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!