Sean: Writer’s Block. It strikes without warning and zaps your creative juices in the blink of an eye. Hi, I’m Sean Chandler. You might remember me from such books as “Naked in Korea” and “Nazi Zombie Sasquatch Skiing Adventure Death Lodge III: Return of the Snow Vampirates”. I’m here to talk to you today about something that aspiring authors from all over the world must come to terms with: Writer’s Block. Did you know that 98% of writers will experience a profound case of WB in their lifetimes? It’s true.
Billy: That’s a lot, Mr. Chandler!
Sean: Oh, hello, Billy! I didn’t see you standing there. Tell me, Billy, have you ever experienced The Block?
Billy: Yeah…I get WB really bad sometimes…
Sean: But Billy! Why the long face? Don’t you know that WB is nothing to be ashamed of?
Billy: Golly, I know Mr. Chandler, but sometimes I feel like less of a writer because I can’t…well…you know. Sometimes I think the other writers are laughing at me behind my back. And agents and editors, well, they don’t seem to care at all. Sometimes I just get so sad and I think, “What if my block never EVER goes away!?”
Sean: Well, it gets better. And there are a few simple strategies that you can use to get past your WB. Come on, Billy. I’ll show you!
1. Sleeping/Showering/Exercise: Maybe you’ve heard the old saying that the best ideas come to you halfway through taking a shower. Well, there might be something to that! Sometimes the best way to break your writer’s block is to step away from the book for a couple of days and then start thinking about the place where you’re stuck while doing something that is both relaxing and relatively mindless. When you’re taking a shower, chances are that you’ll be less stressed and more open to thoughts you might not otherwise have had. For me, I try to work out plot holes and blocks right as I’m lying down to go to bed. When I’m relaxed and there’s no pressure, I’ve found on numerous occasions that I’m able to come up with the trick overcome that block.
Sean: That’s right, Billy, but I always keep a notepad next to my bed so that I can scribble down the idea and get back to it in the morning. Sometimes I have to turn on the light three or four times in a night to scribble down all the ideas that come to me! I also like to think about my books when I’m exercising in order to help take my mind off how out of shape I am. Sometimes I’ll think about an idea all the way home and by the time I’ve taken my shower and relaxed, I’m already to write again!
2. Ask for Advice: Showering and sleeping not working out for you? Try asking someone else what they think! Your big problem might be that you’re trying to do too much on your own. Talk about your story to a close friend or loved one—preferably someone who shares your interests and/or thinks the same way you do—and then tell them where you’re stuck. You might be surprised by how quickly they come up with a way past the obstacle since they’re less emotionally invested in the story you’re telling. Sometimes a bit of fresh input can go a long way.
You might also try running your story by a writer’s workshop or finding a group online where fiction is discussed. Here you’ll get a chance to meet and network with other writers, hear about their stories and the obstacles they’re facing, and hopefully you’ll hear some advice on getting past your block.
3. Read a Favorite Author: I recommend this tactic only so frequently because it usually works for me. I try to keep bookmarks in all of my books that will deliver me instantly to what I consider to be “the perfect page”. All I have to do is jump into a novel by Stephen King, Koontz, Lovecraft (if I’m in the mood), Cormac McCarthy, etc. and suddenly I’m back in full writing mode. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be a favorite author or even a book you’ve read. I’ve often found that just reaching for the nearest book and starting to read a random page will get my creative juices going, almost as if I’m absorbing it through my eyes and my brain is gnawing on the pieces.
Billy: That’s awfully graphic, Mr. Chandler.
Sean: It sure is, Billy. It sure is.
4. Just Do It: Of course, sometimes the best way to beat The Block is to just sit down and start writing. Sometimes, I open up a several Word file and just start typing the first thing that comes into my head. If it works, I keep it. If it doesn’t work, I can always delete it. If it works, but isn’t really related to the book I’m writing, guess what—I can always save it for later. Sometimes you just have to sit down and start writing in spite of things. Maybe jump forward a bit and start writing the next most interesting part. Or just start writing dialogue for an upcoming scene. I’ve often found that once I have the dialogue all mapped out, stitching all together becomes much easier.
The point is to not let yourself go without writing for too long. If you make writing your routine, you’ll often find that “just doing it” becomes easier.
Billy: Gosh, Mr. Chandler! Overcoming WB sounds easy! I can’t wait to start writing again!
Sean: That’s the spirit, Billy! Don’t let the other writers get you down; chances are they’ve had a block or two themselves. Just relax and take a step away from the computer and you’ll find that the real block is only yourself!
What’s up! Well, I’ve finally settled on a date for the Amazon Kindle release of Naked in Korea and, of course, I’m making the official announcement here. My memoir/travelogue about my time spent in South Korea teaching English near the DMZ will be available on JULY 3RD for only $2.99, which is by far the best price you’re going to find on a Korean travel book. It’s a fun read with loads of amusing stories, tips about traveling Korea, where to hike, what to see in Seoul, which K-Pop bands to listen to, which Korean movies to watch, and how to properly drink soju. I’m really excited about it and I hope it will be a great resource for people who are considering teaching in Asia.
Here’s the book cover with the description below that:
“It’s a strange feeling when you realize that the majority of people who have seen you naked have passports different from yours, but that’s exactly what happened to author/traveler Sean Chandler in 2010 and 2011. Naked in Korea is the funny and heartfelt reflection of a 25-year-old English teacher from Bagdad, Kentucky who was hired to teach English in a military town near the controversial border between North and South Korea, only to discover that even on the other side of the planet, there is still plenty that people share in common.
Shrinkage, for example.
But Chandler’s memoir/travelogue is about more than just how he came to spend copious amounts of time sweltering in an East Asian bathhouse alongside throngs of befuddled Korean men. It is about more than how a hairy Kentuckian learned to enjoy wearing Speedos in a country where conformity is the rule. Naked in Korea is also the story of how a fish out of water learned to get by in a part of Korea where foreigners are seldom seen and the gorgeous mountains contain either unexploded landmines or luxurious five-star golf courses, depending on where you look. It is the story of how he was virtually adopted by the charismatic father of a local family and the adventures that ensued.
Come join Chandler as he shares his stories about making kimchi for the first time at a prehistoric festival on Halloween and how he learned to drink soju “the proper way”. Hear some pointers on what to bring if a group of Koreans invite you to hike a mountain at 4:00 in the morning on New Year’s Day under a blanket of darkness and knee-deep snow. Discover how to plant fishing traps at the bottom of a frigid river and read about Chandler’s journey underneath the infamous DMZ in a secret tunnel that was once intended for a North Korean military invasion! And, yes, we’ll talk a little about K-Pop.
Along the way, learn about Seoul and hear fun tips for exploring The Land of the Morning Calm. Korea is a fantastic country with unique people and a happily eccentric culture you simply have to experience! Just, um…remember that clothing is sometimes optional.”
My fiancee is back in Bosnia for the time being visiting family, which has left me home alone with plenty of time to write and reflect on my life in general. I’m loving the time to escape, but last night I was combing through my refrigerator at around midnight and had the startling realization that I was poor, aspiring author and this is my refrigerator. It kind of puts things in perspective. Let me know if anyone else out there feels my pain!