Avoiding Difficult Scenes Doth Not a Writer Make

Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

I have a confession.

I dance around the scenes I don’t want to write. Or at least don’t feel equipped to.

Currently, there are three big gaping holes in my manuscript. All three holes should be filled with essential scenes; all three are insanely difficult for me to write. There are scenes before and scenes after these gaps. It’s like making a sandwich, but putting nothing in between; it’s like making a blank sandwich.

And nobody wants to read that any more than they would want to eat it.

I’ve spent more time pacing and analyzing these scenes this week than committing any of these thoughts to my story. While I do believe mental writing is important, I worry that my inability to sit down and write is rooted in my own insecurity that I’ll massively fail—that I wont be able to get it right.

As I write this post, I am again confronted with the question: Why don’t I want to write these scenes? What is holding me back?

If I am honest, part of my struggle is that I haven’t personally experienced some of the things I am forcing my characters to endure. This makes it hard to tap in to the emotional stakes of these scenes since I am trying to imagine what someone would feel in a particular situation. This has lead me to consider applying the principles of  Stanislavsky‘s method acting to my writing. Which is not entirely a bad idea on a less all-encompassing scale. (Trust me, if I ever get my book published, there are things I wouldn’t hope anyone would experience from it).

But the thing that most surprised me in my circular walk about the room was that I have begun to see pieces of myself in my characters. The more I see myself reflected, the more I see I’m not so far removed from these experiences after all. Though our physical  and cultural worlds maybe different, I have felt love and anger, hate and jealousy, joy and insecurity—these things we have in common. I can pull from that, and maybe that’s as method as I need to get.

Dorothy Parker once said I hate writing, I love having written. I am trying very hard to embrace her sage wisdom. Because I can’t think of anything truer. While this quote doesn’t necessarily pertain to writing difficult scenes. Writing is hard work, because essentially, as I have found, what we are offering the reader is a piece of ourselves. And in return, we are trusting the reader handle it with care.

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