Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fighting Writer's Block

You have a seriously wonderful idea, the kind to which Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes are attached, and you race to your keyboard to get it down before the muse leaves you without a word, page, or even so much as a muse-turd on your chair.  You begin to write, gleeful that your idea will be the greatest thing since Shakespeare wrote "MacBeth."  Then it happens.  You've written yourself into a corner, and you can't get out.  Or worse...You, as a writer, find yourself completely devoid of ideas.  Nothing perkolating in your brain, no little plot-bunnies...Nada.  What do you you?

Writer's block is the often-mocked but very real phenomenon that few people aside from writers can understand.  It's a need to write, a yearning to create, but the frustrating realization that you have no ideas or that ideas you've had have petered out.  I liken it to creative blue-balls.  As a writer, I've fallen victim to the dreaded brain-fart many times.  And yet, despite the cruelty of the muses, I still manage to write and get some decent work out there.  One of the most-often asked questions to professional writers is this:  How do you overcome writer's block?  The answer isn't simple, and it's different for everyone, but it's one I'm happy to share.

Writer's block, in my mind, comes when you're unable to focus or when you've got too much on your mind.  They sound like one in the same, but they're not really.  I'm a pretty focused guy, but I tend to  over focus on whatever happens to be going on in my life.  Bills, children, rabid were-chickens, it doesn't matter.  They're all things that distract your thought processes from what you really need to be doing, which is writing.  I have a great many things that I do to overcome writer's block, but they can all be boiled down into two categories.

  • Physical Activity - Let's face it, no matter what you're writing, you're still sitting on your butt typing somewhere.  There comes a time when your body demands activity, and your brain needs it too.  So find something physical to do.  Push away from your keyboard, peel your butt out of your chair, and walk away for a little while.  Even an hour.  Walk around the block, lift weights, jog, it doesn't matter.  Something that you can do to work the kinks out of your spine and "jog" your brain.  For me, there's nothing that pumps my creativity like Judo.  The martial art I study, Kajukenbo, incorporates Judo as a part of it.  So if I'm feeling stressed or blocked (mentally), I'll put on my gi and head to the dojo.  There's always someone there who wants to roll, and we'll take turns pounding each other until I can't breathe and I'm so exhausted that my body no longer wants movement.  In fact, it usually screams that it was sorry for wanting anything so silly to begin with.  But what comes out of it are plot points, dialogue, character development.  I don't know why it works, but it does.  Besides, I love the sounds of snapping cartelidge and screaming students.  For other people, a solitary jog is a good thing because the rhythmic beating of your feet as you run allows you to shut down most other functions and just concentrate on the story that's bugging you.  For others, it's deep meditation.  Find something, anything, physical to do to give yourself a break.
  • Write Something Else - But you're suffering from writer's block!  How can you write something else!?!  Easy.  You know how, when you're working on a story, you get that little giggling voice that throws all sorts of other ideas into your head?  Put your main story away and work on one of them.  Write an article on something you enjoy (or even that you loathe, thereby pounding your brain into submission), or even write a *gasp* blog entry.  You guessed it, that's what I'm doing right now.  Currently, I'm working on a story and I needed a break to get back to it.  Breaks are good...Trust me on this one. 
Above all, remember this:  Writer's block can only affect your productivity if you let it.  Don't be a slave to it.  Use it instead.  Find something to distract your distractions and, in the end, you'll discover that writer's block isn't something to be scared of. 

Until next time, WRITE ON!

1 comment:

  1. Good tips. Personally, I think a lot of writers confuse writer's block with laziness -- they can write, but can't be bothered to put in the effort. Whenever I feel like that, I remind myself that it doesn't matter what I write, so long as I get words down on the page. I can always go back and cut, edit, and revise it into something readable later.