Bursting through barriers to story
I’ve been so busy taking care of marketing demands for my three novels (Fling!, Curva Peligrosa, and Freefall: A Divine Comedy), and finishing up the creative writing workshop I’m teaching at the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning, that I haven’t had time to write new material, fiction or otherwise. Prose, especially non-fiction, is easy for me to produce. I can spin out words and sentences that end up making sense, as I’m doing here.
But writing fiction? It’s like digging a ditch or chipping away at the concrete of my brain to find a way back into a story. That’s why I usually have several projects in motion. I move back and forth between them. When I run into a dead end with one, I can enter a vein in another, carried along until something stops me again.
Still, it’s difficult to enter the almost trance-like state that enables me to generate new material and activate my imagination. There’s always a barrier I have to break through first before the narrative takes on its own energy, carrying me along with it. I’m assuming most writers experience this kind of resistance at some point. At its extreme, the resistance becomes dreaded writer’s block and takes us over.
Fortunately, it’s such a frequent visitor that I’m rarely overwhelmed when it happens. The secret is to not give the obstacle it tries to construct any power. I keep writing no matter what, even if it turns out to be gobbledygook at first. Freewriting is one strategy I use to soar past this opposition and find my way back into story. Once I do, I’m good until the next time this obstruction appears.
Lily Iona MacKenzie
A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (I was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got my legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, co-created The Story Shoppe, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County, CA, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in creative writing and one in the humanities). I have published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 165 American and Canadian venues. My novel Fling! was published in 2015. Curva Peligrosa, another novel, was published in September 2017. Freefall: A Divine Comedy was released in 2019. My poetry collection All This was published in 2011, and Prolific Press published my poetry chapbook No More Kings in March 2020. I blog at http://lilyionamackenzie.com.
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