- Books, Literature, and Writing
Writer's Block - A Way to Overcome it
This Wall is in Your Head
Writer's block, or writers' block to make it plural - which is probably best because so many complain about it - is that familiar experience when you stare at a blank page and no words show up. I will use the plural in this article as a reminder that all writers are afflicted with writers' block.
One way to overcome writers' block is to write an article on how to overcome writers' block. I'm only half joking. Have you ever perused an issue of Writer's Digest without seeing a least a small article on the subject? Have you ever attended a writer's conference without seeing at least one session devoted to the subject?
Yes, writers' block is on the hit parade of subjects that writers gripe about. We all seem to get writers' block from time to time.
This article is not the final answer to writers' block. There probably is no final answer. But I share my thoughts on the subject because this works for me, and it may work for you.
Is Writers' Block Real or is it a Passing Psychological Issue?
It's psychological. Show me a thing, an instrument or device of some sort, that stops you from writing. Of course you can't because it isn't a real thing. Think of it as a figment of your imagination. No, it's not a brick wall. But even if it's not a real corporeal thing, all writers experience the blank page syndrome, that unsettling feeling that you just can't get the words out, that your ideas have suddenly shriveled up.
A Review of the Standard Remedies
- Take a walk. This is a good one, but it comes with a caveat. Make sure your walk isn't just another way to procrastinate, to flee the blank page rather than work on your book or article. But taking a walk has so much going for it, it must remain as a classic writers' block tonic. It gets your heart pumping and brings the flow of oxygen to your brain. It's also good for your health. Just don't spend all of your writing time walking.
- Have a smoke. If you're not a smoker, good for you. You can ignore this. But some smokers swear that a nicotine hit gets the creative juices flowing. This is probably a rationalization for indulging in a bad habit. Your call.
- Have a drink. No, No, No. It slows down your brain. You may think it gets the process moving, but look at the crap you wrote after doing this.
- Leave your project alone for a day or two. This can be a bad idea, but sometimes you have to do it. If, say, you're stuck on a plot conflict in a work of fiction, sometimes letting it rest for a while will help.
- Take a nap. Thomas Edison is known to have said that taking a nap helps with creativity. Once, while working on a novel, I was so bogged down in a plot problem that I got physically tired. I awoke after a brief snooze, but remained lying down. The plot suddenly cleared, and I almost ran to my desk to get the ideas down.
My Technique - It May Work for You
I don't think I invented this, but it's a technique that has worked for me for years when the words seem stuck in my brain. Just Start Writing. There it is, I said it. But Bozo, you may protest, how can I write when the words don't come. Consider this: If you SAY to yourself that the words won't come, you are playing a head game with yourself. You make the words come.
I'm not suggesting that you write gibberish, but that you write something, anything, as long as it's even vaguely related to what you're writing about. This is one of the reasons it's a great idea to work from an outline, even if it's general. So you're on chapter 34, and your outline tells you what chapter 34 is about - bingo. All you have to do is start writing about the subject of the chapter. DO NOT look for the perfect words or the perfect phrase. That's what rewriting is for. Just start writing.
Here's what you will notice. The physical act of typing actually drags the words out of your head. I promise, this happens. The words will start to flow. You have to prime the pump, not to torture the analogy. You start writing and your fingers do your thinking.
As Ernest Hemingway famously said, "The first draft of anything is shit." But a blank page is worse than shit, it's nothing. And you can't rewrite nothing.
So just start writing.
Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran