Most writers have probably felt as though they’ve been “blocked” or stuck for words at one time or another, so if this is something you struggle with, you’re not alone. However, I believe writer’s block can be solved quite easily, simply by changing your perspective and a few simple practices.
Writer’s block really isn’t about being unable to write. Have your hands and fingers ceased up? Even still, you likely have a voice recorder on your phone that you could use. You see, writer’s block isn’t about your inability to write, it’s only about your anticipated inability to write well. Every writer has bad days where their writing isn’t great. This is normal, and it will not last forever as long as you keep pressing on. Give yourself permission to write poorly for the next week, and I’ll bet you’ll be finding glimmers of greatness within your writing again in no time.
Rather than thinking of writer’s block as a debilitating state and focusing on stuck-ness or the poor writing that you feel you’re churning out, focus on your abilities and past accomplishments. What is the best piece of writing you’ve done? Read that over, and take a minute to let yourself enjoy your success of putting words together in the past, rather than always worrying about the future. Worry only serves to eat away at your creative energy.
If you’re constantly thinking of markets and publishing trends and what may be expected of you, you may find yourself immobilized. Even if you have deadlines to meet, sometimes it’s necessary to get back to the roots of why you started writing in the first place. Tune out any voices around you and find your joy for the process again.
A healthy and moving body leads to a healthy and moving mind. Get your blood circulating through your body, so it will circulate more through your heart and your mind as well. Not only will exercise help improve creativity, it will also improve your mood, your life expectancy, and your sleep.
Writer’s block is often signified by a lack of ideas, or a lack of understanding of how to implement ideas. Keep a notebook (or I use an iPhone app called A Novel Idea) with you at all times. Character ideas can strike at the oddest times. I’ll often be in the grocery store lineup and notice a clerk’s nametag. From there, my mind may wander to what type of a person I think of when I think of that particular name. The thing is, if you leave the store without recording this information, it will be gone. When you’re feeling blocked and looking for a new and interesting character to add to a story, chances are, if you have all sorts of characters to flip through, you’ll find one that fits. Do the same thing with ideas for motivations (when you notice someone around you who really wants something, make a note of it), emotional reactions, and obstacles others are facing. Our world is full of great story pieces. It’s simply our job to find some that interest us and put them together.
Inspiration often doesn’t show up when our kids are at school or the house is suddenly empty and we have a chance to sit down and write. It especially doesn’t show up when you’re staring at a blank document. Inspiration comes through doing. Get your pen moving or your fingers typing. Even if you don’t feel like it’s your best work (see number 1) or even if you feel you may be going in the wrong direction, you’re much more likely to find the right direction simply through getting some forward momentum.
The longer you stay stuck, the harder it will be to get moving again. This applies to everything from working out and eating properly, to working on our stories. Write every day, especially when you feel stuck. The connection between your brain and your fingers will get stronger over time, and it will become easier to write more and more words.
Our dreams can provide us with wonderful story fodder. During that time between sleeping and fully waking up, often our dreams are still floating through our thoughts. Don’t let those ideas go to waste! Take five minutes to jot down everything that comes to mind, then put it aside and don’t look at it until you sit down to write again later. Is there anything in there you want to use, or build on, or add to your brainstorming files? Do this every day, and not only will you add momentum to your writing, you’ll also build a full and useful file of ideas to come back to.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that writer’s block can be solved. You’re not alone, and if you lower your expectations for yourself, at least for a short time, you’ll be able to find your love for writing again. Use the above strategies to build momentum and story ideas, and soon you’ll be flying through pages that take on lives of their own once again.
Excerpted from Fast Fiction. Copyright ©2014 by Denise Jaden. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
Denise Jaden, author of Story Sparks and Fast Fiction, fast-drafted her debut YA novel, Losing Faith (Simon Schuster), in twenty-one days during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). More.