“I’m sitting in my office trying to squeeze a story from my head. It is that
kind of morning when you feel like melting the typewriter into a bar of steel
and clubbing yourself to death with it.”
It’s 5:03 pm on Sunday and I am just now getting around to my blog post. It isn’t for lack of desire to write, but let’s just say it’s been a really, really bad few weeks, and today just kicked it up a notch.
My husband woke me a little less than twelve hours ago and not long thereafter I had to take him to the emergency room. I won’t get into the particulars because I respect his privacy, but he was being treated for about five hours before we could come home…with a few follow-up referrals with specialists and a few prescriptions to boot.
If you read my post from Thursday, you’d know I was already having a stressful year, so his hospital visit didn’t do me any favors. But, I am taking my own advice, and I am going to keep powering through. It actually ties in quite nicely with what I am set to blog about today.
I considered eschewing today’s post entirely. I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed me…except me, of course. I checked my blogging board on Trello just to see what I’d be skipping, and I LOLed at what I had scheduled for myself for this particular day:
This was so funny to me, because I remembered hating the placeholder title and subtitle I’d given myself when I was mapping out this quarter’s blog posts all the way back in December.
I almost never use the placeholder titles I give myself.
But it just fits so perfectly for my state of mind right now. It’s not that I feel like I’m suffering “writer’s block,” it’s just that I’m unable to concentrate on my world of fiction when my reality seems so hellbent on my mental destruction.
I know it’s just a coincidence, but it was almost as if I was giving myself a little push for today, even from way back then. Past me knew that future me was going to have a really crappy March.
Anyway, it’s inspired me to go on with today’s post, so let’s get started.
Writer’s Block: The Debate
Because we cannot have anything in this world without a debate, naturally there is one—and a rather heated one, in some circles—about the existence of Writer’s Block. We aren’t here today to decide whether it exists. I’ll let you do that in the comments below.
We can’t deny that sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re more like a trickle, and sometimes it’s too laborious to pull them from wherever it is they hide in our cavernous writer brains.
To the naysayer’s credit, though, sometimes we only think we’re blocked. Sometimes we’re just so steadfast in the scenes we’ve written, we forget we often times just need to change the direction of our story in order to keep it moving.
For instance, recently I was having an extremely difficult time deciding how to proceed with a certain section of Alabama Rain. It took a lot of erasing, writing, erasing, and writing before I determined the story just needed a shift. Once I zigged instead of zagged, the words began to flow again, fast and free.
For the sake of the block, though, we aren’t going to rule anything out. If you’ve never experienced a period where the words are clogged and your imagination is more stale than yesterday’s toast, then lucky you.
For the rest of us, sometimes we need to get rebooted. So, without further adieu, here are three things I do to get things moving again.
One of the first things I do when I’m feeling a bit stuffy in the idea department, I get out of my apartment. Writing somewhere else might do the trick, so I might take my laptop to the library or to a coffee shop.
My apartment is tiny and in itself is a rather stuffy place, therefore finding myself in a new, fresh environment helps me think of things from a new perspective.
Sometimes, however, I have to go for a longer drive. There’s something about driving through the mountains with my windows down and the wind in my hair, the radio on…it’s desperately hard not to refuel my creative batteries. In fact, it was at the approach to Clingman’s Dome where I had a spark of an idea that snowballed into the loose plot for Underthings. I also had to come here when writing Sex, Love, and Formalities.
Going for a walk—preferably through the woods for a few hours—also helps. Exercise releases endorphins…and I think endorphins aide in creativity. Let’s not get all sciencey to prove me wrong here. It works for me. 🙂
Channel Your Inner Child
Think about it. Children have wildly creative imaginations. I don’t have kids of my own, but I love to listen to my nephew babble on about what his vast collection of toy cars and trucks are doing, how their races turned out, etc. He’s got such a vivid imagination, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in his little tales. So, it only makes sense to me that our own, adult imaginations might check out for a vacation because they’re so keen on having fun. Bills, work, and day-to-day adult stresses aren’t fun. What are my favorite activities in which to indulge?
- MadLibs | Not only is this fun and good for a few giggles, it’s also writing.
- Lego | It’s like real-life Minecraft. Sort of. Just don’t forget to put them away, they hurt like hell when you step on them.
- Tactile play | Playdoh, magic sand, silly putty, polymer clay
Interpret A Scene
This little secret of mine is probably the one most people would scoff at, but hear me out. What I do is I’ll either turn to Netflix or YouTube and choose something I’ve never before watched—this is important. Once I have selected something, I turn off the sound and I begin to watch. I don’t want to hear their voices or the scene’s background noises.
Sometimes I take notes, sometimes I just start typing away while I watch, but I write a scene based off what I’m seeing. I’ll make up the dialogue based off the actor’s body language. If they’re in the city, I interpret what the city sounds like (are their sirens, barking dogs, people shouting, etc.)
Sometimes, I feel, our imaginations just need a little help getting restarted. I take out some of the work by watching something on my screen, but I enjoy filling in all the details.
Writer’s Block Traps
Though we all have our own tricks to combat Writer’s Block, there are definitely things that only serve as distractions from it, as opposed to working through it.
- Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration isn’t the same as a dog, it doesn’t come when called.
- Don’t watch television. I know I just said to watch a scene and write what you see…but what I don’t suggest is binge watching something for hours on end.
- Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just because another writer has hit the word lottery and is dropping thousands of words a day, does not negate the fact you’re a perfectly valid writer. When you hit your stride again, the other writer might hit a slump. (So, when you are trending thousands of words a day, remember to encourage others!)
When all else fails: Fake it until you make it. Take your cue from one of our favorite Disney pals and just keep writing. This is what the pros do. They don’t wait for the words to magically reappear, and if you want to be a pro, neither can you.
That’s all I have today, my friends. I hope those of you who are struggling with your own dilemmas, find peace soon. Take comfort in your words.
Don’t forget, my next blogging series will start up soon. You really don’t want to miss this one, so don’t forget to subscribe! There’s going to be an amazing giveaway!
Until next time, my lovelies!
4 thoughts on “Combating Writer’s Block”
I think the “writer’s block” label is unhelpful. The crux of the issue is that sometimes there is a story flowing out of your head, and sometimes there isn’t. When there is, you write. When there isn’t, you do something else: edit stuff you already wrote, read what you have so far, beta read for other authors. By labeling it a “block,” it becomes something bad that you need to overcome, which I suspect makes it worse. Just let go, relax, and be patient. The words will come when they are ready.
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That is an excellent suggestion: editing during dry spells. I do that, too. And sometimes you’ll discover something that needs to change direction and then the words just magically come back.
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Love the quote at the top! Made me laugh out loud, because I’ve been there. Great post and suggestions! My favorite thing to do to combat writers’ block is go outside. Sunshine wakes up my brain. 🙂
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Aww, thanks for the love! 🙂 ❤
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