Saturday, June 11, 2011

Writer's Block

The worst thing a writer can tackle is writer's block. It hits randomly, hits hard, and really screws up your day (or week, or year...). Big name writers from every genre have written about writer's block. You'll find countless forums, articles, and blog posts on the topic. It gets to everyone one way or the other.

The dozen notebooks full of story ideas aren't around for nothing. I have thought up hundreds of really great story ideas, character descriptions, worlds, etc. But writer's block kept me from picking them up and running with them. I never completed school assignments until I absolutely had to. So in elementary and high school, I wrote the rough draft the day it was due; in college, all of my papers were written the night before. Immo1 is the first full length first story I have seen through to completion.

In 2009, I spent a lot of time evaluating why I couldn't finish a project. It wasn't because the ideas were boring, or I hated where it was going or my writing skill. I couldn't even get that far to make a determination. The only way I was able to work on and then finish something was a deadline...a very short deadline. It was then that I realized that I work the best under a time frame that doesn't give me wiggle room. That in itself is why I wanted to participate in the NaNo. It gave me everything I craved. A time frame (30 days). A tangible goal (50,000 words). Check points along the way (daily goals, notification if you were behind or ahead). A prize at the end (being a NaNo winner, the blue bar).

Here are some things that may help with writer's block.
  • Find your writing setup. Mine is a fresh cup of coffee, music in the background, things to stare at, and a comfortable chair. Non-messy snack foods help too (mints are great). What is relaxing to you? What inspires you? What can you live with and live without while you write?

  • Find a time that works. I have read a lot about people that feel writing is best done in the morning, with the sun rising and the birds chirping. Well, I hate the glare from the sun on my computer and birds freak me out. My best writing time is evening. It is mostly quiet. The critters are less active. I am not groggy from just waking up. I've gotten at least five cups of coffee in by then. When are you the most energetic? I'm not talking spastic, just awake and ready to DO things. Temper that with when you CAN work. There are few folks that are lucky enough to make writing their job. Most of us have jobs away from our personal computers. When I wrote Immo1, I was in work mode from 6am to about 4pm five days a week. I couldn't write until evening anyways. Find your equilibrium. If for some reason, you don't have to work (adopt me. seriously.), you are luckier than the rest of us.

  • Get rid of your inner editor. Yes, I know. Editing is important, blah blah blah. But if you never write your story, you'll never have something to edit. Get your story down first, then worry about nit picking it to death if you must. That is the first rule of the NaNo and I absolutely love it. You can fix mistakes later. You can fill in missing details later. If it isn't important to get the story running, don't worry about it until after the story is written!

  • Think of writing as a job. Yes, for some folks, that means taking on a second or third job. If you want to be a writer, deal with it. Stephen King wrote about writing as a job in his book On Writing. He likened it to a physical, labor intensive job. I agree with him. When you think of yourself as a creator, not of art, but as a craftsman, you are laying the foundation for a great work. You work piece by piece (or in this case, word by word) to make it great.

  • Create deadlines. I absolutely must do this in order to write. If I don't have a specific time to turn something in, then I get lazy and stare at it, but never work on it. It is a real problem. I make up short and long term goals and set deadlines for each. It is a learning process in itself. Maybe you think way to highly of your ability to crank out pages and set a deadline to write a 100,000 word epic in a week. Possible? Probable? That is up to you to determine. Figure out what you can work with, and stick to it.

  • Multitask. Work on multiple projects when you can. I'm currently writing Immo2 in addition to building up notes for a second series that I will be writing once I finish the last of this trilogy. When I feel like I have nothing to give Immo, I switch gears. Writing a story and planning a story are two very different things. It helps to have something else to work on that is in a different step of the writing process. They are very different projects. Immo is epic fantasy. The untitled series will be young adult urban fantasy. That helps too. Do you have something else you can work on? If you are a writer, you do. You know you have other writing projects sitting around, waiting to be picked up. Blogging is great for this. But make sure you blog about something other than your current main project. Too much repetition makes Jack a dull boy.
You write because you love to write. If you are writing for any other reason, you are doing it wrong. Keep that in mind the next time you get frustrated by the blank screen.

1 comment:

Booksteve said...


Damn...Facebook has conditioned me! This explains why when i saw a cool, gnarly old tree as I was driving the other day, I said "Like" aloud. Sigh...I am a Net-Head.