I read all these articles and hear these talks saying “You know you’re a writer when you have to write, all the time. Words and stories are just inside you, and you have to let them out.”
This makes me feel a bit pathetic when I run into the brick wall of writer’s block. Am I just not cut out to be a writer? Should I chase that Chemistry degree instead? What’s wrong with me?
The truth is, everyone catches writer’s block from time to time. You might be tired, not in the mood, stuck on a detail… there are a lot of reasons why it might descend in all its annoying, hair-tearing glory. But there are ways you can try to defeat it. Here are a few methods that work for me.
1. Write something else. Often, I’m just tired of dealing with the same story and characters for days at a time. I’ll look at the words I’ve looked over a hundred times before and not see a single thing worth salvaging. My brain will be worn out. When that happens, I try to jump to something completely different. If I’m working on a novel, for example, I might whip up a poem or tweak a short story I started a few weeks ago. Focusing on a different project can restart my creativity.
2. Break out the colored pencils. I’ll admit it – I’m kind of crap at drawing. However, that doesn’t stop me from doodling everywhere. Whenever someone asks to borrow my notes, I spit out a lot of hasty excuses, horrified that they might see all the crazy stuff I’ve drawn in the margins.
Drawing my characters – even if they never come out right – can really help. I try to draw them in the scene I’m stuck in, getting every detail perfect in a way that only the truly finicky can. Having a visual representation of the scene, taking my sweet time over it, can help my mind reconsider what’s happening. I can also pull details from my drawing to enrich the scene with background information or description. Naturally, these craptastic drawings never see the light of day.
3. Watch it happen. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it helps me. I do my best to imagine the scene as a movie or a dream, ‘playing’ it to the point where I’m stuck. Then I let it keep going, ‘watching’ the characters interact in random and frequently odd ways. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes my subconscious will give me a burst of inspiration, or a character will spout off a brilliant line out of nowhere.
4. Check out someone else’s masterpiece. Ok, this can backfire. You might return thinking “I can never do anything as good, so why bother?” But I find that listening to a really great song or reading a well written book can spark new ideas or techniques in my mind. There’s no better way to learn than watching a master. Reading great books helps you write them. Music-wise, I just find that music energizes me and brightens my spirits. Cheesy as it may sound, the soundtrack of How to Train Your Dragon never fails to cheer me up.
How do you vanquish writer’s block? I’d love to hear your techniques.