I think every writer has struggled with writer’s block or a sense of stagnation that can really derail you from what you’re working on. Here’s what I do to deal with it when I’m faced with that inevitable roadblock.
I should probably start out by being as honest as possible: I am terrible when it comes to writers block. I have a lot of hobbies, and I will put down my writing so I can pick up one of the many other things that keep me entertained. It’s especially bad when I reach a point in my project that I’m either not excited by or that isn’t going well. At those times, it’s easier for me to just walk away for a few days, regenerate my mental energy, and then tackle whatever obstacle is facing me.
Right now, though, I’m on a deadline. We’re pushing to get Burner published next year, and I want to have the first chapter of Reader ready so that it can be published with Burner. That means that I have to finish getting Reader outlined and actually start working on it. And, unfortunately, both of those things are stalling me out right now. So, what tricks do I use to get back into writing when I’d rather not?
- Just do it
This seems like really obvious advice, but it’s honestly one of the hardest pieces I’ve ever had to deal with. Sometimes writer’s block is just me refusing to confront a difficult aspect of my work, and waiting to recharge my creative batteries isn’t going to change that. So, occasionally, what I have to do is sit myself down in a quiet space and force myself to write, even if what I come up with is absolute garbage. It means that I’ve kept up with it, and that I can continue to make progress.
This may just be part of my own creative method, but I sometimes find starting out by editing something I wrote previously can help me get back into the right mindset to work on a story. I get a feel for the characters, and if I had flow (a concept I should really write about, as I think it’s a major part of what I find absolutely wonderful about writing) going before, I can sometimes get back into it.
- Take a shower
I know a lot of stuff is out there about shower thoughts (there’s even an entire subreddit dedicated to it) but it’s prevalent for a reason. When you’re in the shower and you let your mind wander, you sometimes have truly brilliant ideas. I don’t know how many plot problems I’ve worked out while washing my hair. And, to be honest, it’s not a sensation that’s limited to showers. I’ve had the kind of semi-mindful state happen while I’ve been traveling or just before falling asleep or while knitting (one of those hobbies I mentioned earlier). Any kind of meditative state that you can find can help you reach this point of mindlessness and encourage your creativity to start working.
- Take a break
I know I mentioned this before, but sometimes, you really just need to step away for a moment. If you’ve been struggling with a scene or a transition for an hour, trying to continue with that is not going to help. You’re just going to end up hating what you’re doing and what you’ve written. So get up from your work, stretch your legs, take a thirty minute break, and then try again. There’s even a time management system based on this idea, called the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve personally had good luck with it, especially when I get stuck on something, because it has pre-built breaks. You work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five minute break. Do that four times, and then you get a fifteen minute break. Generally, I’ll get through one or two rounds, and then I get sucked into whatever I’m working on. Don’t feel bad about giving your brain a breather. It needs it sometimes.
- Rework the plot
I had this happen recently with a fan fiction I’m working on. I’d written out my plot line (see my previous post) and had figured out the chronology and pacing of the story (see the next post in my outlining series), and I’d even written the first two chapters. But my POV character kept fighting me. He didn’t want to do what I had planned for him, and it was creating a major struggle for me to get things written. When this happens, it sometimes means that you need to reconsider what your plot is. As strange as it may seem, when you’re writing a character, they take on a life of their own (especially if you’re writing a compelling and fleshed out character). When the character is refusing to go the direction that you want them to go, it helps to take a step back, look at your plot, and consider if the character would actually do what you’re telling them to. If the answer is no, then it pays to spend some time considering that. In my example, I sat down with a paper pad app and started making notes and asking questions. I eventually was able to rework the plot so that my character ended in the same place as I’d originally planned, he just got there a different way than I’d originally imagined. With that change, I was able to get over the writer’s block I was feeling and keep writing.
- Do whatever works for you
These are just techniques that work for me. Likely, there are other better options out there that will fit your own writing style and process. For me, any one or a combination of these techniques helps me get through writer’s block.
Honestly, the most important thing to remember about writer’s block is that it happens to everyone, and people get over it. Creativity is a renewable, but exhaustible, resource. Don’t push yourself to a breaking point, but don’t let yourself stagnate because your work is getting hard. And remember, once you’re through your writer’s block and looking back on it, you can be proud that you weren’t beat and made something great at the same time.
And now, I have to stop procrastinating and continue working on the plot for Reader. See you guys tomorrow.