Writers' Block Cures

Published by Mallory in the blog Mallory's blog. Views: 162

I've seen a lot of blog entries and forum posts about writers' block. I've successfully catapulted myself out of Writers' Block Land many times, and I decided to create a blog entry that's hopefully more helpful than just "try to be more confident and let the ideas flow!" Because we all know that's not useful at all. *Bleck.*

Okay. Here is some tangible advice that you can try. We all have our own preferences, and what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. However, these tips have helped lots of people in NaNoWriMo write-in events; local writers' meetup events; writing workshop classes; etc. So maybe they are of some good, who knows.

1. Pick a modest daily quota and stick to it. Make the quota small. I.e. if you normally write 1,500 words a day, when not stuck, then set your "stuck quota" to something like 200 or 300 words a day. This is really easy to do - I think it's about two paragraphs - and you'll be able to leave your minimum goal in your wake most days, hence feeling awesome about yourself. Gaining this confidence from getting started will often warm you enough to un-stick you, and working in small increments is what leads to 3,000/day word counts (my record is 7,500 in a sitting). But the key is, you need SMALL goals. If you set out with a plan to write 3,000 words, or even 1,000, all at once, it'll seem like a mountain and you'll feel like crap. It's like working out at the gym: for the first 20 minutes or so it sucks, but you stick with it to try and suck it up past 30. Then another 5 mins, then another 10, etc just to push yourself. But after an hour, when you see something like "900" on the "calories burned" screen, staying on the StairMaster is suddenly much more appealing. Or, to be less drastic, going to a salsa club with line dancing might make you feel awkward for the first 10 minutes, but after that, you're fully confident and into the fun. Forcing yourself to write to a minimum bar, even if you don't feel like it, will more often than not get you out of your worry rut and get your juices flowing. Even if not, say if it's an off day, you'll feel good about yourself for the fact that you got some progress in even though you weren't really feeling it. Because on those days when you're really swamped, you won't be able to realistically do 3,000....but there's no excuse for not setting aside 10 minutes to do 300.

2. Write an exaggerated character. This could mean a sufferer of a painful degree of social awkwardness; an annoying, clingy individual who bugs the crap out of your other characters; a mean old git; a sexist/racist/homophobe or someone else of extreme views that you find offensive; a school bully; a bureaucrat drone who is written more as a satire of bureaucracy than anything else; someone who lacks common sense to the point of comedy; etc. Throwing in an encounter with a person who makes your MCs think "How do I handle this?" will push your character development skills by forcing you to examine and explore how your characters will react when tested. Not just how they react to the addition, but also to each other, themselves, their surroundings, etc. Plus, I know that Satire Mode really gets me into that "hehehe, sock it to 'em" groove of leaning forward, pounding nonstop at the keyboard, and cackling inwardly about what I'm writing. It's just....fun. And even if you don't actually use the scene in your book, it'll still get your creativity flowing.

3. Ease tomorrow's workload. If you have a stiflingly busy week, then pave a path for yourself. Let's say it's a Monday - just do your 300 words (unless you are in the right mode to crank out more words - dear God, don't oppress yourself) and your work for that day, but then do some things that you would have done tomorrow, as well. Then tomorrow's to-do list will be shorter and you'll be more freed up to write.

4. Don't worry about the idea that you might write badly if you write with writers' block. You'll end up tweaking most scenes several times anyway, so what's the big deal? Also, this is used as a lazy-ass excuse far too many times, both with writer's block pauses that last too long and with "aspirers" who put off their first writing projects. All writing consists of 1) writing something; 2) looking it over and tweaking it, and maybe making changes and maybe not depending on whether you are happy with it; and 3) finalizing said tweaks, if needed, until you're happy with it. And then your writing will be good! The only way to be a bad writer is to not write.

5. Listen to music *before* you write. I'm not 100 percent against listening to music while writing, but there are plenty of drawbacks. First off, if you are really into the song, your mind will want to focus on listening to it instead of writing, which will slow down your process. Also, make sure that the lyrics/tone of the song doesn't match too closely with what you're writing. You're writing a story of its own, not written material to accompany a soundtrack. Plus, it'll be jarring if a song sets up the perfect mood, but right in the middle of writing the scene, it changes.

6. Talk to real-life writer friends about your plot holes. When your issue isn't just insecurity about pulling off a scene - it's actually a case of a major, gaping plot hole - talking to writer friends about it helps. Don't get me wrong -- your friends shouldn't spoon-feed solutions or tell you how to write your story -- but the mere act of talking out loud about it will cause ideas to pop up in your head on their own. This is one of the biggest advantages of talking about it in-person as opposed to an online setting where you have to type out your problem. That helps, too, but not to the same degree. And, of course, if your friend can help you flesh out some new idea to close the plot hole, that's even better. (Key word being "help flesh out," not "spoon feed." It's YOUR story, YOU call the shots and do the work).

That's all I can think of at the moment. Really, the only reason why writers' block is such a problem for so many people is because they let it beat them. Don't let it beat you. Get at your keyboard and write. It may feel forced at first but that feeling will go away, and the tips above have helped a lot of people, so they might help you.

Happy writing!
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