Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to Overcome Writer's Block

Don't you hate writer's block?

You have this great idea that you've been running through your head all week, but now that you've sat down to write there's this big blank screen in front of you.  You force yourself and manage to write a few words only to be enticed by that big blue Facebook icon.  Someone might have commented on my post.  Oh, and I need to tell everyone about the trip I took last weekend.

You go back to that page of your manuscript.  The one you managed to write two sentences on earlier.  It's there again that blank white page that makes up 4/5th's of the page below your two measly sentences.

"I've been meaning to look at the movie listings for Friday night," you say to yourself.  "I wonder what time that movie I was thinking about is playing?"

We've all been there.  There are times when the words flow and their are times when we must force ourselves to write.

9 Steps for Overcoming Writer's Block

1. Schedule a time to write.  During this time don't look at anything but your writing.  Block out 60 to 90 minutes and don't do anything but write.  If you're having trouble getting started go back a few chapters in your manuscript, or a few lines in you poem and read your work.  If you're still stuck begin at page one and edit.  Look at sentence construction.  Hunt for grammatical errors.  Read your work out loud and listen to the dialog and the flow of your prose.  Can it be improved?

2. If you're writing multiple subplots pick one and stick with it. Get into the head of that character by reading your notes, and the work you've previously produced.  Read the scenes and start writing the next one in the thread.

3. Organize your chapter and scene ideas.  For this I use an Excel spreadsheet with different colors for each subplot.  If the writing isn't coming spend your time organizing and outlining your chapters and plot.

4. Resist the urge to look at the internet.  I once read that a bestselling thriller author sets an alarm clock when he sits down to work on his manuscript.  When the alarm goes off in 1-2 hours the author allows himself half an hour to read e-mails or surf the web.

5. Exercise at least 3 days a week.  Get moving. Walk, run, or go to a heath club and move that bod of yours.  It's good for you, burns calories, and gives you time to think.  Exercise produces endorphins, which tend to make you happy.  The happier you are the more motivated you'll be and the more likely you are to keep to your writing schedule.

6. Read the work of writers.  If you're like me you love to read and find that when you do you'll get ideas about things to include in your own stories.  Pick up a book in a genre that's different from the one you write in.

7. Get out of the house and see a movie.  Go out with friends.  Attend a lecture.  See some sports or listen to some music.

8. Take a vacation.  Go camping, hiking, skiing.  Browse a bookstore, go to the library, or just take a walk down a busy metropolitan street.  Go to a museum.  Nurture your brain.

9. Get a good night's rest.  If you're like me you don't produce your best work when you're tired.  Coffee helps, but there are some Saturday mornings after a hard week at work when the last thing I can do well is write fiction.  If you're having one of these days give yourself a break and spend the day away from the computer.

If you've had writer's block I'd like to hear what you've done to work through it.

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