Swallowing My Own Medicine

by Jeff Abbott on February 9, 2011

My Old Medicine bottle/ jar collection

This week I talked about how to break through a block. And (wait for it. . .)

Today I got blocked.

Hello irony! How could I be blocked? I have an outline for this book crammed full of good ideas. And today, that was part of the problem.

Indecision Is A Block
I was not as much blocked as indecisive. I reached a juncture in the book where I had to make a very serious choice. I had about four options to pursue; think of it as more than one fork in the road. Instead of a barren desert, I had a flood of ideas. (I know. Poor me. But this is a block, too, when you can’t choose.)

It took me about an hour to realize I was blocked–that I was stuck in indecision. Well, a decision will surface, I thought. I did some background reading I had wanted to finish. I did some research. I answered a few emails. Smell the procrastination!

Heal Thyself
It was 20 degrees and sleeting, so I didn’t embrace my usual cure of a walk. Instead I went to the notebook I keep and I started writing out the pros and cons of the decision. It seemed a rather dry approach and wasn’t helping. So I went back to the characters (as per my own advice) and started staring them down. After about ten minutes of thinking hard I realized that I needed to cut an element about one of the major characters in the book: It wasn’t working, it was derailing the book’s logic, and it was–and this is important–it was overloading the book. A really clever twist shouldn’t cripple the rest of the story. And in this case, it was. So. out it goes. That simplified the rest of the decisions to make at this point of the book, and frankly I felt like I’d been freed from a ball and chain. It’s an interesting idea for a character–but best saved for another book.

All this proves that a surfeit of ideas can be as problematic as a lack of them.

Photo credit, aussiegall

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