Writer’s block isn’t real. It’s a term used to describe the inability to write something you want or need to write. It is in fact easily overcome. In my experience it’s always a case of not knowing the questions to ask. Without knowing the questions you need to ask you can’t find the answers, which in this case is how do I get myself writing?
Writer’s block, I really hate the term. I maintain there is no such thing. The notion is offensive to me because it is negative and inaccurate. What if every profession or activity could claim that as a valid excuse. If you are conscious enough to label yourself as having writer’s block, then you are able to understand that there is no such thing.
Don’t worry, I have answers, not just observations. But first we have to address your attitude towards the writer’s block theory. Yes, the attitude that has you reading this very article.
OK, no writer’s block you say, lay it on me. First let’s look at the term writer’s block. On its face value it is a destructive term. It is negative and self-directing to a negative result. A term like that should never be uttered, much less taught to anyone. So let’s start our destruction of the whole concept. A block is a physical thing. Are you telling me that you have a physical block in your head? If so, stop reading this and dial 911 and have the ambulance take you immediately to the nearest government agency; they need you. OK, so there is no physical object in your head, so what do we call this condition? We don’t call it anything.
If you don’t want writer’s block then first stop accepting it as real. You must look upon people who use the term with complete contempt and disgust. I am joking about treating people that way but, in my opinion, you do need to believe it is a not a valid term. You will also project the message strongly that you are a real writer and refuse to accept such fool notions. A “real writer” is another fool term for a future article, but remember you are addressing a fool that will also believe that there are real writers and imaginary writers.
You must first withdraw physically from the offensive individual and then say these words, “I won’t even utter those ridiculous words. How dare you attempt to pollute my mind with such fool notions! Good day to you sir (or the honorific of your choice here).” Don’t worry it gets easier with practice, in fact once you understand that there is no writer’s block this will come naturally to you. Disclaimer; I am joking and not as churlish an individual as I may seem.
Am I now going to suggest exercises?
“Hey so-and-so! I am going outside to experience pain, discomfort, and boredom for two hours, want to come? You look like you could use some physical misery in your life. The best part is afterwards you will be too exhausted to write and tomorrow you will be too sore to do much of anything. Wuddya say?”
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I hear when someone asks me to exercise so the whole word is tainted for me, it’s like what Hitler did to the half-stache or whatever that style of moustache is that no one can ever wear again. Plus, I don’t want to move my dog (he weighs almost ten pounds!), pull my head out of a book that I am reading or writing, aka in my own world/happy place, and change into workout clothes with tags still on them, just so I can go outside. So, no exercises.
I also don’t believe writing exercises really help. Maybe some people find them useful to warm up or get started, but for the most part they bore me. I am not going to waste my time and yours with a list of lame exercises that I cut and paste from somewhere else on the Internet. No, you want to write, create, and make progress on your work.
So what are we to do then?
We are finally here. Your minds are free from negativity and fool notions. Let’s dip our hands into the deep river of writing truth and drink deeply. It is a simple matter of knowing what questions to ask. Let’s start, shall we?
Questions to ask yourself:
Do you want to be a writer?
Really? Be honest with your expectations and reasons for wanting to write. Do you want your name on the cover of a book, fame, money, whatever… you can obtain those things as a result of writing – a fortunate side effect, but there is no guarantee of any of it. If you don’t enjoy the process of writing, then why are you trying to force yourself to do it? Figure out the reason that makes you want to be a writer so bad you are willing to work for it and tap into it. Or maybe you really don’t want it. You can just let it go man, there’s no failure in it.
What are you trying to write?
If you are truly blank when you sit down to write then you don’t know what you are trying to write. And don’t say a novel. That’s way too broad of an answer. You need to know what you are trying to write, who you are writing for, what you want to make them feel, and more. You don’t need an outline, but you do need a strong direction. You may start with something like;
I want to write a romance where a secretary and her boss fall in love. The boss is married, the secretary is a transvestite (he finds out much later in the story) the secretary has a violent boyfriend who is a member of a gang that will tear the city apart to find her. The boss’s wife is a divorce attorney. The secretary is wanted for murder in a southern town, but it was self-defense. The boyfriend really loves the secretary and she is torn between the two men.
You get the idea. Just a rough sketch of ideas that includes a little bit of genre, plot, characters, flavor… With this much you can easily find a whole torrent of ideas that will start the writing process. I sometimes call it the writing process because writing isn’t just the appearance of writing such as slapping a keyboard.
Are you overwhelmed with ideas?
Write them down. You aren’t creatively constipated, you have idea diarrhea and need to get it all out.
Do you feel pressured to get a certain amount of writing done?
You can’t write like that. Stop that state of being immediately and change it. Sometimes people aren’t aware that they are feeling something negative that is preventing them from writing. You need to start identifying states that are bad for writing. It is important to understand that you are not quitting or stopping the writing process, you are developing a part of your process.
Relax, no one can do their best work, or any work at all, with someone behind them pushing them saying, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up,” in rapid succession. And make sure you are developing your process, not avoiding it. Don’t play solitaire on your computer, that’s not developing a process, but ending it to start a new one, the process of avoidance. Instead do something that helps the process. Meditate for a minute or just calm the hell down. The goal is to not feel pressured, not to stop working.
