Monday, August 4, 2014

Tips for Breaking down Writer's Block

We've all been there at one point or another in our writing career. We stare at the blank page, we pace, we (argh!) do housework or chores!!

So, what does writer's block mean, anyway?

Well, for some authors it could mean that it's time to give the writing a rest and let the muse take a break.

For other authors, it means you're pretty darn stuck on something and you can't figure it out. Maybe the plot is going nowhere, you can't get your characters to talk to each other or to you, or maybe they've up and left the story.

Maybe you're just waiting for inspiration to strike. Well, keep waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Writing is hard work. Really hard work, and if you think it's going to come easy to you, like a magic voice whispering the words to the next best seller in your ear, wake up. You're dreaming.  According to James V. Smith, Jr who wrote The Writer's Little Helper, "Creativity doesn't strike sparks in you like a bolt from the ionosphere. You can't expect much from wandering around idyllic settings waiting for an inspiration."

Every author is going to encounter some sort of challenge while they're writing. That's a given.

Joseph Heller said, "Every writer I know has trouble writing."

Well, Mr. Heller, you got that right. Listen to Mr. Smith who says it succinctly, "..writing does not occur by thinking about it. Writing only happens when you do it, so plant your butt in a chair and get busy."

So, how do we get past the block and get back to writing? What a great question. You, in the back, you get an extra credit for your effort.

You can go out on Amazon.com and buy all the books you can find about Writer's Block. That should take up an afternoon and use up about $100.00 on your credit card. But, it's not getting you any closer to getting over your Writer's Block.

You want answers now. Right now.  Well, here you are, tips for breaking down Writer's Block:

Copy Something. Yep, that's what I said. Find some passages that you like to read, and sit down and start typing them out on your screen or writing them on a piece of paper. Do you notice anything? Did you think the author could have structured that sentence more clearly? Could they have used another word to describe what the character was doing? Now, write it as if you were the author. Let your imagination go and change whatever you want.  Maybe you'll read along as you write and say, "Hey, the author had a great idea here, putting these thoughts into words." Maybe you'll learn something you didn't know and it'll spark something in your writing.

Write in a Journal. Put all the bits of dialogue, prose, narrative, and whatnot in your journal. Jot down conversations you overhear. Great pieces of inspiration that come to you in the middle of the night. Use your journal to take notes on a new activity or task you're learning. You never know when a character might need to know how to do something similar. Then, when you ever come to a point where you experience some kind of writer's block, you have a mine of ideas to forage through. I know, I ended that sentence with a preposition. So sue me. But, read this closely: Every idea you write down is going to spark another idea and then another. Develop that idea. Play with it. Work with it. That's how you get back to writing.

Talk About What You're Writing. Tell everyone you know you're writing a story. Tell people the subject and theme. People will want to talk to you about your story or something similar they read or heard about when they were listening to the radio or watching television. A quote or even a lead is something to go with and get back to writing.

Exercise Your Body and Your Brain. Your brain needs oxygen. Give it some. Get that body moving. If you're sitting in your desk chair, get up, do some toe touches or go for walk. Get that cardio up. Now it's time to work that brain. Do some writing exercises. Google "writing exercises" and I'm sure you'll be inundated with pages. If you're still droopy and tired, maybe you need a nap?

Organize or Re-organize Your Research Material. If you're desk looks anything like mine, you'll thank me for this tip. Some writers can be a little "too" organized, and how do you ever find anything anyway? But, that's another story. Let's do a bit or re-organization so we can actually find what we're looking for or start organizing so we can find things a little faster. Organize is whatever logical way seems right to you. Only you need to know your system, right?

Make Lists. Oh, wow. You thought you were done with lists, right? Not. Some writers are pantsers and some are outliners. (Pantsers are those writers who don't use an outline, they just start writing. The story is all in their head.) But, I digress just a bit. Think about what you want to include in your story. Use key words and write down - in list format - all the elements you want to cover in your story. Maybe you have some questions. Add them to the list.

Picture Your Reader. Do you even know who your reader is? What they like to read, and why? If you don't have a reader for your story, who is going to want to read your story? So, figure out whom you are trying to reach. Describe your reader. Imagine your reader is in your office. Ask your reader questions. What do they do for fun? for work? What would make this story important to him/her? What is your reader's education background? Are you using words too big for them to understand or too small and your reader feels as if you are talking down to him/her?

Ask Yourself One Question. Why are you writing? Do you have goals? What emotion are you trying to get out of your reader? Do you have a purpose for your story? If so, what is it?

Here it is, my last quote to inspire you:

"I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her."
 -- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Now, get writing. If you have other tips for breaking through writer's block, please add them to the comments below. I'd love to know what you do to get back to writing.









References:
The Writer's Block by Jason Rekulak
The Writer's Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.
100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost


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