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Let’s not quibble about whether or not writer’s block actually exists. (I’m leaning toward not.) The reality is, in this moment, you’re stuck. Stuck like the piece of plastic inside the air conditioning vent of my Volkswagen Rabbit. And like said piece of plastic, you’ve got ideas rattling around in your head but you just can’t get a good grasp. Either keep trying what isn’t working (like jamming a pinkie between the vent slats) or figure out a better way. Here are 5 easy ways to beat writer’s block:
Watch a Movie
Not just any movie. Settle down and really study one of your favorite movies. Watch it like a student, and like the writer you are. How did the scriptwriters handle the plot, the pacing, and the climax? What makes the film your favorite? List all the features you really love, like set design, character development, scene snappiness, and themes.
Now look at your list. Can you bring any of those elements to your writing projects? How can you add layers of emotion and a strong sense of place? Try to incorporate one or two of your favorite things about your favorite movie.
Meet Another Writer (or Creative) for Coffee
I say ‘coffee’. Tea. Protein shakes. A hike. Window shopping. Whatever, just get out of the office and into the face-to-face presence of some creative energy. Bring a notebook and a pen and take good notes. Explain your literary non-motility to your friend. And–here’s the important part–listen!
Now, it could be that this other Creative will give you horrendous advice. He could suggest your character give up on the Big Goal, buy a mustang convertible, and drive straight to Vegas. Or she might tell you that the only way to resolve the problem is to torch your whole manuscript and start anew, like the Phoenix rising, by tossing its ashes into the wind…
In that case, you can sincerely thank them for their help, go back home, wad up your notes, and get busy with the refreshed purpose. You’ll realize your ideas *aren’t* actually the worst ones you’ve ever heard, and, in fact, they’re comparatively pretty darn good.
But, unless you showed poor judgment in selecting a coffee mate, that’s a super unlikely scenario. What will usually happen is that your friend will brighten, fire off a couple of ideas, and you’ll be shocked at either: a.) the obvious rightness of the suggestion–why hadn’t you thought of it? It’s so obvious! And so right! or b.) the astounding speed with which a new idea is born in your own recently-foggy brain.
I’m tellin’ ya. Creative synergy. Get some.
Go to Sleep
We’ve all heard the advice to “sleep on it”. But first, try this little trick. Get comfy and cozy in bed. (You might have to adjust your bedtime and go earlier or later so your partner doesn’t think you’ve lost it…) When you feel relaxed but before you’re too sleepy to think, talk your writing problem through, out loud. State where you’re stuck and how you feel about it. Then tell yourself what you need. Describe the solution. “I need my protagonist to reconcile with his love interest. But I want it to be raw, beautiful, and not cliched.” Or, if you’re writing nonfiction: “I need my article’s ending to echo its beginning. I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I want the reader to recognize that moment at the end, when the story’s gone full circle, and to feel an emotional connection and a little bit of wonder.”
Then go to sleep thinking about it.
Remember that scene in the book, Peter Pan, when Wendy’s mother sorts through their mind while the children are sleeping? (Yeah, really suggest reading the book if you’ve only known the Disney version. Very weird and richly symbolic–a treat!) That’s what your subconscious will do to your WIP while you’re in dreamland. I used to advise my students to take one more flip through their study cards the night before a test. But they always had trouble unplugging from their phones. Do you? Put the phone away, go to bed early, and see what the Muse can do for you while you sleep.
Make It Fun
Is dread causing your writer’s block? Does the writing feel too much like after-school detention and not enough like recess? Let yourself play hookie. (As a matter of fact, if you want, you can have ice cream for dinner, too. You’re the boss now, boss.)
Figure out what you’re avoiding. Is it a section of the article that feels so dry you can’t even write it, let alone hope that readers will actually read it? Cut it, if you can. If not, give yourself permission to skip ahead and write the fun part. Do you detest the middle of your novel, figuring out how to get each character to his or her destined end? Write the end first. Who says you have to write in chronological order? You may even discover a cooler ending, and make a few changes on the fly.
What else can you do to make writing as easy and as fun as possible? If your desk is a mess, write somewhere else, like the library or a cafe. (Or try the free, 5-Day, Clean Desk Challenge!)
If you want to beat writer’s block, you might be fighting against yourself. There may be some part of you that’s trying to warn you about problems with structure or logic. Maybe your plot has a hole the size of the crater I accidentally drive into every time it rains. It fills with water, the surface looks level in the dim light, but–wham–crossing that stretch of road shakes me out of my gourd every time. Maybe your article’s logic is not *quite* sound. Or maybe you’re trying to force your characters to behave in a way that runs contrary to their natures.
To find out, grab a notebook and do a big, broad outline. Be as general as possible with the premise, theme, and resolution. Then zoom in on specifics a little at a time. You can use a mind map or a traditional outline or the novel planning sheets in the Writer’s Resource Library (Click the button at the end of this post). Going from general to specific will help you organize your thoughts and align all your supporting points for a nice, smooth ride.
NOW YOU: What do you do to beat writer’s block?
Loved the blog, accessed the Writer’s Resource Library, still looking for more?