Yeah, yeah, this has been done a million times before.
But not by me! 😛
Today I’m talking about Writer’s Block, this enigmatic phenomena of when your creative brain hits a wall in a juicy explosion of frustrating glory.
And you have to somehow piece your gray matter back together again.
And mop up all of that juice.
And make the slop coherent enough to put words back on the page.
Of all the writer’s block articles and blogs I’ve read, there’s this constant debate as to whether this marvel of marvels actually exists or if writers use it as an excuse to…you know…not write.
I think it’s a little of both.
Sure, we all get stuck. We sit there and stare at that panic-inducing blank page, a slow fury brewing inside us at that blinking cursor of DOOM, and you’re not going to make your word count—Christ, you haven’t even written a single word yet—and you’re angry at your verbal impotence and you just want to throw your freaking computer/notebook/whatever out the window and say, “Take that, you mother[CENSOR] piece of [CENSOR!] [CENSOR!!!]” and then you flop back down in your seat and cry because you just destroyed a very expensive piece of machinery.
Not to mention you just lost the 27K words you actually managed to write.
I’m sure this has happened to everyone, yes? No? YES.
So when we get into this situation, our behavior becomes a little, shall we say, avoidant. Naturally. Flight is much easier than fight. “I’m blocked,” we say, unable to face our sad lack of performance with a lowered head and hunched shoulders.
Here’s what I’ve decided is going on when this happens to me (of course, everyone is different, and it’s important to recognize your own cues):
- Either the scene is just not working, or the story has taken a turn that I subconsciously don’t like.
- The scene is, well, boooooriiiiing.
- The scene is terrifying to write and I fear my execution on said scary scene.
Here’s what I do to resolve it:
- Skip it and move on to the next one. After all, you can’t edit a blank page, AMIRITE?
- Throw in a giant monkey wrench, something outrageous, something that has to make it exciting at least a teeny tiny bit.
- Put my fingers on the keys and just plow through it, word by agonizing word.
Some of us can’t afford to be blocked, especially when we’re under a tight deadline. Or when you work an obscene amount of hours during your day job, or when you have a house full of OUT OF CONTROL children, or when fate just slaps you in the face with health problems, family issues, generalized anarchy. Your time is scarce and precious—everyone’s time is. You don’t want to stare at that blank [CENSOR] page and that stupid [CENSOR!] cursor and your muse is being a freaking [CENSOR!!!]. You can’t afford this waste of precious seconds, minutes, hours, maybe even days.
So what do we do?
We whine about it. Woe is me, I have writer’s block.
Shift to something else. Pick up another story you’ve been working on, write a new short, something to chip the rust off those creaky gears. Flash fiction. Try it, why not?
Go for a walk, run, hike, a nationwide expedition. Scuba dive, bungee jump, sky dive (nothing like jumping out of a plane to give you some perspective!). Sit at the end of a bar and listen to those crazy drunken stories. People-watch like a creepy mother[CENSORED]. Listen to music, and I mean really listen. What are they singing about? Why? Watch movies or TV shows, but actively watch them—listen to the dialogue, study the plotline, why does it work, what’s so cool or damn stupid about it? Read books! Poetry! Use the same analysis. Fill that creative well with all of that brain juice, and when you’re ready, pour it onto your keyboard with a delightful cackle.
In sum, walk away from it for a while (but not for too long) and do something different. Come back to it with fresh eyes and a heel-clicking song in your heart. Maybe you just need to change the POV. Maybe one of your characters needs to die (maybe they ALL NEED TO DIE). Maybe you need to just add some zombies, man.
And if it’s still not working?
Scrap it. Kill your darlings. However many words, the whole file, whatever—slush pile it. Start over.
Because you can’t edit a blank page. And when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, you can’t make progress on something that doesn’t work for you.
So find something that works. And write it. No excuses!
Have any suggestions on how to beat the block? I’d love to hear them! Maybe you can help cure someone’s verbal impotence. 😉
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When she’s not verbally impotent, L.D. Rose writes about love and monsters. She also happens to be a doctor by day, which also involves love and monsters. Her debut dark PNR, RELEASING THE DEMONS, has some really badass monsters…and okay, maybe some love too. To learn more about her work, visit www.writerldrose.com.