A Writer’s First Aid Kit: Dealing with Writer's Blockby Skye S, Monday June 13, 2016
Tips for dealing with Writer's Block
The first in a series from ᙢᗴᖇᙓᑕᗩ☂ and her Writer's First Aid Kit
Writer’s block is the arch nemesis of all writers. Although there may be times when you have so many ideas that your head struggles to contain them, it is far worse to find that you have no ideas at all. Personally I’ve always thought of writer’s block as more of an absence than a block; your mind is not blocked but deserted. Writer’s block is a drought of words. This it made it somehow easier to deal with because I realised that there was no obstruction that I could tear down to reach the words I wanted to write; there was just a desert waiting for rain. I ended up sitting down and writing about what writer’s block was, which, although not helping me to write anything productive, stimulated some words to come out.
If someone could invent a cure for writer’s block they’d probably be a millionaire but, unfortunately there is no quick fix. I just thought I’d share some of the things that have worked for me:
1. Stop trying to write for a specific purpose. It may be that you are desperately trying to think of a way for your protagonist to end up in a certain predicament and you are so centered on this that you become incapable of letting yourself just write. Open a new page. Put words down on it. They don’t have to be the right ones, just re-engage your mind with the idea of words. Write a rant at your blocked-up mind. Write a new idea. Write an enraged letter to your infuriating protagonist… Let your mind be a little freer by releasing it from the constraints you’ve set yourself, by broadening your focus point you’ll re-release your ability to write.
2. Skip it. It’s not ideal but sometimes it works. Everyone has experienced the feeling of knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the next chapter but no idea about how to finish the current one. Leave that for another day and put it to one side. This frees up your mind a little more and you can return with fresh motivation to the original chapter when you’re feeling up to it. Personally, I find this isn’t the best technique for me as I then end up with a story full of holes that becomes harder and harder to fill the longer they are left. It works best for me if I just write SOMETHING to fill these holes like a prompt or promise to myself that I’ll come back later. For example, when doing NaNoWriMo I left three chapters entirely blank because I was getting really stuck and fixated on them. I wrote these exact words: 10. Emma goes to the Co-op (I mean, what else does she do in her life other than attempt to be philosophical and mope around about her dead family?) and Shop Boy (who still is nameless – what is this? – but probably called Ryan even though I don’t like that name) decides that he is going to take her to Dungeness – as you do – as mates/as a couple? I do not even know what is going on here! I mean, this relationship is a total shambles and she’s just openly said that she doesn’t want it but he has to take her to the beach; it is utterly essential (how is this ever going to come together?...) 11. I force out another few hundred words on Daniel and his OCD/autism. 12. Um, really struggling now… well Lucy’s in her house because, let’s face it, she’s lazy as fudge cake. And she… basically… stays there… for ages… until I can get round to finding her stuff to do… I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS CHAPTER (perhaps you’d already guessed) maybe she’ll have an argument with Daniel or Jas (like, a really, really serious argument) for plot help later on. The fact that I hadn’t just left it blank meant that I had something to work from when I came back to it.
3. Make your character need something. I was given this advice once and it worked. I have never used it again because I have never been so utterly lost in a story since but on that occasion it worked. I was told that you have to make your character need something – even if it is just a glass of water –otherwise there is essentially no reason for anything to happen. I was completely stuck and I decided that my character was thirsty and needed a glass of water. I wrote this and then I wrote about the process of her getting a glass of water which triggered both her thoughts and mine. Don’t ask me why it worked, it just worked.
4. Leave the computer/room. Do something entirely different. If you’re getting nowhere, then staring at a blank page won’t help you; becoming fixated on your lack of words is probably the worst thing you can do!
Walk around outside. I don’t know why, but I find walking exceptionally cathartic. Almost all my stories and poems are either written while walking to ballet or whilst doing my paper round. Not only will the fresh air be good for you but I find that it is when I’m walking alone that I am able to process all my thoughts. When I’m around other people (or in connection with other people via the internet) I have to be constantly creating new thoughts but when outside and alone I get a chance to sort through the contents of my mind.
5. Experience something. Someone (Benjamin Franklin) once said “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” I have to agree that you cannot write if you have nothing worth writing about. Even if what you’re experiencing is not anything particularly ground-breaking, it can be helpful. For example, a conversation with some friends might give you an insight into dialogue for certain characters. I often store myself snippets of conversations that I’ve caught at school so that I can work them into my stories.
6. Eat and drink. Nourish your body and you brain so that it is able to work properly and undistractedly.
If all else fails, throw stuff around and enjoy confusing your family with the angsty side-effects of a problem they can’t understand ;-)
Hope this helps! Leave any questions below.
Thank you to ᙢᗴᖇᙓᑕᗩ☂ for writing this blog post and designing the banner