I was going through my files the other day and found this article I'd written for another blog awhile back. I decided to dust it off and upload it here because as it happens I've been having some trouble with this very thing lately. And of course I forgot my own advice!
There isn’t a writer out there who can truly claim that they’ve never suffered from the dreaded writer’s block. We all have moments where the words just won’t come. The stress in our life, the deadline that’s looming, winter blues. Whatever the reason, we freeze up when we look at that blank document. Terror fills us. Suddenly, horrible thoughts start to bombard our bodies and minds. I’m a hack. I should hang up my pen. I can’t write my way out of a paper bag.
My tips for dragging myself out of that rut. No, these aren’t foolproof and there isn’t a guarantee on the box. But, I have found them to be effective from time to time.
1. An hour a day. If you work a full time job and the only time you have to write is at lunch or when the kids go to bed, then this is harder for you. Still, make yourself sit down and write. If the WIP isn’t working out—and it probably isn’t since we’re talking about writer’s block, lol—then switch to another project. Browse your mind and work up a new idea for a future book. Churn out some poetry. Write in your journal. Whatever, the key is to keep the creative juices flowing. 500 words or so, set a minimum for yourself. For some, that’s all it takes to break through that wall and get that WIP completed.
2. Read a good book. I do this all the time and I swear it helps keep me motivated. Whenever I’m feeling tied in knots, my mind is just a blank slate and there’s no chalk to be found, I pick up a book by one of my favorite authors and step away from the computer. I give myself over to their world for a little while. Even if it’s just for a few hours it refreshes me and I feel like I can dive into the annoying WIP again.
3. Exercise. When I’m on the treadmill or elliptical my mind tends to stray to the story I’m currently working on. There’s something about working up a sweat that helps clear my mind. It doesn’t always work, but quite often I’ll find myself mentally working on that next scene, the one that wouldn’t come before. Plus, you’ve burned off some of that damn chocolate. LOL
4. Grab a buddy. The other day I was sitting at the computer and trying to think of how I wanted the scene to go in the story I’m currently in the middle of writing. The problem? I kept waffling back and forth between two ideas. I wasn’t sure which to go with, and it was frustrating me because I NEED THIS STORY DONE YESTERDAY! Then a writer friend sent me a few chapters of the story he’s working on, seeking my opinion, and ta-da! Instant clarity! I don’t know why this works exactly. The competition maybe? Or is it simply that connection? Writers collaborating, chatting over ideas and getting the wheels turning. It’s sort of like exercising with a friend, I think. While you might slack off through the hard part if you were alone, having that friend there makes you want to ‘keep up’ as it were.
5. Take a walk down memory lane. One of the things that happens whenever I get blocked is I start to think really negative things about my own work. I start wondering why I ever got published to start with. Who do I think I am? Me, a writer? Yeah right! To keep those horrible thoughts from destroying my muse entirely, I go to my ‘good feedback’ folder. This is where I keep all the acceptance letters, good reviews, positive reader feedback, etc. I carefully sift through those various items and build my self-esteem back up, one small brick at a time. Soon, the wall is sturdy again and I can open that document and make another attempt at creating.
So, what’s your MO for murdering writer’s block? Do you have something specific that works for you? A method that helps keep you motivated? Tell the rest of us! Please!