That’s by far my favorite saying about the writing profession. I’ve heard writers say that the dreaded writer’s block is just a myth. I’m not going to tell them that they’re wrong, but my personal experience is that blocks are real. Oh yes. It might just be something in the writer’s head, but it’s real. Writer’s block is something that can be overcome.
There are two types of writer’s block that I come up against often. When I write there are times when nothing I write seems to work. Everything looks like crap. The work just looks like a monkey sat at a keyboard and discovered the glorious sound of the clicky keys. but instead of a wonderful story, we get nothing but monkey crap everywhere and gibberish on the page. The other side of writer’s block is when the writer stay into the blinking cursor as if hypnotized by the blanking line.
Writer’s block can be devastating to a writer’s project, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are the ways I attack writer’s block.
Fifteen-minute Mini Vacation
Sometimes getting up from the keyboard for a few minutes can allow me to get a new lease on words. There are times that I just leave my desk with a fifteen-minute timer on my iPhone. I go get a cup of coffee, play another level on an Xbox game, take the fifteen minutes playing with my dog, or going for a quick walk. Sometimes I just need to get away from the page for a few minutes.
For anyone that read my Scrivener articles, you learned that I often skip around in my story writing process. This would be one time where the story rather than an idea has forced me to work on another chapter. I create a rough outline with the corkboard view in Scrivener and so I have an idea where my story is going from beginning to end. While it’s true that sometimes ideas come to me as I write that change the flow of the story away from my original ideas, I can safely skip a chapter or two ahead without fear that I’m going to make a change that will kill a plot point or character. Sometimes it just best for me to leave a chapter unfinished and skip to another chapter. I can worry about flow and transition between them in later drafts. I just need to get the story from my mind onto the page.
I’ll admit that isn’t always the solution to writer’s block out there. When I get back after my fifteen-minute mini-vacation from the page I sometimes see the blinking cursor and curse it for being my worst enemy. My next weapon to attack writer’s block is to turn my mind in another direction. I open a blank document and just write what comes to me. Even if it’s just me writing about what I should be doing. “I have a two thousand wordcount goal today and yet I find that I’m staring at this damn cursor.” It sometimes helps to just scribble out the distractions that are leading to the block. I write a journal entry about what I’m doing today or this week. A lot of times that I find the ideas flow.
After I finish the journal entry and can’t come up with anymore to say, I also have a set of dice, a game called Rory’s Story Cubes, and an app on my iOS devices, called Story Dice. If at first, the journal entry doesn’t get the ideas flowing I roll the dice and depending on the images on the dice I write a quick story based on the images on the dice. It doesn’t matter if that story is stinky as last week’s socks. The story doesn’t need to be a bestseller; in fact, I don’t expect it to ever see the light of the day except for my closed confident and I.
Work On Something Else Entirely
Sometimes I get to the point when I’ve written two pages of just random stuff without new ideas for my story. At that point, I turn my attention to focus on other projects. I work on a website for two non-profit groups and this blog. While these are important project dear to my heart, I would be lying to say that my writing is my primary focus. When I find that writer’s block is digging into my productivity I turn my focus to those other projects. I have obligations to these projects but sometimes turning the focus to them cause the make creative inspiration to flow for my primary project. As soon as the ideas hit I turn back to my primary project and can usually get my word count without trying too hard.
Get Out Of The Office
There are times that I find that writer’s block is actually cabin-fever rather of actually writer’s block. I find that when all the above fail a change of location seems to set me on track. I often get to the point when looking at the painting of the Brooklyn Bridge is like nails to my retinas. I get in the car and go to Starbucks for a latte or a restaurant for a quick lunch. I can people watch, talk to other patrons or staff. This can jump-start my writing ideas. Just a change of scenery can clear the head, blow out the cobwebs, and turn real life into my story. Often at this point, I will even write that scene that is front of me. The people at the coffee shop or restaurant, the activities, just the simple everyday life, I write it with the intent to incorporate it into my story. It’s an everyday sistuation, and to write stories that are real life the reader needs to be able to relate. While I completely believe that statement these real-life events usually are cut in the second or third draft.
Sometimes There Is Just No Story
There are times when the story or the situation is the problem. If I’ve tried all the above steps and just can’t seem to get the story on track I put the project on hold for the night. I go home read a book, watch a movie, catch a baseball game, or listen to music. I pick up the story in the morning and with a clear head. If I have two days in a row like this, where the story feels stalled and I don’t know where it’s going from here, I have to really look at the project. Is this a project that will pan out? Is there a story here that deserves to be told, or that I should tell it? I have to take a hard look at the project, sometimes I go all the way back to relook at the brainstorming phase and the outline of the story. Does this story make sense? I have to think is this where the story is guiding me. Since I started writing stories in my early teens I can only remember scraping one project after getting blocked. Sometimes I’ve stuffed a project in a drawer to work on other writing projects because it felt like it was still a good idea, but that I didn’t find it a story worth telling right now. Usually, I find a way to overcome the blocks within a few days with the story. I think of a scene that makes the plot point that was giving me trouble mute or explains better how my characters came to this point in their journey. Sometimes a writer needs to just stop what we are doing and think things out. I find that sometimes ideas that I thought would make great stories are better when I let them age in the file cabinet of iCloud.
While the aforementioned tricks work for me when I feel the coming of the dreaded writer’s block is upon me, they will not work for everyone. Each writer has their own style, and our minds work in different ways. You need to work out what works for you as a writer. These are just suggestions of things that work for me that you might give a try when you feel blocked. I invite you to leave a comment on this post to share your tricks to overcome writer’s block.