A block is a momentary thing.
And sometimes, it doesn’t have anything to do with your writing, or your story.
Sometimes, blocks can happen when you are under pressure. When things aren’t going well in other areas of your life. Basically, if you’re struggling in ‘survival mode,’ guess what happens?
The creative side of your brain shuts down. When bills are due, and medical issues, and travelling, and worry about news, and you haven’t eaten enough, and a work issue is coming up… all these weigh on us.
We have to survive them. So our body pulls the resources and nutrients it needs away from your creativity and into your logic and assessment centers.
That’s ok. That’s normal.
Sometimes it can even take years before you find a measure of peace and freedom. That’s ok too.
So how do you get around it?
I don’t actually recommend on piece of trite advice. Don’t muscle through it.
Don’t force yourself, and add more stress and pressure to your life.
Instead, accept that things are they way they are. And try to write around it.
Can’t figure out what the character needs to do next?
Maybe open up a new document and write a different scene. Try something totally silly. Perhaps completely unrelated.
Try going back a few moments in your creative process and starting again. Don’t keep shoving at the brick wall of your writer’s block. Your block is you. You can’t arm wrestle yourself and ‘win.’
Here is some common advice that I’ve followed, and has helped most people;
1) Free writing
Open a blank document and type for 10mins. Type whatever is in your mind. Ignore sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, etc. Just get it out. Get used to using the medium of writing. Get back into the flow of simply writing.
It’s like walking. You can walk somewhere with intention. Or you can simply meander mindlessly. Either way, the process of walking is happening. Either way, the process of writing is being exercised.
Especially if you’ve been out of it for a while.
2) Set a schedule
Schedules are fantastic. Even if it’s only a writing ‘date’ once a week – you have the whole week to reflect and build up energy for that 2 hour moment.
Or, for 10mins a day, commit to writing something, anything. It can be freewriting. A short story. A blog post. Chip away at a larger work in progress.
Over time, you build up a habit, and habits bring a stamina you can count on. Especially if its something you love – then you’ve also got your biology and your passion rewarding you to keep going.
3) Start a hoard
Hoard your notes and ideas. Everything. Keep adding to it when you think of cool things.
I have a Google Keep that is choked with ideas, plus an old Evernote, and folders full of text documents. And somewhere, an old yellow folder choking with bits of napkins and old copy books with blue ink in the margins.
This way when you do sit down to write, you have a bunch of starting points.
Never start from scratch. Always start with something in the tank.
And if you’ve got nothing? Then write anything. Blog posts. Emails. Letters. All of it counts as writing, and you can hone your craft as you write ‘around’ your block with fiction.
4) Get in the mood
Realize that authors are actively creating an altered state of consciousness. While your body is actually sitting in a seat, or on your bed, your eyes are no longer seeing the page. Your soul is no longer in your body. Your imagination is a million miles away, seeing and smelling and breathing strange, new air. You are completely out of the present moment, because you are living another life.
So how do we make that easier to slip into?
- Get on Pinterest and make boards for your novels. Pin your inspiration. You need plenty of visual cues and prompts.
- Get on Spotify and build a playlist that feels like your world. Music is massive for creating the emotional state you need. Over time, certain music will instantly snap you into a creative state.
- Search for nature sound playlists that create mood ambiences, or websites that let you layer sound effects together to create an environment. This way you can hear what your characters hear.
Most importantly: be able to count on your environment. Lock the door. Agree with family members that you will not be interrupted.
You need to feel that you can count on your space, and that you won’t be interrupted.
Getting into the flow is what makes the magic happen. Having someone bang on the door to take out the garbage can trash your focus.
The 2 phases of writing
In my experience, writing takes two forms – the dreaming the imagining, the thinking, the researching… That takes up 80% of my time. This is what I’m doing when I’m busy with other tasks.
Then when it comes time to write, I have been mentally preparing and meditating on what I’m going to do. I’m already many paragraphs in, and have already dreamed and re-dreamed what I will be doing.
I’ve been practicing for ages, and now it’s time to go.
So yes, it’s the worst thing ever to have a great feeling about writing, open a blank document, and hope something comes from your brain. :)
The key is to be always 3 steps ahead, always thinking about what you’ll be writing next. Even if it’s for fun, it doesn’t matter.
A potter makes a thousand broken pots to learn to become a master.
Getting past writers block is like learning to ride a bike. It’s seems huge because it’s the only thing you’re aware of.
The block dissolves once you’re no longer focused on it. When you’re working your way around it, immersing yourself in the vision and goal of writing.
Hope this helps!
What do you do with writers block?