Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Writer's Block, Anyone?

Consider yourself the luckiest writer in the universe if you’ve never experienced a moment of writer’s block. If you've never experienced a moment of where do I go now? If you've never thought, how can I tie up this loose end? Aaargh!

The most important thing to consider when faced with the dreaded writer’s block is to realize that that this is probably not the last time you’ll be stuck. Personally, I think it’s part of the writing life. Everyone gets writer’s block, even if it’s an episode that lasts only 15 minutes.

The cure? Push through.

I’m sorry if you were expecting a more brilliant answer. There are several strategies that you can use to get your creative abilities firing again.

1. Pray.
  • Keep yourself spiritually charged. Remember Who your writing partner is. He who has called you . . .
2. Keep a writer’s journal.
  • A journal may include memories, jokes, story ideas, writing tricks, dreams, and descriptions of people, places or situations.
  • A writer’s journal may be as simple as a little notebook you carry in your purse or it could be a word document on your computer.
  • Don’t get stressed about when or if you should use a writer’s journal. The idea is for the journal to help you, not make you more stressed.
  • If you use an item/idea from your journal in your work, be sure to either delete it or make a note as to when/where it was used.
  • Train yourself to be alert for fresh ideas when they occur, and write them down.
3. Visit a bookstore.
  • Is there a writer alive who doesn’t get jazzed walking through the aisles of a bookstore?
  • Pull out the books that catch your attention. Read the back cover copy. Read the first few lines.
  • Think to yourself, “I can do this!”
  • Go home and write.
4. Sit down and write 250 crummy words.
  • Sometimes just getting started gets you in the groove.
  • Don’t worry if the words aren’t pretty. You can always go back and pretty them up.
5. Invest in your health.
  • Go for a walk, hop on a treadmill—just get moving. Your imagination won’t work a maximum capacity if your brain is sluggish.
6. Work on another project for a while.
  • If you can, switch gears to another project you have in the works or make notes on a subsequent project you’ve been thinking about. You may return to your “blocked” project with fresh eyes after a little time away from it.
7. Read a great book.
  • Sometimes reading great writing gives you the itch to write yourself.
8. Try to write out of your genre
  • Write non-fiction if you’re a fiction writer. It could be just a simple letter to a friend or a short article on craft that you can share with writing buddies. • Write a poem.
  • If you write non-fiction, practice fiction techniques to use in your n-f writing.
9. Try freewriting.
  • Give yourself a time limit of 10-15 minutes and let your fingers fly over the keyboard. Even if you’re writing crazy nonsense, you may spark a thought or idea that will springboard you back to work.
10. Take a creative field trip.
  • Visit a museum, listen to soul-stirring music, go to the movies.
  • Sometimes spending time in other creative environments, spurs the desire to be creative in your own work.
11. Take some photographs.
  • Grab your camera and take a field trip to a local park, busy shopping area, town square. Let yourself focus on whatever catches your fancy. You may look back at your images and see a spark of an idea in a situation, location or face of people being alone or interacting with each other. *Just don’t appear to be a stalker. This is what zoom lenses are for.
12. Take care of business.
  • There are other tasks you can do that are writing related.
  • Revise a manuscript
  • Send out queries
  • Research the market
13. Relax and smile. This is not the end of the world.
  • Remember, “This, too, shall pass.”
  • The more you worry, the harder it is to think clearly.
14. Vent your frustrations to someone you trust.

15. Take a break from writing.
  • If the thought of having to write makes you feel ill or anxious, take a break. This is not the same as quitting. There’s nothing wrong will allowing yourself a brief sabbatical. Give your sabbatical a definite time frame. (Unfortunately this is not really an option if you're on deadline--keep working!)
16. Talk to other writers.
  • An understanding friend can soothe your troubled mind.
17. Try to write in a different place
  • Sometimes a small change of scenery can help you overcome a block
  • Leave your laptop at home and write with a pen and notebook
  • Grease Monkey--yes, I've had a very productive writing session while waiting for my car to be serviced.
18. Do some cluster writing
  • Choose key words and ideas, then write associated ideas and words in clusters around them. This process may help you form new ideas.
19. Follow a routine to get into the writing mood.
  • Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee
  • Listen to CDs (or try out!)
  • Light a scented candle
20. Write out of sequence.
  • If you’re having trouble with a transition paragraph, put a marker where you are and write the next section.
  • If you have a scene or section idea, write it now, and insert it at a later date when your project “catches up” to the scene. I love to do this. When it comes time to insert it into the story it's like being given a bonus scene.
Eliminate "writer's block" from your vocabulary. Best-selling author Angie Hunt once told me, "You never heard of a plumber having plumber's block, did you?" Uh, no. So maybe the best thing to do is to press on and not even accept the term writer's blog.

* For more articles on writer's topics, visit my Denver Writing Examiner page.


D. Gudger said...

Great stuff Megan, I totally agree with the write out of your genre thing. I'm finding doing the non-fiction journalism thing w/ examiner helps. It rests my brain in a way b/c I don' have to fabricate and at the same time, I get ideas to use in my fiction.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! I crave a long bike ride or long run when I'm stuck on something. It works wonders for me.


Sharon Ball said...

I've never experienced writer's block, but what I'm experiencing now is a fear that what I'm writing is pure prattle. I know it's a lie from the enemy, but man it just messes with me sometimes. Prayer is key, and I'm thankful that my Heavenly Father, tells me the truth and encourages me to keep working hard.