Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Writer's Block

I got it today. Again.

I'm usually afflicted with this "thing" when I doubt myself. That's always it. I'll either see a piece of brilliant writing and then ask the detrimental question: "Can I write like that?" The answer is a resounding "No!" and so begins this, like, cloud that engulfs my mind, preventing me from writing.

Only recently I realized other people experienced this. I had always assumed I was the only nincompoop in existence to be derailed by his insecurities. I used to relax for a few days and not write so the cloud of doubt could subside, but now I take a proactive approach to the matter. Instead of doing nothing and wasting time, I do a little soul searching to remind myself that I'm not terrible.

Here are ten tips I use to fight the block:

1. Implement a Writing Schedule.
Carve out a time to write and then ignore the writer's block. Show up to write, even if nothing comes right away. When your body shows up to the page at the same time and place every day, eventually your mind — and your muse — will do the same. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, every morning. Five hundred words is only about a page, but with those mere 500 words per day, Greene wrote and published over 30 books.

2. Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself.
In fact, don’t be hard on yourself at all while writing. Anna Quindlin wrote, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.” Turn the critical brain off. There is a time and place for criticism: it’s called editing.

3. Think of Writing as a Regular Job, and Less as an Art.
Stephen King, a famously prolific author, uses the metaphor of a toolbox to talk about writing in On Writing, intentionally linking it to physical work. If we think of ourselves as laborers, as craftsmen, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things — stories, poems, or plays — only we use vocabulary and grammar instead of bricks and mortar.

4. Take Time Off If You've Just Finished a Project.
Writer's block could be a sign that your ideas need time to gestate. Idleness can be a key part of the creative process. Give yourself time to gather new experiences and new ideas, from life, reading, or other forms of art, before you start again.

5. Set Deadlines and Keep Them.
Many writers, understandably, have trouble doing this on their own. You might find a writing partner and agree to hold each other to deadlines in an encouraging, uncritical way. Knowing that someone else is expecting results helps many writers produce material. Writing groups or classes are another good way to jump-start a writing routine.

6. Examine Deep-Seated Issues Behind Your Writer's Block.
Write about your anxieties regarding writing or creativity. Talk to a friend, preferably one who writes. A number of books, such as The Artist’s Way, are designed to help creative people explore the root causes of their blocks. (Studying the lives of other writers can also provide insight into why you're blocked.) If your writer's block continues, you might seek counseling. Many therapists specialize in helping artists and writers reconnect with their creativity.

7. Work on More Than One Project at a Time.
Some writers find it helpful to switch back and forth from one project to another. Whether this minimizes fear or boredom, or both, it seems to prevent writer's block for many people.

8. Try Writing Exercises.
As much as it may remind you of your high school writing class, writing exercises can loosen up the mind and get you to write things you would never write otherwise. If nothing else, they get words on the page, and if you do enough of that, some of it is bound to be good.

9. Re-Consider Your Writing Space.
Are your desk and chair comfortable? Is your space well-lit? Would it help to try writing in a coffee shop for a change? Without being too precious about it — or turning it into another form of procrastination — think about how you can create or find a space you'll look forward to being in.

10. Remember Why You Started to Write in the First Place.
Look at what you’re writing and why. Are you writing what you love, or what you think you should be writing? The writing that feels most like play will end up delighting you the most, and this is the writing your readers will instinctively connect with. At the end of the day, writing is too hard to do it for anything other than love. If you continue to touch base with the joy you first felt in writing, it will sustain you, not only through your current block, but through whatever the future holds.

I'm afraid of writing well and not writing well--a double whammy of sorts. If I do write well I'm scared I won't be able to do it again, and if I don't...well, you get the idea. Sometimes failing is the only way to get better, and to do that you have to try.

Thanks for letting me share.

Have a great day! ^_^


Miranda Hardy said...

You are not the only one, trust me. I love your approach!

T.D. McFrost said...

Thank you Miranda. ^_^

elizabeth seckman said...

Excellent post. And you're right, we all suffer the insecurities. Nothing gives me writer's block faster than an inbox full of rejection. But it's good to know talented people have the same blocks and fears. Thanks for sharing!

Kyra Lennon said...

Ha, I wrote a similar post the other day, only without the helpful suggestions. Mine was just a general whine about how rubbish I am lol!

I really liked your ways to combat the block, I am going to use some of them. Hopefully they will help me too!

T.D. McFrost said...

I feel pretty dumb when I have writer's block. I remember once I got so worried I called a clinic and asked a doctor if feeling dumb can actually make you dumb. He laughed and kindly asked if I write. I said yes and he laughed again, then said to just relax and don't think too much into it.

Now that I'm a tad wiser I write what little I can, however bad it may be, and let the block fizzle.

Shout out to that doctor who gave me the inspiration to research writer's block. :D

Cassie Mae said...

Nope, you are not the only nincompoop. ;) I read a book yesterday and didn't even want to open my wip. How the heck did I think I could write as good as that??

Then I had to remember that book has been edited, beaten to death, and polished to its shiny state. I can totally do this stuff!

Right? RIGHT??


I think I may have to print up this post and paste it to my monitor.

T.D. McFrost said...

Oh yes Cassie! Yes we can!

Sarah Pearson said...

This is a great list. I particularly agree with the one about working on more than one project, although it took me a while to realise this was a good idea :-)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I've heard that sending your friend Mike nude pictures of yourself via email is a great way to remove writer's block. I think it's seriously good advice and bears repeating.

YelenaC said...

All really good tips. We all go through these periods of doubt and "blockages". This is very helpful.

Chemist Ken said...

I only worry about writing poorly. The only problem I'd have from writing well would be the resulting heart attack caused by the shock! Welcome from a fellow campaigner!

Avadonja said...

I'm having trouble tying up the end of my current project. My solution is to work on something else. Should take the stress off - sort of like how you find whatever it was you were looking for once you no longer need it.

Morgan said...

Such a GREAT LIST! I loved this, T.D. ;)

I think we writers are verrrry hard on ourselves. It's good to step back, remember why we're doing this in the first place, and then push on. (And a schedule is a great idea... I know some of my best writing comes when I force myself to) Great post! :D

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