Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Overcoming Writers' Block

Me: Recently, I've been engaged in life and have little time to write.
You: Sounds like an excuse. If you want to write, you find the time.
Me: Yes, but, what if it's something more. What if, it's writers' block. What...what...do I do then?
You: Why don't you read this article you wrote...
***
Take Note


Piss off! You heard me. Leave. I don't want you around. I don't have anything for you--no money, no booze, no nothin'. Isn't it bad enough that I'm trapped in this tin piss can without you tormenting me? I don't need you. I don't need anyone. I'm just fine on my own, thank you very much. I don't need your help. I don't need your pity. If you stay, one of the two of us is going to get hurt and I can guarantee it won't be me. So get the hell out of my house! Why are you still here? Are you deaf, dumb, and stupid?
*
He found the note on the breakfast table. There it was beside his scrambled eggs and toast. He picked it up and read it out slowly. It was Saturday--he had the time.
*
He smiled. Smiled--at such a note? Was he insane?
*
Maybe. He did, after all, love a writer. That required some degree of insanity.
*
Yes, he smiled. He smiled because he knew her writer's block was over. The clouds had lifted. The sun shone. The birds sang. All was right with the world. His wife was back at work. She had once again found her muse.
*
"Did you read it?" she enquired, with a kiss.
*
"Um, yes, well, yes. I did."
*
"Well, what do you think?" She beamed inquisitively.
*
"It's rather, well, strong."
*
"Yes, I know, isn't it? I'm not sure where it fits yet. Sometimes it's like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Only you don't have to find all the corner pieces first. You just have to find a piece."
*
Yes, he had to admit, it did help to be a little insane.
***
Oh, yes I'm very familiar with writers' block. So, familiar, am I, in fact, that I've devised ways and means to overcome it. These strategies have worked for me--I hope they work for you.
*
Release: One word leads to another. So grab a pen and write the first thing that comes to your mind--how cute your boyfriend looks in jeans; what you love about your new job; the weather. Write.
*
While you write, don't worry about word count, grammar or spelling. Simply allow words to pour out of your pen uncensored. The only goal here is to relax and release.
*
Pep talk: It's often beneficial to seek the advice of others who've faced the same obstacle. So, talk with or read the books of fellow writers to discover their strategies.
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Helpful books are Steven King's On Writing, James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, Nancy Lamb's The Art and Craft of Storytelling.
*
Set goals: As a member of a critique group, my self-imposed expectation is that I have something to share at each meeting. If I don't, my peers will know. For me, this external means of accountability is a strong motivator.
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Other sources of motivation may be a daily word count or a weekly blog post.
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Change of scenery: Sometimes unblocking can be as easy as going for a walk. Physical exercise allows my brain to work, while the rest of me is otherwise engaged.
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If I consciously think about my writing at all, I focus on my reader.
*
I have to write--I don't want, I can't disappoint them. They're counting on me.
*
I return to my project refreshed and ready to write.
*
*
All writers face it, you will overcome it--believe in yourself.
*

9 comments:

Hales said...

I don't get writers block.I have days where I just don't feel like writing and I take them off and do something else.

I don't outline most of my writing. I keep it in my brain and work from there and it works for me. Sometimes though the hero or heroine might throw in a twist and demand it be written and I pause to think about it if it'll fit and if not how to fit it in if they're so amandant about it. Doesn't happen often but when it does normally it's something that has molded them into who they are that has a need to be touched on to make the resolution in the ending hold more meaning.

Robert C Roman said...

I'm not sure if I get 'writer's block' or not. I can usually sit down and write, but I'll get stuck on a particular scene. I've found three things that work.

Build the background - One reason I'll get stuck on a scene is that I haven't yet put together some critical piece of background information. Sometimes it's about the character, sometimes it's about the situation, sometimes (rarely) it's about where the story is going. Thing is, once I've got that background in place, it almost never gets to the page, but the rest of the scene flows.

Write achronosly - I pick another scene and write that one instead. It can be from later in the book or a scene I realized I needed but never went back and did. If I'm just burned on the situation (like one really tough-to-write scene in Crowbar Girl), stepping away and writing something else for a bit can put some emotional distance, at least enough to get the rest of the scene on the page.

Music, professor! (Information Society & Star Trek, perfect together!) - I crank up the tunes. More of my writing is done listening to the radio in the car than I ever do sitting in front of a keyboard. Putting the same tunes on when in front of the keyboard plugs into that same part of my brain and gets the words flowing again. Sometimes they're even *good* words.

Thanks for posting such a great topic, Leanne!

The Sweater Curse said...

Hi Hales,
Thank you for sharing. Wow, you must have a excellent memory. I admire your confidence to give grant yourself breaks when necessary.

The Sweater Curse said...

Hi Robert,
Excellent advise. I've tried the first two tips, but not the last. You gotta know I will in the future. : )

Hales said...

Thanks,

Well when I write I only write around 3-5k a day. I pretty much have it in mind as I go :) My memory works for me in that instance but is crap in all others

JM said...

When I get stumped, I shift to a different manuscript for a while. I usually have at least 3 running at any one time. As I'm writing, my subconscious mulls over what was wrong with the other ms, and an idea usually comes to me.
A good book to look at is Writing down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Great exercises in there about just freeing your mind to write anything, including crap. Because crap can be edited. ;-)

The Sweater Curse said...

Thanks, JM. Allowing yourself to just write, to just be. Having the confidence to know you'll be able to improve on what you deem imperfect. I think these are key.
I have Writing Down the Bone. Each time I travel "off island" I reward myself by reading a chapter. I love those short chapters in that book. I also like the fact that writers of any skill level can find a treasure in it.

Maureen said...

I think Robert probably hit the nail on the head for me. And Hales. I don't really get writer's block, but I do have days where it just isn't there. I write other things. Blogs, shorts unrelated to the big project, detailed e-mails...

I have no doubt that this monster will eventually sneak up on me and I'm hoping when it does I can just toss the entity to the kraken, as I do with my inner critics and be done with it...

Though I must admit, the best way to get off the duff of "not feeling like writing" is to be accountable to contemporaries. My local RWA group sets goals each month... Right now I need to crank out the pages to meet mine by March! The not wanting to say I didn't meet them might do the trick to make me "feel like writing" again.

The Sweater Curse said...

Hi Maureen,
Thank you so much for your comment. I hope you've received my emails.
Are you saying that the group gives you a word count goal? If so, wow, I don't think this would work for me. However, that's the thing too, isn't it. What works for one writer may not work for another. That's why it's good to arm yourself with many solutions.