Friday, April 25, 2008

Writer's Block: Getting Words on the Page

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper
until drops of blood form on your forehead
~ Gene Fowler

All writers will encounter writer's block to varying degrees and for different reasons. Writer's block can be the result of too many ideas, or of none. It can be due to lack of confidence, or to perfectionism. It can arrive with too much pressure, or not enough.

Every writer is different. The way to get over writer's block is to know yourself as a writer, to understand your own reasons for writer's block, to try and anticipate it, and to have plans to deal with it when it arises.

We have to be continually jumping off cliffs
and developing our wings on the way down
~ Kurt Vonnegut

Know Yourself as a Writer

Set yourself up for success by working out when, where and how you write best. Arrange your schedule to allow you the chance to write in the environment that suits you as a writer.
Arrange your writing around your strengths and weaknesses, if you are easily distracted make sure you have time when you will not be disturbed. "Ring fence your creative time," as Mark McGuinness explains in his free e-book, Time Management for Creative People.

Get black on white ~ Guy de Maupassant

Set up writing rituals to help trigger the creative flow. Write in a certain place, at a certain time, with a certain implement. Wear something special. Make a cup of tea. Play particular music.
Mix it up a bit. If something isn't working for you, change it. If you usually work best late at night, or in the kitchen, or in silence but are struggling with writer's block anyway, try going to bed and getting up early, writing in the bedroom, or a bustling coffee shop for a change.

Don't Write

Have a break. Try doing something completely different, especially something physical like a sport.

You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club
~ Jack London

Change the scenery; go for a bath, or a long walk, or out on the town.

Use the other side of your brain; do your household finances, or some maths puzzles. Try some Brain Gym excercises.

Read. Do some research or read something you have written in the past. You might find a treasure that will inspire your current project. At the very least you will feel better about your ability to write.

Sleep on it. Look over tomorrow's writing project before you go to bed and allow your mind to work on it subconsciously.

Problems in writing can come unknotted in a miraculous way after a nap.
I go to sleep with the problem and wake up with the answer
~ Patricia Highsmith

Doing something on autopilot, like gardening or washing the pots, works in the same way.
Talk to someone. Tell someone what you are trying to write about, even if it's an imaginary someone. Talk to other writers, about the subject you are struggling with, or about writer's block, or just about writing.

Try some reverse thinking. Ban yourself from writing anything for a specific time, perhaps a day or two. You will soon be itching to get back to it and fired up with enthusiasm and inspiration.

Just Write!

The first draft of everything is shit
~ Ernest Hemingway

Write anything, no matter how bad you think it is. See it as a first draft; it's supposed to be full of mistakes to amend later.

Break down the task and write the easiest bit first. Start in the middle, or at the end.

Try a different form of writing. Switch from computer to pen and paper. If you're trying to write an article, write a poem or a letter. If you're trying to write a short story, write a list of the ten things you most want to do in life.

Draw up a mind map or write bullet points or a brief outline. Or try some freeform writing.

I'm not a very good writer,
but I'm an excellent rewriter
~ James Michener

Write five words, a suggestion from Merlin Mann at 43Folders: "A block ends when you start making words on a page."

Play Mind Games With Yourself

Bribe yourself with whatever treat will work best for you.

Call on your muse. Light a candle for her, write a poem for her, throw a rock at her.

Why does my muse only speak when she is unhappy?
She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy
~ Stevie Smith

Leave yourself in mid-flow. Stop for the day or move on to another project when you still have things to say. Make a few brief notes. You are more likely to avoid writer's block in the first place, if you sit down to continue something rather than to start something.

Work on more than one project at a time, have a busman's holiday and change projects for a while.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit
~ Richard Bach


Try using a magazine article or news headline as inspiration, or a picture. Perhaps an old family photograph, or try choosing one at random from Photobucket or Flickr.

Check out some writer's forums or forums that discuss the subject you are writing about. Hang out on Twitter for a while!

Rating articles on Helium is a great way to trigger either inspiration or enthusiasm. Or both.

I think perhaps the most important advice to get over writer's block is: Don't Panic!

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best
~ W. Somerset Maugham

This too will pass. The more pressure you put yourself under to write when you have writer's block, the more you will tie up the creative process. Relax, have faith in yourself.

Writing itself is an act of faith, and nothing else
~ E.B. White

Do you suffer writer's block? How and when do you suffer? How do you deal with it?

:o)

8 comments:

KayEllen said...

Great information!
I do go in the garden and think about
projects,design,and writing...photos yet to take... etc.

Thankyou

kayellen

Moondreamer said...

Hi kayellen, thank you for visiting and for your lovely comment ... and you're very welcome!

Yes, the garden is a fantastic place for mulling things over! I got into gardening as a creativity trigger when writing my BA dissertation, about Alice Walker, who loved gardening.

:o)

Moondreamer said...

Hi kayellen, thank you for visiting and for your lovely comment ... and you're very welcome!

Yes, the garden is a fantastic place for mulling things over! I got into gardening as a creativity trigger when writing my BA dissertation, about Alice Walker, who loved gardening.

:o)

Moondreamer said...

Hi kayellen, thank you for visiting and for your lovely comment ... and you're very welcome!

Yes, the garden is a fantastic place for mulling things over! I got into gardening as a creativity trigger when writing my BA dissertation, about Alice Walker, who loved gardening.

:o)

Moondreamer said...

Oooops! Don't know how I managed that! Very late here, will try and figure it our tomorrow ...

:o)

Rogger said...

Hi,
You shared very good information. I like writing in a quite place, for eg. in my room. There I can run the horses of my mind and write efficiently.

Mary said...

Writers block is really something that is dreaded by most writers, not just essays and dissertations writers. I think the best way not to get writer's block is to be able to get inspiration and to get good exercise to stay physically and mentally allert.

Bonny Pierce said...

"Problems in writing can come unknotted in a miraculous way after a nap. I go to sleep with the problem and wake up with the answer." I like this line that is being shared above. I think if you only take time and settle down, I think you can come up with better ideas.