For me, I find that writer’s block often stems from a lack of research. When I have a pile of research behind me, I can actually feel it driving me forward. Go little red caboose! Or is it the little engine that could? Either way, the one drawback is that research can go on and on and on. There are times when I don’t know when to say, “Enough! Time to move forward.” What I need to do as a writer is find the clues within that pile. I know it needs to be taken apart in pieces – what works for me, what doesn’t. I can do more research later if need be. But that pile – I think about it endlessly, to the point it becomes a cyclone of information whirling in my head. That might be all well and good, but at some point girl, you need to sit down and write!
Yes, any number of them. They come in hoards. When I’m staring at a blank screen, it’s quite remarkable how easily they come; I need to pick up my daughter from school, it might be better to get groceries early in the day to avoid crowds, the garden slugs need to be taken care of. Here I come to the rescue – rubber gloves and bucket in hand. Stop with the excuses – just write!
3) THE KITCHEN.
The number of times I get out of my chair, leave my desk only to go make yet another cup of tea or peruse the fridge for something healthy to nibble on. How is it that I’m so gullible, kidding myself that I need something at all? Finally I reach for that one thing I know I shouldn’t eat. Did that help? NOOO! Sit back down and write for goodness sake. It doesn’t matter what – just write!
How did such a dreaded thing as housework ever become so desirable? There is absolutely a direct correlation between how clean my house is and how much writing I’ve accomplished. It’s amazing how I suddenly realize the importance of wiping the soot off the fireplace glass surround, when the only eyes to see it belong to the ever-present chirping bird outside my window – the bird that is no doubt castigating me for leaving my writing desk in the first place. Think of your writing as housework if you must – and write!
Is there such a thing for this writer? The answer is easy when my writing is going well. But when writer’s block hits, weekends suddenly become very, very appealing. The family is off. No school. No work. Two days of pure, unadulterated freedom – from what? My own mind, that’s what? It’s like wanting to take a vacation from my own brain for two days, when I know full well, I can’t, shouldn’t, MUST NOT. So, get up early, before everyone in the family – and sit down to write! Yes, write!
6) BETWEEN PROJECTS.
For me, I tend to experience writer’s block between projects, when I’m undecided about the route I want to take. This is particularly painful for me. I might have ten ideas that I’m developing at once, all falling into a deep abyss of nothingness. In actual fact, it’s not nothingness – far from it, because I am writing. Maybe my course is shaky but I am doing what I insist above, despite any excuses, despite the kitchen, despite the housework and weekends. I am toying with possibilities. I am creating new characters and ideas. Perhaps I use as little as a name in the project that actually develops into something, but writing nothing would be a far more serious crime in my eyes. So, I say to myself, “keep writing, for something is bound to come of it!”
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, here are two productive ways to help with writer’s block.
- Read as much as possible, within your genre and outside your genre, but read good literature. Surround yourself with quality. You might just be surprised at how easily it rubs off.
- Give yourself permission to write badly. Now this one I’m still coming to grips with, especially given the sentence above. I tend to be very picky, fighting to find just the right word as I go along. I often ask myself, “Do I need to be so picky?” “Is it serving me well or is it hindering the process?” and alas, “Would my story be further along if I relaxed and just wrote whatever came to mind?” I recently read an article, 5 Creative Cures for Writer’s Block that put it into perspective. It is certainly something I want to consider as a writer and put into better practice.
“The first draft requires a show of sinew, not nuance. We write badly because we need our early drafts to show us, in broad strokes, what we’re actually supposed to be writing about. We write badly because we need to focus our energy on the larger story and structure, and can’t possibly attend to all the elements that make up a developed or refined work. We write badly because, even if we revise as we draft – and, mea culpa, many of us do – either we can’t revise with a complete manuscript in mind or we’re too close to that manuscript to have sufficient perspective…”
The point is to write, be it badly or not. Our writing will improve the more we read. Once we have something written, it’s then that we can revise, change, improve, whether it’s the plot, the characters, the POV, the grammar. It’s all part of our own editing. Writer’s block is real and it’s painful and frustrating beyond any writer’s words. BUT, it can be manageable. The key is to write – and through our writing, eventually, the right words will come.
What are some things about writer’s block for you?