I am distracted by all the things I am supposed to be doing?
Then stop trying to write and take care of business. Then establish a writing time and place where you can shut out the world. And by shut out the world you need to find a place you can do this. For me, I can’t do it with my wife around – that’s it. She is too beautiful, fun, and the only person or thing I put above writing.
Now I can sit in a Starbucks, much as I am doing now, with bad music, conversations, grinders, whatever – I can shut it all out. I am not distracted by phone calls or email. I can write almost anywhere, which goes for sleeping and eating too. So find your isolation. Find a place or situation where nothing can get to you.
What if I am not inspired?
This is a big one. Everyone asks about inspiration and I say, poppycock and balderdash. That is another entire article, sorry. But the notion of inspiration was invented by lazy people.
Your writing should inspire you. There are many things that are part of the writing process; research, reading, sketching. Depending on your project, there is always something to do. I use times when I can’t effectively write to trace timelines in a novel, check geographic locations of characters along the time line, etc. I read about stuff I want in my story but know nothing about. That’s one aspect I love about writing.
But I want to actually write and nothing else during that scheduled time. I can read in bed. What if I don’t feel inspired at 3:30 on Wednesday?
OK, so write. The best writing advice I ever got was from my wife, she said “If you want to write, write.” I was like Forrest Gump. I just started writing and writing. Realize that just as a masterpiece painting needs rough shapes at the start, your novel needs words on the page. I have written some totally uninspired stuff, but it was the basic layout of an entire chapter. Almost as simple as outline stuff like:
This is the chapter when the hero went to the junk yard. He was late so knew the bad guy could be there already. He looked around a while until he found him. He put a steak in his pocket like a ninja and then he let the vicious dog out and ran like a total coward. Problem is, the bad guy out ninja-ed him and put the steak down the back of his veteran best bud t-shirts for couples AND tied his new york yankees zip up best bud t-shirts for couples together. The chapter ends with the hero on his face in the dirt, bad guy laughing, and the dog in mid-air as he leaps at the hero.
Just get out words and ideas. Don’t get it right, get it written. You don’t need to be inspired to do this, you just have to do it. In addition, writing is rewriting so you are going to go back, no matter what, and rewrite this stuff.
You don’t need to be inspired when you write, I am seldom inspired to write, but become inspired as I write. Write a character bio (I personally don’t), write the vision of the work to yourself. You may need to do this if you are not clear on what you want to write. Just start with something like:
I am writing a novel about vampires that live in a building they purchased in the 1700s and it is about to be torn down and what’s cool about this is that it’s going to be like Twilight, but not a copy. It will be all like blah blah…
Some may want to call this an exercise. I don’t consider it so. And exercise is usually writing something unrelated to your work. This is the beginning of the process to bring your work into focus, adding detail, figuring out interesting plot points, twists and turns, getting to know what you really want to write. It can’t grow and evolve until you get it out of your head and onto the page.
But I still can’t think of anything to write.
Are you waiting for the magic bullet, the one answer that will turn on your font of creativity, or that perfect first line? Stop it! Write a scene and enjoy the process. Forget spelling, grammar, punctuation, cliché, everything, just let yourself start tapping out the scene. Just like washing a dirty window, you go over it and over it until it is clear, but at first you are just pushing dirt around.
So push some dirt, let the hero have a black belt and perfect physique, later take that away and put him in a wheelchair. That will make the story easier to write because Sergeant Butt-kicker can easily kill three zombies, but old Wheelchair Willie will have a harder time of it.
You will have to really think about what you are writing and not just let old Butt-kicker bust in the door and fire one bullet that ricochets and kills all four zombies. Try writing that scene, guy in wheelchair must fight four zombies. Maybe ask a wheelchair bound individual for input. If you do it right they will be flattered someone cares about their stviking polo shirtsgles.
Are you waiting for that first perfect paragraph to pop fully formed into your head?
There is no easy way to learn to write and most people can’t write something as long and complex as a novel in a liner fashion, perfect the first time out. Sometimes I write a scene that inspires me, or one I want to have happen in the book, or some part of the book that is not the first sentence or paragraph.
Don’t ever start at the first sentence unless you know absolutely that you can keep going. If you find yourself staring into space, write the ending, write the scene where the main character is thrust into that first conflict or whatever. And, the first sentence, the first paragraph, and first page are all going to be rewritten the most no matter how long you take to get it written. So don’t wait for perfection.
OK, you insist you want to write, but can’t think of anything still. Maybe you want to write for reasons you haven’t accepted as valid. Do you just want to express yourself and lock it away? Valid and valuable. Just want to get stuff out of your head and burn it? Good reason to write. Maybe you want to just write a novel because it’s on your bucket list, or you lost a bet, or you want to give it to friends for Christmas… What ever reason you have for writing is valid. The only person who gets to make that call is you. If there isn’t a compelling reason to write, you will find it hard to think of anything to write.
I think the best way to avoid the WB word is to not accept it. Don’t let it be a part of your reality. If you are honest with yourself, not lazy, you will see there is always something to write and you will be amazed how WD just melts away and doesn’t effect you anymore.
You too can look upon people who use the term with complete contempt and disgust as I do.
Hope you found this article useful.
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write by Annabella