10 Surefire Cures for Writer’s Block
"The easiest thing to do on earth is not write." – William Goldman
Last weekend, I was bound and determined to devote two solid days to writing and nothing but writing! And, boy, did I give it the good ol’ college try. I sat down at my desk, opened my manuscript and stared at the screen. My characters were there, in the scene, just waiting to be directed. But what did I get? Basically, this…
I tried all my usual tricks – shutting the door to my office so that even the cats couldn’t disrupt me, moving to the living room sofa for a more comfy feel, visiting the local hipster coffee shop. Nothing worked! By Sunday night, I had given up – and not only because that’s my Downton Abbey time. No, I’d given up because the words just weren’t flowing for me. I have faith that the coming weekend will produce better results, but the whole thing got me thinking. What do others do when writer’s block occurs? So, I did some research. And by “research,” I mean I Googled it. Here are some common “cures” for writer’s block that I uncovered, along with my take on each.
1. Exercise. Exercise gets your blood flowing, which they say translates into creative energy. Tried it. Still didn’t write afterwards. But I did need a shower real bad.
2. Change your surroundings. I’ve considered going away for the weekend to see if, perhaps, a stay at a quaint inn might result in a creative surge. But, last weekend, my trip to the coffee shop only served to distract me. I listened to two fifty-something ladies discuss attempts to set one of them up on a date after the end of a lengthy relationship. She needs a morning person because her last guy was a night owl. Um…Okay. Oh, and we might be getting a taco truck here in the city.
3. Think of your project as a pizza: eat one piece at a time. Seriously? This amused me. And made me want pizza.
4. Read. So I can envy the success of someone who achieved what I presently suck at doing? No thankya.
5. Consume healthy foods and beverages. Wine has fruit in it, right?
6. Don’t force creativity. Finally, somebody’s saying something that makes some sense. I won’t even bother opening my Word file until I’m good and inspired! I mean, it’s not like I’ve got an agent out there who needs me to finish manuscripts so he can earn a living!
7. Eliminate fear. Sure, yeah. I’ll go give a public speech on the ledge of a tall building while holding a live snake. That'll do the trick.
8. Join a writing group. Because misery loves company! I’d be the first one saying, “I can’t focus! Let’s play cards.”
9. Think of writing as a regular job. Great! Nothing like coming home after an eight-hour workday and beginning a second eight-hour workday!
10. Work on multiple projects at a time. Nothing will help hone your focus like tackling multiple writing projects at once! Look how well that worked out for famous TV scribe Linda Bloodworth-Thomason at the end of Designing Women. (Oh yes, I totally just worked a Designing Women reference into my blog! I still think Judith Ivey never got a fair shake on that show.)
Okay, so I’m poking fun at all these tips and tricks that they’ve come up with to help us writers get unblocked. (I don’t know about y’all, but I never have liked “they.” They’re so full of themselves. They think they know everything, those “they.”) I don’t mean to knock any of this stuff, but it’s ultimately about harnessing your self-induced pressure so you can relax and focus on the only thing that really unblocks you, which is sitting your ass down and writing, for goodness sake.
My favorite collection of writer’s block advice is this piece, which gathers insight from various authors on the subject. It boils down to, simply, getting started, capturing ideas, realizing it won’t be perfect right away, forming a routine and – dammit – writing!
I’ll end with this, which I think sums it up nicely: "My block was due to two overlapping factors – laziness and lack of discipline." – Mary Garden
Anyone out there care to share how you battle writer’s block?
7 thoughts on “10 Surefire Cures for Writer’s Block”
What a lovely read as I try to battle some Writer's Block of my own tonight! I have to say, that I agree wholeheartedly with refraining from forcing creativity. Sometimes when you try to force your artistic vision to manifest itself before you, it just hides in the shadows of your mind.
One way that I do battle Writer's Block is by turning into the arms of music. I find the sound of the instruments (including vocalists) and the lyrics, or even fragments of lyrics inspiring. I believe Michael Jackson said that creating music is like stepping into a stream, you just step in, and let it carry you away…I feel the same way about listening to music…your imagination can blossom just from that moment when you give yourself away…if that makes sense….
Music is a muse for me as well, Kirk. I like to find songs that conjure the same emotional response I need in the scene I'm writing to help me get my head where it needs to be. But, I don't do well having music playing while I'm actually writing; at least, not music with lyrics. I'll flip the station to NPR (and hope it's a musical hour) or turn some classical music on my iPod for background noise.
This is a great list, Matthew, and I'm a big fan of one and two. Exercise doesn't always work for me, but it does supply extra energy, a change in scenery, and a chance to zone out and recollect my thoughts. I'm also a fan of using music or a good, light-hearted TV show to take me out of the situation and give me time to regroup. I'll admit, I often rejuvenate through Nick at Nite episodes. Thanks for sharing these tips.
I agree, Paul. I often turn on the television for some distraction and even inspiration. In fact, I like calling it inspiration because then I can pretend that watching TV is work!
Ususally when I don't know what to write, I just start to day dream instead. I mean I'm 17, so I have plenty of time to daydream on different scenarios, and how those scenarios would build to my story.
Thanks so much for this. I'm sick and tired of "they". They write as if they've successfully buttoned up any and all problems that face writers and their advice is so smug and self-satisfied, the sods. I'm currently working on the final book of a trilogy and I'm out of steam. My characters have abandoned me and my 10 month-old puppy is driving me nuts. I haven't been able to write, undistracted, for eight months. And I've gotten rather attached to liquid fruit…
Anyway, thanks. It's nice to read something with some humor for a change, and to find that not everone out there is a "they". I'm linking to you from my site!
Hi SK! I've been going through a mini-drought myself with my current manuscript. It wasn't so much a lack of inspiration with the project but a lack of motivation to get the job done! I can blame the fact that I've been wading through the muck and mire of selling a home, finding a new place to live, and moving…but each of those days I didn't write still had 24 hours in it, so I could/should have made the time. (In happier news, I'm back on track now!)