Writer’s block… Cue the soundtrack for ruination and doom! The very phrase conjures dread, and it’s the rare writer who hasn’t experienced it. Days, weeks, months—even years of being unable to think of something to write or being unable to finish a work already in progress.
I can’t say I’ve never struggled to write, but rather than thinking of it as a disease I’ve been struck with or the desertion of my muse, I’ve come to the conclusion that “writer’s block” is all in my head.
Writer’s Block: It’s Attitude
I still laugh at the source of the revelation: Richard Castle. (You know, the guy from the television show “Castle”! Nathan Fillion, anyone?) It’s become my number one way to deal with uncooperative words:
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re so embarrassed by the horrendous drivel you’re writing that you can’t bear to see it on the page. After all, you can always write something. I’ve discovered that giving yourself permission to write poorly is the gateway to writing well. It may not be good, it may not make sense, but that’s okay. After enough pages of meaningless drivel, your brain will uncover something interesting, and before you know it, you’re off and writing again.
I’ve also discovered that writing about why you can’t write allows you to discover what’s holding you back. Once you know what’s holding you back, you can face the problem and solve it.
So if I’m struggling with What Comes Next in whatever I’m working on, I just write STUFF. I write about feeling uninspired, uncreative, and un-secure (yes, it’s supposed to be “insecure,” but that doesn’t match the other UNs). And after I have myself a little rant, I branch off into writing about the story situation. What’s the main character doing? What’s he supposed to be doing? How is he stuck and what are some ways he could get un-stuck? How’s the antagonist viewing the circumstances? What does he want at the moment, and why?
That’s usually enough to get my brain in gear again, but sometimes my creativity needs to be rejuvenated rather than given a jump start.
You know how the ubiquitous “they” say that variety is the spice of life? It’s true.
Sure, I can scribble some drivel, then dive into the real work of writing, but I’ve discovered that I write better—more words, stronger images, finer sentences—if I exercise my creativity in another direction.
Just like physical exercise, you can’t just constantly focus on one part of the body without wearing it out, making it tired, or otherwise giving it stress.
So what do I do?
- I read (Four or five books, at least!)
- I create images in Photoshop (Let’s call that “doing artwork”)
- I clean things
I went on vacation once, but then I had to recover… Heh. I like vacations, but they tend to derail my writing rather than infusing it with interesting stuff. Weird, I know…
My go-to de-stressers are easily available. They engage my brain in different ways. Or, in the case of cleaning, they leave me free to let my imagination wander. Whichever one I pick, I stick with it until I’m bored or until that magical moment when I have to get back to my story.
Then I put everything else away and write like a crazy woman!
The key for me is to keep it simple.
Don’t stress about not doing any actual word-count collecting writing. Stressing makes it worse.
Enjoy the side view. A writer is always writing, even when she’s not sitting in front of the computer typing.
“A writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words..always noticing.” ~Shirley Jackson
Your characters are always there in the back of your mind. You’re always listening to conversations or watching reactions. You’re always looking at things—perfectly normal things!—and sliding them into your story. The news, gossip, or a line from a show can become the perfect solution (or obstacle) for a scene.
Isn’t it so beautifully awesome that we are surrounded by inspiration?
It’s okay to leave the story for a minute or an hour—or however long it takes to slough off the blahs. Caveat: Plan to come back to the story. Don’t let your road trip move you into a completely new state.
Experiment. Find what works for you, and love it.
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Do you get bogged down by writer’s block?
How do you get through it?
What’s the funniest “cure” you’ve ever tried?