Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12 Ways to Break Through Writer's Block

Yay! Our first question from the first winner of my blog birthday giveaway:
Diana asks: "How do you deal with writer's block?" A great question, especially now that Nanowrimo has finished and some of us may be feeling completely burnt-out.

To answer Diana, I think it's important to define "writer's block." For me, it's whatever makes me want to run away from my writing:
  • Perfectionism.
  • Fear that my words won't match my vision.
  • Fear of not making the right choices.
  • Fear that I'm going too slow.
  • Fear of submission.
  • Fear of my own voice.
  • The WIP is just too big and ambitious.
Grrr! So how to burst through those blocks? How about:

 1. Collage. A stack of old magazines, a glue stick, a damp clean-up cloth, and some kind of paper or journal can keep me happy and "writing" for hours. There's something so dreamy and magical about the process, I could almost say it's the answer for every life problem in existence! Whether it's a scene, a character's wardrobe, or the solution to a plot-hole, collage can save the day.

2. Change genres. It's good advice to "write what you love to read," but sometimes you can too easily compare yourself to your favorite writers, and bingo--you're blocked. Try reading and/or writing in a genre you've never met before.

3. Make an appointment to meet yourself somewhere outside the house or usual work place. I particularly like bookstore cafes, but laundromats, hotel lobbies, and waiting rooms make great places to sit down and "just write" without the need to explain myself.

4. Take an old manuscript and tackle it from a different approach . An old,  unsold manuscript can feel like a millstone, one that's sapping your energy for fresh work. So start over: maybe the wrong character is telling the story. Or maybe you need several points of view. Perhaps present tense will add a new tension. Experiment.

5. Write with a friend. Writing with a buddy or a writer's group is a great way to stay productive. Go for at least an hour (no talking!); read your work to each other, then write for another hour.

6. Use a book of prompts such as A Writer's Book of Days by Judith Reeves for a month. Decide how many pages to write per day (5 is a good number), but don't re-read any of your writing until the end of the month.

7. At the end of the month, find the connections between your entries. The mind loves to create order out of chaos. Reading through a month's worth of freewriting is an excellent way to find a theme, a character, or a setting you want to explore more deeply.

8. What's on your mind? Try some letters to the editor, or concentrate on writing blog comments as a daily writing exercise.

9. Start a new blog on a topic you love, but don't usually write about. Save and print out your entries--submit them as articles, or turn them into a complete book!

10. Forget about publication. Get a special journal, pens, whatever makes you happy, and just write--anything. It's your writing, written for yourself and nobody else.

11. Write about your resistance to writing. What's stopping you from writing? Let it all out. Interview your writing and your characters. Ask them what the problem is. The answers may surprise you--and get you writing again.

12. Keep a "still-life" journal or notebook. Instead of worrying about transitions, plots, and character arcs, spend some time just writing descriptions. Take a cue from still-life paintings: what objects are included? What's the setting? Mood? Why? What is the artist trying to say? Keep adding entries even on the days you're writing full steam ahead.

Tip of the Day: As lofty as "write every day" may sound, the truth is you don't always HAVE to write to be a writer. Enjoying and participating in the world around you can be just as important, and necessary, as a daily word count. Read, draw, travel, visit antique or thrift stores, go for a walk, observe and play. Taking regular time-outs goes a long way to preventing creative block. And be sure to pay a visit to LadyDBooks--rest and renewal guaranteed!


LadyD Piano said...

THANK You! Some great practical points you've shared to help overcome the insecurity of what's unfamiliar to me. I especially like what you said in your book, The Essential Guide For New Writers, about scheduling time for writing. These answers are wonderful; I'm thrilled!

Valerie Storey said...

So happy you enjoyed the post, Diana. Thanks for dropping by! Creating a writer's schedule is always a challenge, I'm forever refining mine. But if you can find at least one hour a day to call your own, it's amazing what you can achieve. Best wishes, and thanks again for the idea. Happy Creating!