There are a lot of posts on strategies to move around “Writer’s Block”. Some even suggest it’s not a thing.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it is a thing, but I’ve come up with a list of strategies you may want to try to move past the block.
- Stop. Yep. I said that. The smart money says, keep writing. Just choke it down, show up every day, and write even if you don’t feel like it…but I would like to give another suggestion – that you stop writing. Not forever, but take a short break. (Really short.) I’ve tried the “choke it down” suggestion, and usually, what I have on the other side is a lot of garbage words and I’m no closer to the solution. But when I walk away from the WIP (work-in-progress) I give my brain space to be creative. Writing, more of the same drek expecting a different outcome? Well, you know what they say about that. Writing a lot of what I would consider garbage rarely gets me back to what I want – quality writing. Gardening, walking, drawing… that’s usually my ticket home.
- Ask the right questions. While you’re on that break, you’re not really leaving off on the writing. (#1 suggestion was a trick.) I usually take a break by doing something completely different, but while I’m doing it, I’m still processing the writing… and I’m asking some questions of myself and my characters. Those questions are usually these: Who are your protagonists/antagonists? (descriptions) What do they want (internal and external goals) Why do they want it? (motivation) Why can’t they get it? (obstacles) Thank you, Deb Dixon.
- Check your motivation. Nine times out of ten, the thing that’s causing the block for me is failure to identify either the protagonist or antagonists motivation… or my own motivation! So I ask myself, a) What is their motivation. (see suggestion #2) or What is your motivation? Did you forget your brand? Are you outside your genre? Are you writing for the wrong reasons, thus becoming sloppy in your work or your work habits? Am I writing for a pay check or because I love it? Not loving it? Why not? Pay Check? Is that an empirical goal over which I have control? Nope. I can control producing quality words, I can write quantity over quality, I can enter contests, I can query people. I can’t control their answers, but I can be a receptive listener to their advice and learn from it to write better tomorrow.
- Read someone else’s words. Often times, if I pick up another book, same genre, same sub-genre, that which is missing it hits me like a ton of bricks. For example, recently, I’ve been finishing up a mystery. Something was nagging me, but I couldn’t place it. Finally, the words just dried up, because I knew what I was writing was not what I wanted to write, (i.e., see #3, motivation). Why? (#2 – ask the right questions) then I realized, I loved the book I was reading, because it was funny. Oh yeah. My mystery was becoming way too heavy, too dark. My character’s motivation was dark. He needed some levity. I found the levity in his situation, and then the words flowed for the rest of the day.
- Watch something. Like pausing to read something by someone else, the same can be true of watching something in the same sub-genre. Take notes. Can you identify each characters goal, motivation, and conflict – external and internal? No? That’s a problem. Do some research until you understand GMC backward and forward. Or maybe it’s your tone that’s off. What is it you love about the movie that your words lack?
- Meditate. This is different from reading or watching a movie. Meditation is living in the moment, turning your attention within, connecting to the whatever on a larger scale. When it’s time, you may find a new perspective when you return to your desk.
- Change location. Did you know we learn differently based on our place in the world? I’m not advocating remote viewing or astral jumping. I mean, just shifting your body position sometimes has the power to shift your perspective in other areas of your life. For example, the experience of reading is vastly different if you read a book, turning pages, scroll on a tablet, or listen to the audio of a book. Learning your multiplication tables by repeating them over and over on a piece of paper is different than standing in front of a dry erase board, or in a Montessori classroom where you memorize them by counting different colored beads. I know a bevy of writers who work at standing desktops. Some take their laptops outside for a change of pace. For me, I change my location by cleaning. Yep. I keep a can of furniture polish on my desk. When the mind gets cluttered, I break out the dust cloth and clear the clutter – on my desk and in my brain.
Okay, it might be argued that that’s what I’ve been doing today. There’s something wrong with the “first draft” of the WIP. And yes, I think it’s my antagonist’s motivation. So what did I do today (besides writing my Friday Blog post?) I picked up a pen and paper and began work on what I hope will be a stop-action animation book trailer for this series. Here’s a glimpse of some of the opening artwork.
Basically, it’s also how I end most of my blog posts, by sending you on your way with a hope that you…
Make some art! Read a book!