National Novel Writing Month is supposed to spur writers into completing a novel within a month – hence the name.

Several of the MWC inhabitants take part in this endeavor. They will post word counts daily and are supposed to get 50,000 words written during the month of November. That is the goal. Just write. In December you can edit and spruce up the work. But first you must get a rough draft down on electrons and saved to wherever you save your work.

According to the website, more than 2.5 billion words have been written by participants in this year’s NaNo. The site does not tell me how many people writing furiously have been involved in this, just the number of words produced. I don’t know if they will eventually tell how many of those who wrote their 50,000 words in November got them published somewhere down the line. I have never participated in this so I don’t know enough about it.

But in the MWC Bar, a place where MWCers congregate and talk about any and every thing there is to talk about, someone said if a frequent poster had totaled up all his writing this month on MWC, he may have had enough words for a NaNo prize.

But you see, there is a difference here. Writing on a forum where some of the posts are as little as one word and some of the posts are entire short stories is far different than writing a book. I can write flash fiction and short, short stories with wild abandon. I can write vignettes with a vengeance. What I can’t do is plan and execute the plan to create a book. This is an entirely different type of writing.

When writing a flash fiction piece, everything is contained in a story of less than so many words. It can be as much as 1,000 words to as little as 100 words. Hemingway wrote an entire story in six words. I don’t know if I’m permitted to quote it or not. But he wrote, “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.” And that tells an entire story. Not a lot of plot or character development, but it is an entire story.

I’m good when I don’t have to do a lot of plot or character development. Where a scene is painted in large brush strokes without having to add lots of detail. I’m good with something short and sweet and then out the door.

But to write an entire book is a totally different thing. My possible books on my computer are not novels. So they aren’t in this same category. Little Bits of History is not a continuous story, but rather 366 short tales, based in reality, quotes extra. There is no need for me to make up anything. More often than not, my problem has been taking a large idea and distilling it down into only four paragraphs.

Most of my writing is this shorter variety. Even my novella is simply short stories threaded together. Maybe that is what a novel is, as well. Lots of scenes or short stories threaded together. But I didn’t start out to write a novel or even a novella, I was just playing around with ideas from The Station – a game over at MWC.

Writer’s block isn’t that we don’t know how to write. Writers do know how to write. There are all different levels and abilities among those who call themselves writers and some write far better than others. But still, when you decide to become a writer, it is because you love words and so have an arsenal of them at your disposal.

Writer’s block is that sickening feeling when you look at a blank page (or screen) and think to yourself, “I don’t have a clue as to what I should talk about here.” Writers don’t say to themselves, “I should get out a dictionary and learn some new words.” Words are not our problem. Topics are our problem.