you're on Route 66 or you're atop the Eiffel Tower in France, but a
wondrous journey into the unknown or rather the story that you've
been playing inside your head since last November.
NaNoWriMo is here yet again, and you've been feverishly
typing away, possessed beyond sight and the speed of sound when
suddenly, you're mind goes blank and you come to a grinding halt.
You dear friend,
have entered the Writer's Block Zone!
(psst, this is where you cue the music)
Is this you?
Are you about to pull your hair out or throw in the towel? There is nothing more heart wrenching, more evil, or more of a butt kicker than Writer's Block. It's okay, take a breath-we've all been there and you know what, you'll have it a hundred or more times during your writing career. I've been known to get it while filling out Christmas cards. If you're stuck in the Writer's Block Zone, first take a few breaths and save what you got and turn off the computer, lap top, or Ipad. Don't look at me like I've went stark raving mad, do it. Then I want you to step away and say to yourself, "I AM NOT A FAILURE! THE STORY IS IN ME, AND I WILL WRITE IT." You're still itching to get back to being frustrated and looking at that screen aren't you? Hair trigger maybe? WALK AWAY!!! To quote that little lady from the movie, Poltergeist, "Now clear your minds. It knows what scares you. It has from the very beginning. Don't give it any help, it knows too much already."
Writer's Block is no more than stress and it's not the end of your writing career or the nail in the coffin for your book or NaNoWriMo submission. It means you need a break and the more you let frustration and anxiety in-the more you're going to help your Writer's Block to stay. There are literally hundreds of ways and claims to get over Writer's Block. For all of you NaNo's out there, here is the top 20 ways from a past guide I got in 2010.
- Don’t start with a blank page. Write a quick outline. Jot down a few notes. Write down that one, great quote you were planning to use. Presto — no more blank page.
- Read more widely. Create an RSS dashboard of top bloggers in your niche, sign up for a SmartBrief or two, or get a Google Alert on some of your key words. Read more newspapers. Read books. Read, read, read.
- Write what you feel like writing. If you have a terrific itch to write one particular idea, then write that one right now. The more you go with your creative flow and write what you’re inspired to write, the easier it will be beat writer’s block.
- Start anywhere. Many writers sit staring at their screens because they’re obsessed with writing the first line of a piece first. Forget all about that. If you know how it will end, write that now. If it has bullet points, go ahead and write those first, if that would be easy. Once you jot down the part that’s coming naturally to you, the rest will start to flow.
- Use your lifeline. That’s right, phone a friend, just like on the reality shows. Then, tell your friend about the topic you’re trying to write. As in all conversations, you will tend to naturally mention the most interesting points first. When you hang up, your piece is outlined and ready to go.
- Don’t edit while you write. When you’re writing, just let those creative juices flow along. Don’t spoil the magic by stopping to fiddle with a word here or cut a line there.
- Create an ‘idiot’s outline.’ If you have a lot of research, interviews and other material to organize, go through all your resources and simply listing each source. Then, next to the source, write the most important point or two they make. Now all you have to do is place the points into a logical order, and you’ve got a rough outline.
- Write without notes or quotes. Here’s the opposite approach for a piece with lots of interviews, statistics and research — simply put all your paperwork aside. Now, write the story. Resist the urge to look up factoids or exact quotes. Leave blanks or notes to check details as you go, but keep moving forward. At the end, go back and fact-check.
- Write something else. Write a shopping list, or a letter to a friend. Once the fingers are moving, it’ll be easier to get the piece you were stuck on rolling.
- Review your past writing. Whenever I was really intimidated by a writing assignment, I used to get out my writing portfolio and look through it. When you read your successful previous work, it reminds you that you are a strong writer, and you can do this.
- Free associate. If you feel disorganized, just go with that — start writing random thoughts about your topic. Then, sort through your brainstorms for lines you want in your piece.
- Do a mind map. Get off the computer and make a visual drawing of your topic’s ideas and how they relate to each other. Soon, you’ll not just have ideas for your current post, but ideas on how that one might lead to related, future posts.
- Set a timer. Use the Pomodoro technique and set a timer for 25 minutes. Now, you have to work on your assignment until the timer goes. You can’t do anything else. That’ll get boring fast, and you’ll start to write. Try it if you don’t believe me.
- Create a deadline. The problem with our own writing is no ‘boss’ is standing over us insisting we get the writing done by a specific time. So create a deadline calendar of when your posts must be completed. Then, allow no recreation time until the deadline is met.
- Reduce noise. Are you trying to write with the TV or radio running in the background? That extra stimulus may prevent you from focusing on the writing. They say our brains really can’t multi-task.
- Turn off the Internet. Do you find yourself playing Bejeweled or checking Twitter when it’s writing time? Write on a pad of paper instead, or use programs such as Anti-Social or Freedom to disable social media or Internet access until you’re done writing.
- Try a writing prompt. If you can’t get the juices flowing, do a writing exercise — writing prompts are available on sites such as Creative Copy Challenge.
- Do more research. Sometimes, nothing’s coming out because a nagging voice in the back of your head says you don’t really know enough about your topic. If that’s so, do a bit more research and then return to writing.
- Change your location. Move to your deck, a coffeeshop, a friend’s back bedroom, a co-working office space…wherever you don’t usually write. See if inspiration hits.
- Take a break. Take a half-hour break. Take a walk. Take a bath. Take a nap. Do a headstand — get some blood flowing to the brain again. Then, come back ready to have at it.
PHEW!!! That's a lot to think about isn't it?
If none of that appeals to you, at least do numbers 16 and 20 as soon as you conclude reading
this blog if you are suffering with the big WB. Now these are a few things that I do.
- I rest my brain. That could mean simply lying down and taking a nap-which if you're home is like mine and occupied with children-naps are like unicorns; rare and mythical. So, try taking a soak (don't forget to bring the radio so you can tune out the myriad of knocks and bathroom interruptions. You could also try going to your room or curling up in a chair with a good book that is a total 360 degrees from what you are writing or pop in a good movie.
- Nothing says Craft/Hobby time like Writer's Block. After I've had a good rest, I either turn to t baking or crafting. Not only does cooking/baking and crafting distract from where your writing left off, but it exercise both physical and sensory. I don't know about you but a double chocolate fudge Hawaiian Brownie sounds like a great way to jump back into writing.
- Use your Phone-A-Friend lifeline. Any good friend will know that if you are calling them during the NaNoWriMo month of November, that it's game time and you've been given a time out while the field is being re-prepped. I usually turn to my author friends or fellow NaNo's. They give great support but are going to talk about something other than what you're writing about. They're going to listen to you vent and keep you from assassinating your main character and burning the castle down. Your friends will be there to keep you from having a Carrie White at the Prom moment. Author/writer friends have been there! Network. This should be the only time you are back on the computer and it is strictly for using "The Buddy System". My friend Denyse Bridger, who is an accomplished award winning author is the cute version of Mickey Goldmill, who's there with a bucket of water to throw on me and slap if I need it. Believe me, I've had to have a few slaps during Writer's Block hysterics. I have a lot of other great friends too that are my little cheer leading section.
- Get out of the house if you can. Take in a dinner and a show or go do something that will keep you active. Me, I love going to the movies or simply just taking a walk.
When I've completed all these and I feel recharged and ready to go, I grab a notepad or composition notebook and just do some free writing. It doesn't always make sense but it gives my brain a jump start. The key gets turned in the ignition and I'm up and writing again.
So have you ever had Writer's Block and survived? Tell me how you did it or if you're struggling-share your experience in the comments below!
YOU CAN DO IT! DON'T STOP!