EEK! Writer’s Block!

writers-block drmichellecleere.com

When is the last time you sat at your computer, excited, enthusiastic, and ready to write? The feeling is so strong – it says “write, write, write.” Then you sit down, and…………….you don’t write. You do everything BUT write. You read old notes, play games, sigh, run your fingers through your hair. Your elbows callous over.

You actually want to write – really.  But you don’t. You’re frozen inside. Some people call this immobilizing state Writer’s Block.

Cow Writer's Block tamarika.typepad.com

You could be more specific and call it the “I Can’t Write My Opening Scene Block” or maybe the “Help! I Can’t Come Up With Any More Stuff to Put in My Book Block” or maybe even the “I Will Never Be Able to Write Another Book As Long As I Live Block.” You may even call it “Chronic Procrastination” instead of Writer’s Block. However you choose to label it, the reality is – you aren’t writing. At least not the way you’d hoped, or maybe not at all. Why? I don’t think it has anything to do with the Mysterious Muse grabbing its sacred bag of toys and going home, or the lack of Feng Shui in your writing room. I think it stems from a basic problem we all have – fear.  Fear of letting go and digging into that creative spot where no man (or woman) has gone before, fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of success. And speaking of fear, I was actually afraid to write about writer’s block. I didn’t want to discover anything else about it because I was fearful I’d pick up a new variety, a sort of writer’s block hypochondria.

ummm matttauber.blogspot.com

But let’s define the word blocked. If you look up ‘block’ in the dictionary, one definition says “a sudden interruption in speech or thought because of a deep emotional problem.”  Block can also mean obstruct, deaden, hinder. I think writer’s block can be all of these things and more, triggered frequently by vast hinterlands of unknowing-ness.

Universe

There are lots of tips on dealing with the plague of writer’s block. Here are five strategies I use:

*1 Write with your computer monitor off.  Can’t see the words, can’t critique the writing. At least not right away. Click away on that keyboard and let yourself write whatever you want to write – either for the scene you’re working on or whatever pops into your head. You’ll be surprised. Something good and original will come out.

*2 Write longhand, skipping lines, on a yellow legal pad. Yellow energizes the mind and studies have shown it can call forth long-forgotten memories, feelings, and experiences. And by skipping lines, it will look like you’re writing a LOT, which is great positive reinforcement for the brain. Also, writing longhand is less hurried, less immediate. It gives you time to gather your thoughts as words flow onto the page.  Hemingway wrote longhand.  J. K. Rowling did, too.

*3 Interview your character. It’s a great way to get to know her/him/it and maybe break out of a slump. Also, you might try interviewing yourself. (I know, that sounds a little out there, but it can work.) Here’s a quick example of an interview I did with my main character (I’ve taken out specific details):

Me:  Hello

MC:  Hey.

Me:  I think I’ve figured out why I’m having trouble with this story.  I don’t feel very emotionally drawn to you.

MC:  What does THAT mean?  You don’t like me?

Me:  I like you, but I think the story needs more emotion. More of who you are, rather than just incidents that move you through the story. I’m not sure I can figure out how to do this, but it will definitely make the story better.

MC:  So I have no gut feelings about anything? Great. I’m a cardboard character.

Me:  What do you have strong feelings about?

MC:  Everything. My… (fill in the blank). The fact that everyone thinks…And my parents treat me like…A whole bunch of stuff, but not in any particular order.

(More Stuff Here)

Me:  Could you take over for a while?

MC:  Move over and let me sit down.

*4 Educate yourself about writing. Read Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser. It’s an older book, but still a goldmine of information – all about the creative and editorial process of writing. One particular section on writer’s block is titled, “Resistance Always Has Meaning.”

*5 Stay connected. Repeat after me. Critique groups, critique groups, critique groups. Writers often feel isolated. Critique groups can help a writer feel less so, and at the same time, serve as a springboard to improve your writing. Critique groups can act as Teacher, Editor, Psychologist, and most importantly, Friend and Supporter. Be selective when you choose your critique group. Make sure it is a good fit.

And don’t forget the importance of showing up daily for the words:

How to Cure Writer's Block the writersadvice.com

Meaning to Write from Michelle Cleere; Cow Writer’s Block from tamrika; Umm from Matt Tauber; Universe from news.softpedia; How To Cure Writer’s Block from writersadvice.com

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This entry was posted in Encouragement, Reflections, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to EEK! Writer’s Block!

  1. L. Marie says:

    Excellent post, Sharon! Love the interview technique. I need to try that, because my main characters are suffering from my lack of listening to them.

  2. Thanks, Linda. I often turn a deaf ear to my characters. They have ways of making us pay for it, Don’t they?

  3. laurasibson says:

    I like the interview technique too, Sharon. It feels more personal that just brainstorming. Also, I’ll share something that Barry Lyga said in an author talk. He feels that it’s not a block so much as a dead end. For some reason, you turned a corner in the story and reached a brick wall. The cure, he said, is to turn around, back step and figure out where the wrong turn happened. Then you’ll be able to move forward. I think this makes excellent sense if the problem is plotty, but possibly not as helpful if the problem is, as you noted above, more emotional. In that case, I go back and look at dialogue and try to go a bit deeper in terms of what my MC is doing and feeling in the moment. Thanks for the post!

  4. Yes, Laura! I agree. I just reached one of those dead ends. I spent a few days thinking about the scene then decided to hit the delete key. Freed up a lot of mental space for the story and made the way seem clearer. I may revisit this section, but for now, moving forward. Thanks for your comments!

  5. sandranickel says:

    What a fabulous post, Sharon. I’ve never heard of turning off the monitor, although I do often close my eyes when I’m writing–it lets me see the scene in my mind better. As for writing longhand, I believe Neil Gaiman also uses this tack. All such great cures. Thank you!

  6. Pingback: Writers Biggest Fears | A. R. Urena

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