2/13/09

Overcoming Writers Block

Some writers claim never to be troubled by writers block. I suppose we have to believe them because no one would lie about that, would they? (cough, cough).

I certainly have had my share of writers block—particularly lately as I've been promising this new and improved blog, chockfull of wonderful tips. All I need for a good case of block is high personal expectations + my own natural fear of failure and boom! I'm blocked.

Under the assumption that most writers will experience some degree of writing blockage during their writing careers, here are a few tips that have helped me.

  1. Pack away the perfectionism.
    When I'm starting a new project, getting the basic plot and characters down, I have to consciously give myself permission to do it imperfectly. The important thing is to get something down on paper, I can always go back and fix it later. Sometimes I even intentionally write poorly, just to break my brain out of that "gotta do it right" psychosis.

  2. Work on multiple stories.
    I always have a couple of projects going at the same time. If I get blocked on one, I can switch to something else for a bit. Usually I can find something that will get the creative process started. Once I've had a little success with one project, I can go back to the one that is stumping me.

  3. Write a never-to-see-the-light-of-day book.
    If I'm not immediately in the mood to write when I sit down at my computer, I'll open my "silly book" and work on it for about 15 minutes. This book is a clich├ęd story (for me, usually a mystery) with no outline and no plot. I pick up where I left off last time and write—not knowing what is going to happen next until it shows up on the screen in front of me. Working on this book also helps break that perfectionism cycle.

  4. Interview your character(s).
    Ask them silly questions, like what they had for breakfast that morning or what they've got planned for the weekend—or even, what the heck is your problem? Sometimes I've discovered amazing things about my character(s) that add richness to my story.

  5. Watch really bad television or movies.
    Some days when I can't get going on any of my projects, I'll watch a show that I know is pretty bad and think about how I would have done it differently. This helps get the creativity going and then I can apply it to my novel.

  6. Stick to a schedule.
    I know, easier said than done. But I've found that when I stick to a regular schedule, my brain learns that at a certain time of day, it's supposed to shift to a creative focus and the blocks become less frequent. Kind of like eating at a certain time of day trains your body to be hungry at certain times.


These are just a few of the things I do to overcome writers block. What are some of your best tips?

7 comments:

Stephanie Black said...

Fantastic suggestions!

Brainstorming my way through a story blockage by typing out ideas in brainstorming file can really help me.

And I agree that allowing yourself to write a lousy first draft really helps get the words flowing.

Annette Lyon said...

Sometimes for me, walking away and doing something brainless helps me unblock--it could be taking a walk or working on the mending pile or knitting or just driving the car.

I've also gotten through blocks by talking out the problem with someone--not a writer, just an ear. I've often found a solution on my own after verbalizing the problem.

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

I find that every so often I need to go back and read what I've already written. This seems to refresh my memory of where my characters have already been so that together we can move forward with the story I'm working on.

Jennie said...

Walking away, reading from the first, switching to a different kind of writing, literally going for a walk, anything that involves a change of pace usually works for me. The worst writer's block I ever faced took a radical switch from journalism and magazine article writing to enrolling in some classes; law, literature, computer, economics. It was a Shakespear class that got me back to writing, but this time creative writing.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I have to agree with the comments already made. A walk works wonders. And for me, brainstorming, brainstorming. Stream-of-consciousness thoughts- I'll ask myself questions right on the page. "What would be her motivation for doing that?" Then I answer, doodling several options until I find the one that makes me say, "Yes. That's it!" And I circle it.

I love your #4 suggestion. Interviewing the characters with silly questions is a gret idea. Brings out whole facets of their personalities that you may not have even realized.

Thanks, LDSP. Great post.

Paul West said...

Dean Koontz suggests reading the last two or three pages of your WIP. As you do, you will get back into the mood from which you left off and can then commence on as if you hadn't stopped and got blocked.

Chas Hathaway said...

Great advice! I am an aspiring writer, and have found your advice to be true. I even try having a few projects of very different genres (memoir, fantasy, nonfiction, childrens, etc) - whether serious projects or just for fun.
That helps my mind fresh with whatever project I'm working on.

Thanks again!

- Chas
http://chas.willowrise.com