Writer’s Block

Some people say that there is no such thing as writer’s block.  They say that it is just laziness, an unwillingness to do the work.  And maybe sometimes it is.

But whether or not you believe in it, there are times when the words just won’t flow, when you can’t seem to think about what happens next, or, if you know what happens next, you still feel “stuck” in trying to get there.

One thing that helps me is to have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a formal outline like they teach you to make in school, just a general list of things to do and places to go.  In my current WiP (Work in Progress) I was stalled out, completely unable to write more than a couple hundred words a day despite my best intentions and best efforts.  I knew what the characters needed to do (the climax) but I kept stalling at getting them to it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what all had to happen between where I was and where we were headed.   So I sat down and came up with a brief (very brief!  it only had three things on it) list of things that needed to happen and put them in order.  Then I reminded myself that it’s a rough draft and the (nearly non-existent) segue could be fixed later.  And I started writing.  It’s choppy but it’s forward motion.  I added 1546 words in one day.

Another recent case in point:  I was at the climax of a novel — a large battle scene — and, even though I had a very detailed outline and knew what needed to happen, I was resistant to writing it.  It wasn’t that I was coming to the end of the book and didn’t want it to end.  No, the problem was that the upcoming scenes were massive and were looming in front of me like some sort of monster from a B movie.  (By massive, I mean that there were about twenty characters involved — and that was just on the protagonist side.)  I tried reminding myself that I didn’t have to have all twenty involved in each paragraph, that they would, in fact, only need to be dealt with in pairs, quads at the most. But I still couldn’t get a handle on how to start it, so I avoided working on it.  (It didn’t help that I hate writing fight scenes.)

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, inspiration struck and I knew what I was going to do.  At least, I knew what I was going to do for two of the pairs of characters, and that was enough to get me started again.

So, what led to the breakthrough?  Beats me.  I do know that I was only half thinking about it, that I was not at my computer or sitting somewhere with pen and paper.  (I was on my way to take a nice long soaking bath, if you must know.)

And that is how I usually break through the wall that is blocking me.  Not necessarily a bath, but doing something completely non writing related.  Sometimes counted cross stitch frees me from it, but sometimes I need something more mindless.

Like housework.  Housework is a great cure for writer’s block.  My apartment loves it when I get stuck.  (My apartment needs me to get stuck more often.)

A change of venue can help.  If you usually write in your room, go somewhere else: another room in the house or another place all together — the library, a coffee shop, the food court at a mall… Any place that can break you out of your routine.

Change your writing method.  Do you normally write on the computer?  Get a pen and a notebook and write.  (Just make sure you can read your handwriting, unlike yours truly.)

Some online games are good for helping, too.   I like jigsaw puzzles, so I’ll go to Jigzone..  Or play Screwball.    Sometimes I’ll log into Materia Magica and mindlessly kill things for a while.  Or engage in another hobby.

And Write or Die.  Write or Die got me through a really rough patch in my first NaNoWriMo novel.  It was a scene that was necessary to provide background information, but it was boring to write. (And probably even more boring to read.)  I used Write or Die to force the words out and get through that scene.  (The whole bit is getting trashed in the rewrite, but at the time it was needed.)

Want a really weird suggestion?  Write sex scenes.  One can be a lot of fun.  But keep going.  Writing sex scene after sex scene after sex scene can get really boring really fast and you’ll be desperate enough to move on that you’ll write anything else just to get the plot moving again — and that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?  (Just don’t forget to delete them later.)

Other suggestions I’ve heard are: go for a walk, watch TV, or do something else creative.  (Some people find that drawing helps them:  since I never quit mastered stick figures, I figure I’ll stick with counted cross stitch.)

There is no one size fits all cure – find what works for you.  And feel free to share your methods in the comments.

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