What’s in My Writer’s Block Tool Box?
I hear this a lot from fellow writers. Heck, I say it a lot to fellow writers and also to myself. I spent most of a year completely stuck on my writing. Everything sounded stupid and shallow and passive. I hated every word I typed and ended up throwing it away and considering anything I’d just done to have been a complete waste of time. I recently picked up an article online detailing a writer’s best tips for getting back on track. They were great, and I started thinking about things I do to make myself hop back on that train.
I have what I’m calling my Writer’s Block Tool Box — a collection of useful tips, websites, or accompanying objects that help me get back to putting words on paper.
For serious, if you’re a writer that doesn’t suck up the written word like a vacuum, I just don’t know what to tell you. I know writers that don’t read… I just don’t know many of them.
I consider writing to be like a long session with my lover, if I may be a bit risque. I’m alone with it, giving it my undivided attention and all of my passion, day after day. If it’s hum drum and bone dry, perhaps it needs some spice? Some inspiration and motivation?
For me, reading is foreplay. Literary fiction, romance, erotic romance if I need to write a spicy scene, feeds my brain with words. It sparks creativity. It awakens my voice and my style and sets me on a good path to a great writing session. I try to read regularly (which often turns into a book-a-night binge), which regularly keeps my Writer’s Block at bay.
If I feel like I’m stuck and can’t. get.words.out… I grab something and read it. Often just a chapter is enough to get me into a writing mindset.
So this is supposed to be a bad thing, mkay? But sometimes distraction can be good.
There are times that I have reached the end of my thought process for a story or a scene. My brain hasn’t created ‘what comes next’ yet. Instead of banging my head against a wall, I distract myself by doing something else, sometimes a completely different thing.
I start a new story, start a book, write something in another genre, write a drabble (a short story containing 100 to 1,000 words) start watching a great show that everyone is blathering on about.
I believe we can get too involved in a project and too close to it. A little distance is a great thing.
3. The Reboot
I’ve written a lot about my writing journey with my first book Brunch at Ruby’s. This book had two restarts. The second one did the trick!
Think about your story trajectory, your plot, your character arc. Where is your conflict? Have you resolved all of your problems too early? Has your character had too drastic a change? Is your tense too limiting… is your POV too limiting? Do you need to tell more story from someone else’s perspective?
We must, as writers, be willing to take an objective look at our work and determine the best way to tell it. Sometimes that means rebooting… starting over, or backing up to what worked and going in a different direction.
The piece that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010 (?? I think or 2011…) was one such project; I’d solved all of my problems way too soon but the story wasn’t finished. I was stuck on that piece for a year before I realized what I’d done. I started over, adding bits here and there and taking what I thought was my ending in a completely different direction. I’d lost all of my conflict and I just had no more story to tell.
There’s something to be said for just not combatting Writer’s Block. Not fighting with it, not wrestling with it. No WWF-style throwdown, Me versus Writer’s Block. Sometimes I just do NOTHING. No reading, no writing, no thinking, no taking notes, no research.
And no beating myself up about it.
If you’re the kind of writer that is always writing something, taking a break might be a tough thing to do. If you’re a little flighty and are updating 17 short stories at various times (yes, Sushi, I’m talking to YOU), taking a breather to clear your mind may strike fear of even-more-stuckness in your heart.
The plain truth is that we’re not always ‘on’. And we Creative Types, as my best GalPal refers to me and my kind… we need to recharge. Clear our minds, rest up, regroup. If you haven’t taken a Writing Vacation, schedule one. A few days or a week or a month or whatever. Give yourself some guilt free time to yourself, to indulge in things that don’t have you on a deadline.
And if you can’t do that, at least set aside some YOU time, wherein you don’t think about your pending project and your deadline calendar that sounds like the soundtrack to JAWS when you open it.
A stressed out writer can turn into a sick writer or a burnt out writer. Please remember to rest!
5. Write or Die
I call this method Just Do It, aka PUT YOUR BUTT IN THE SEAT, TURN ON YOUR MUSIC, TELL YOUR INNER EDITOR TO SHUT IT AND WRITE!
If you’ve never used WriteOrDie.com (you can use it for free, don’t feel compelled to pay for the desktop version unless you love it and have to have it) it’s pretty straightforward. There have been some changes to the website recently but the goal remains the same. You get a blank page, set a time or a word goal, and start writing. Once you start, you can’t stop. Set certain modes and the page either blinks or turns red and starts making noises, which means GET BACK TO WORK.
There are several programs like this… most of them give you a distraction free blank space to work in, and let you just go to town. The object is to get some words down. Any words. Even if they are nonsense. Even if they suck. If they don’t shine or glow or ring out with any kind of truth or veracity. No one writes like that in the first draft. Seriously. Get over yourself. Just write some stuff.
And when you have hit your word or time goal, you can copy and paste it into Scrivener or your word document and edit it. Or keep going….or stop… but guess what? You wrote today. And sometimes that’s all it takes.
Since I have a full time job outside of my house, writing on weeknights is a crapshoot. I have to be to work at 8am, which means I have to leave at 7am, which means I am up around 6am to get ready. I’m not waking up at 5am to write. I won’t even be fully awake and ready to write by the time I have to start getting ready. I deeply respect people who can do this, but this is not me. I need to be awake to write. That leaves the evening, and by the time I get home I feel as if I’ve been hit with the Tired Stick. I’ve been up and at ’em all day, and then I had to drive home. Now I have to get some dinner and do my house whatevers… I might settle down by 8pm and now I am supposed to contribute to the literary world before I pass out? Uhmmmmm okay.
So, I give myself an hour, a few nights a week, to get something done. Even if it’s crap. I’ll set my writeordie timer for one hour, tell myself to type 1,000 words and GO. More often than not, I keep going for two to three hours and can get in up to 3500 words in a night. Not bad for a night when I just don’t feel like doing anything. Then I can use my non writing nights (or my breaks during the day) to edit.