I don’t like using the term writer’s block. It’s a wish-washy term that’s used for those times when the story won’t work and those times when there is just no creating going on and even the thought of opening the word processor, and all the bits in between.
I was going to write a few notes about the bits in between: when you know what you want to write but can’t quite get started, or when you sit down to write but having no words to put down. But then I am across this “How Famous Writers Overcome Writer’s Block and Reawaken Their Creativity” and it seems rather useful, so I’m going to expand a bit on some of the techniques in there. Go and read that first, if you want, then come back here.
Just sit down and write. It doesn’t matter what you write. When you’re writing, it’s easier to keep writing.
This is a good one to have first because it doesn’t work for me. Obviously it works for some people. It works for Maya Angelou. But I find it frustrating, annoying, pointless etc. and that’s good because, and this is important, not every technique will work for everyone (and might work for you in one situation might not work in the next). That’s because writers are different. Their processes are different. Their motivations, fears, life situations are all different. So try it and if it doesn’t work, that’s good because it means your an individual with your own unique sets of needs and drives. So try something else instead.
But having said that, yes, “just write” often is the answer. Once you are writing it is easier to keep writing, and sometimes it’s just those first few words that are hard to get down and then the rest will come.
(A trick I do try when I’ve been not writing for a while and I can’t get back into is to write/edit just a few sentences of my WIP, or even just a few words. Any amount. Then the next day, I have to write more, even if it’s just one word more. And then next day, I have to write more, even if it’s just one word more. And so on. It’s easy to get into a negative cycle of trying and failing, which just makes it harder next time. Small, achievable goals create a positive cycle, and I feel better about my writing and therefore its easier to write.)
Related to this is setting a timer for 10/15/20 minutes and just writing.
This works for a number of reasons.
One, you’re taking a big goal that feels like a lot of work (WRITE A SCENE-WRITE A STORY-WRITE A NOVEL) and turning into something small and concrete: write for 10 minutes. Come on, 10 minutes is nothing. You can face spending just 10 minutes writing.
Two, you’re taking the thought that you will write sometime later today maybe when you get there and making it “I’m going to right NOW.
Three, when you’re “on the clock” you’re focusing just on writing and ignoring distractions.
Another related idea: set a time every day when you’ll write. This helps get you into the writing mode. It helps with procrastination (rather than the vague “I will write later”, you have “I have to write now”). It helps remove distractions because this your writing time and nothing will interfere with it. And it gets rid of that idea that you should be writing all the time. When I do this, I find I get more done in one hour of actual writing than a whole day of doing a bit here and there, and it frees up my other time for other project. (I say “when I do this” because it doesn’t always work. Some WIPs just insist that I spend all my unoccupied time on them. As I said at the beginning, what works for you some of the time, won’t always work. It happens. Go with it.)
In the original post, this is about putting writing aside for a few days AND sitting down to read it, preferably from a print out. I’d say these are two different strategies that can be used together.
If you’re in that place where you sit down to write and nothing happens, or you have no passion for writing, it help to take a deliberate break. No writing for a week, or three days, or a month. Pick a time so it’s deliberate and not avoidance behaviour. And you can’t write at all during that time. Not even to make notes. Ideally, you can combine this refilling the creative well.
But… sometimes it is better to push through and try to write ad I think you need to be able to work out what is going on. Are you taking a break because it’s easier or because you really need one?
As for taking your WIP somewhere else and working on it, you don’t need to have a break to do this. Just do it. Take your laptop to a cafe. Print out a page, grab a purple pen and sit under a tree. Turn it into an ebook (Calibre can do this) and take it away and just read it. Or some combination of that.
Write to One Person
Instead of writing to a generalised audience or to please everyone, just write to one person.
I haven’t tried this as such, but I write things just for me. Look, you are never going to write to please everyone and if you try you’re ever going to get very frustrated and never finish anything, or end up a dull, generic, lifeless mass of words. This might not be so much a strategy for getting yourself writing, as an approach to writing in general. Write for one person, even if that is yourself (especially if that is yourself).
But, yes, if you get intimidated by the thought of writing for some large, unknown audience, narrow to one person. If you’re intimidated by the thought of making your writing perfect for an unknown audience, write for yourself.
Stop writing when you know what happens next. Related: stop writing in the middle of a sentence.
This one is popular and works for many people. And it makes sense, if you know what happens next, if you know what to type next, it’s easier to get started the next day.
(I do the opposite, I write until I don’t know what happens next, until I have no more words to put down. Then, for the rest of the night and the next morning, I think about what happens next. Then I work out what I’m going to type. Not just an idea. The actual words, down to the punctuation and link break (if applicable). Then when I sit down, I type that. I might change it as soon as it’s typed, but it’s started and I know where it’s going.)
A set of action you do before you start writing.
This can be very powerful:
* it signals to your brain that it is time to move into writing mode and, as mentioned above,
* you’re taking the thought that you will write sometime later today maybe when you get there and making it “I’m going to right NOW.
* you’re making a break from every day things to writing time
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Have a place that you use just for writing. Close down everything on your computer but your word processor/writing software. Even getting up and making a cup of tea can accomplish the last two. I have a play list of songs that I put, familiar songs that I don’t even “hear” but it starts me thinking about what I’m supposed to working on (and then I have to switch to other music to actually write to).
It might also mean that at certain times of day, you find it easier to get started. Pay attention to these things, and work out what helps you get into writing mode.
But be aware, this can also become a trap when you feel you can’t write because you’re not in the right place or haven’t done your ritual. Keep it simple. Change it about. Remember, it should e a tool to help creativity, not as a crutch.
Get Away From Your Desk
Get a change of scenery.
Do things that occupy your hands but not your mind (washing the dishes).
Do things that occupy the logical part of your brain (jigsaws)
Go for a walk, listen to music, visit an art gallery, mow the lawn.
You can combine this with the second part of “Hibernation”. Walk to a park, take out your notebook (paper or electronic) and write there.
So try these strategies. Try variations on them. Or use them as inspiration to come up with your own. If it works for you, run with it, and also, add a comment below