On Writer's Block
Ever suffer from writer’s block or just don’t know how to begin your story or novel? I’ve been there before and it’s a troubling feeling to have my fingers standing poised over the keyboard, eye’s fixed on the blank Word document in front of me and yet, nothing comes. My mind is an empty well. Yes, I’ve been there too. But I have started doing a few things to help me get over that feeling and to continue writing and I’m happy to say (and let me find some wood to knock on before I put this down) I’ve been lucky not to have a bout of writers block in several years.
How do I do it? Well, it’s tough and it takes discipline. It also takes convincing yourself that even if it is only a single line, a single thought, a single piece of dialogue for a character in the 24 hour span; that is writing. That is progress. In my experience, it’s is sometimes the little things I write that spark the flood. It’s just that little chink in the concrete that eventually causes the dam to burst.
So, again, how do I do it? How do I break through that dam and let the words start to spill over the pages?
Commit to write EVERY day
I fist commit to writing something every single day. No matter how short or how long, I write something creative. I always carry a journal with me just for this occasion because I’m not always at a computer when I’m running errands about the town. Sometimes I’ll hear a tidbit of conversation that was interesting...write it down. Sometimes I’ll see an interesting person strolling through the mall (or Wal-Mart!)...describe them by writing it down. Sometimes I’ll see a landscape that is really interesting...write it down. No matter the length, context, or subject; commit to write something on a daily basis (but of course, don’t limit yourself either...if there’s more there, let the flood commence and don’t stop till your dry or your fall asleep with your forehead on the keyboard).
Example: Let’s say I’m walking through the mall and I see an interesting character passing in front of Abercrombie and Fitch (and if you’ve seen these movies you’ll probably know the character I’m using for this example). First I notice the interesting character and then I notice the store that he’s passing and I think to myself, wouldn’t it be funny to have that character walking OUT of that store instead of passing in front of it? He’s short, pudgy, and a huge pair of sunglasses covers his eyes. A bushy beard covers the bottom half of his face but his head is bald as the moon. What strikes me as funny is that he walks out of Abercrombie and Fitch wearing that outfit: Open toed sandals, wrinkled kaki dress pants, no belt, and a grey t-shirt tucked into his pants so tightly that I can tell whether or not he’s an innie or an outie: and an Indiana Jones shoulder bag. My first thought is, ‘how did they ever let him in?’
It’s just a few sentences but I was able to get the gist of what I saw so that I could expand on it later.
Another way to help spur the writing process is; subscribe or follow websites that offer daily writing prompts. Writing.com is one such site. They have a whole section full of brief prompts to help get the juices flowing. Another site is Twitter…yes, Twitter. There’s several groups I follow on Twitter that post poetry prompts every day. I follow eight different Twitter feeds and sometimes write a new micropoem every day for each of the new prompts. It’s crazy how fast these mini poems amass. In two months, I had well over 250 micropoems. Within two more months, I had enough to publish another collection of poetry. This one titled NUGGETS.
Commit to read EVERY day
In my opinion, to be a good writer, we also need to be an avid reader. What is it that inspires me to write? My love of reading and the fact that some of what is floating around in my head hasn’t been put to paper yet and I want to read it! Reading it, to me, makes it real. It’s a photograph painted with words that is there forever. If I don’t write it down, I can’t read it...nor can I share it with others and it dies with me. And don’t just read fiction. I really like to pick up a magazine on writing like Writers Digest. They always have great tips and tricks that the mega-published authors share with us that are struggling to get noticed. In fact, I’m sure more than a few of my own methods to writing come from reading about them somewhere else.
Don’t start at the beginning
Find inspiration everywhere. I happened to see a one sentence post today on the Internet. It said something like, “I hope that I can find the tenacity to start the first chapter of my book today.” That one sentence started the wheels to turning in my head and eventually led me to write this particular blog entry. My first impression was that the individual that wrote that line was having writers block, or a lack of inspiration to start writing his or her book. But then I looked closer at the statement and focused in on the words ‘start the first chapter’.
I’ve been in this situation several times. I have a great plot for a story and a few action scenes rolling around in my head with a great character to act it all out for me, but how do I get from the beginning of the book to those explosive plot-points that I so crave to see in my story or novel? The answer is, don’t start from the beginning. Instead, start writing the scene you are excited about. Then, once you have the scene, start working backward because now that you have put your character right into the middle of the action you, as a writer, will be more excited about the things that brought that character to that point in the story.
In many of my own experiences, when I start with the action scene, all the other scenes that I thought would come before it were just pointless drivel that really took away from the story; I could take the main points of those early (unwritten) chapters, work them in to the action, and presto, no boring lead-in. In several cases, the action scene that I was so in love with ended up sparking a thought process for an even better scene. In this case, the original scene ended up becoming the beginning of the story and everything that I had thought I would write in the first chapters was unneeded.
If the first chapter of the book is so dull that you, as the writer, can’t get excited about it, then your readers will quickly pick up on that too. If you’re not excited about it, they won’t be either. So start with the excitement and let that carry you and your character through the slower portions of your book where the plot reveals the tension.
I don’t know if these suggestions will work for you or not, but they tend to work for me and after seeing that statement I just thought I’d share what I do to battle through and get my words out of my head and onto the page.