The empty page, glaring into my soul, taunting me and making faces to mock me, when I do not find words to fill it. The feeling of failure looming over my head, as I struggle to continue what I have started. My head is full of things, thoughts, worries, but nothing of it has to do with the story.
I have been asked by some of my readers and friends, how I am dealing with my Writer’s block. Since I know, that quite a number of writers have to deal with that from time to time, I thought I’d share it here. Please note, that these methods are what help me and might not necessarily work for everyone. But let’s be honest. When you are blocked, you want to try as many things as possible to find the one thing that helps YOU.
So let’s get started.
There are several methods that I use, depending on what I need at this point. There is also my go-to method that I’ll talk about last.
I know there are some “Oooh no, then you’ll never get anything done” voices, trying to hammer into my mind. But hear me out. Sometimes my mind is so full of so many things, that I cannot hear my creativity over them. When I distract myself, I am turning my mind off. I play a video game, watch videos on youtube, read a book, take a walk (well no, I am lazy, but it’s an option), watch a movie… whatever gets my mind to shut up for a while. After that it is much easier for me to focus on writing. But you gotta make sure that you are not in distraction mode all day long. Set yourself a max timer if you have to.
Write something different
If you do not get into the story you are focussing right now, try writing something different. Maybe that will help you to free your mind for your main project.
Changing the story
There is the kind of writer’s block that comes when you feel you hit a wall in your story. Everything seemed to work nicely so far and suddenly you’re stuck, with no way to go. That happened to me, while I was writing Sra’kalor. One thing that I did was cutting out the scene that gave me headaches. I did not delete it, but put it into a different file, in case it fits later. Then I started that chapter again, did some change to the story, and from then on it went much easier.
A note about that cut out scene: If you are sure it will not work ever, just delete it. Also, just because you put it aside, does not mean you HAVE to use it at some point. Maybe it will work in a different story, or never. That is fine. I have not used that scene later on. I actually have forgotten about it at some point, because my story went in a direction where it was not relevant any more. So I deleted it then.
Sometimes the reason we get stumped is because a character does not work. We had an idea for it, and either they developed differently (I do not have to tell you about characters getting a life of their own, so they completely ignore our input, right?), or we have written them in a corner, or they are just feeling wrong. Do not be afraid to change them. Make them more interesting, rewind and see where things went wrong. Change what is needed to be changed, and adjust the story around that if needed. It helped me a big deal sometimes.
Outlines, Mindmaps, Drawing boards
Where do I start? Where do I go? How do I end? How will I get there? These are questions I ask myself often while writing. With a creative mind, that is in constant chaos with either too many ideas or no ideas, that can be a tough call. Helpful to me were things like outlines, scene lists, mindmaps and so on. I actually have installed an add-on called MindMeister in my google dogs, so I can put mindmaps together easily. Write down your scene or story ideas. Be it digitally or on paper, whatever floats your boat and helps you. Put them in order, that makes your story flow, think about how to connect those scenes and your story will come to life. Then you only will have to write it down.
It does not have to be perfect
One of the biggest problems many writers I know have is, that they want to write the perfect chapter right away, while they actually are in their ‘First Draft’ phase. Your first draft is exactly that. A draft. Your first written proof of a story that spooks around in your head. It is rough, like coal, and needs work. But you wrote it down, it’s a huge step. And after that you begin with editing. Not the kind that an Editor does, but your run through of fleshing out the story. That part is where you add things to explain, where you take out stuff that is redundant, where plot holes are filled and so on. After that I work on descriptions, make things sound prettier, which by then is my third or fourth round of writing. Once I am happy with that I go through it again, to check for spelling and grammar. After that I will give it to my proof reader, who will find more mistakes, plot holes, points that make no sense and have to be improved or changed.
What I am saying is. Write and do not be afraid to not be perfect. You don’t have to be. Do not put that pressure on you. Making your story into the book that you can be proud of is a progress, not an instant ‘must do’.
Now my go-to method. It actually is a method that I have learned from a friend (Thank you Karen!) and I have been using it ever since. Her simple advice was “Write”
I can imagine that you might either say “I knew that!” or you wonder if I am crazy. “How am I supposed to write, when I have a block. That is the problem, didn’t you listen to me?” That is what I thought when she told me that in order to get over it, I gotta write. Things become easier when make them a habit, so if you have the habit of writing, you will get into the groove much easier. Now you might think, that this is easier said than done, BUT there is method in this chaos, in form of an exercise.
What you need for that is a timer, alarm clock, your cell alarm anything you got that rings a bell or something when time is up. You also need your writing utensils. If you want to use a computer, pen and paper, napkins, pig skin, whatever is up to you. Just do not use permanent marker on another person’s skin okay?
Now follow the following instructions:
- Give your clock 5 minutes to run. After 5 minutes the alarm goes off and you are done.
- Turn on the timer and begin to write and do not stop for corrections (Remember, does not have to be perfect, it can be riddles with spelling and grammar mistakes, this is not a test)
- When the alarm goes off, stop writing.
But what should I write about? Everything, nothing of consequence, words, sentences, anything really. For me it usually began with random words. Any word that popped into my mind. Words turned into half sentences, later into full sentences. The sentences or words were not connected to each other, it looked like a looney wrote down every single thought that popped into their mind, which was exactly what had happened.
To my own surprise, after a little while of verbal doodling, I had begun to write things that belonged together. And I ended up with a paragraph, that made sense and could have easily been the beginning of a story.
I had not forced it, I just went with what came out of my mind and into my fingers. Which was good, because we know that forced writing is not enjoyable, neither for you or for your reader. The outcome was not always that great, nut sometimes, and it became more and more often, the more I did this exercise.
Ever since I have started this, I made sure that I put aside at least 5 minutes a day to write. Be it the exercise itself, a writing prompt I found online or got from a friend, a diary entry, the blurb for an idea that popped into my mind or whatever else I found there. Most of the time it ends up to be much longer, like an hour or two. But 5 minutes a day is all it needs to form a habit, that will help you on your journey.
For example: Right now I am writing this blog post as part of my daily writing and for overcoming a block. Tadaa surprise!
There for sure are many many more methods for overcoming writer’s block, but these are the ones that have worked for me so far.
Thank you for taking the time to read all the way through this long post and I hope that this is useful for someone out there. If you run into a writing wall again, I hope that you will find the method/s that do the magic trick for you!
Do you have any experience with overcoming writer’s blog? Did you try any of the mentioned methods and did they work for you? Do you have more methods for us that I have not mentioned? Comment below and share your story! Subscribe to this blog for more writers tips and more in the future and share it with your friends!