Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writer's Block

Uh . . . what do I write now?

Ever feel that way when you're trying to write something; like a letter or a paper or even an email? It happens to all of us, but it's the worst when it happens to someone who's trying to make a living at it.

Some people say "writer's block" is a mythical thing; just an excuse to get out of doing something unpleasant. But for most writers, those who are both published and unpublished, writing isn't unpleasant at all. We just get stuck sometimes.

Every writer has different coping mechanisms. Some even have more than one. I've heard of writers who go for long hikes, or go running to jog their muse back into line. Others stare into space for long periods of time as if meditation will coax their muse into speaking more clearly. I've heard that banging your head against the desk might work, but I have no interest in the reaction headache afterwards.

I actually use two techniques to get my stories back on track. The first is going for a long walk and talking the story out loud to myself. I'm sure I look like one of those lunatics who talk to themselves while riding the bus or wandering through the park, but it really works for me. It lets me hear the story and get the characters clear in my mind; not only who they are but what they're likely to do when confronted with the circumstances of their situation. I once freaked out a pair of Mormon guys in the ties and white shirts as I described a particularly active and graphic battle scene while walking down Main Street in my home town. They gave me wide berth after that! :)

The second thing I do is switch to another story. I usually have at least four to five stories going at once. That doesn't work for everyone and many experts (published and successful writers) say that's not the best way to finish any one story, but it works for me. It works because if I get stuck on one story, the creative energy is still there and I can divert it to one of my other stories where I'd gotten stuck before. It helps me work out any kinks in the flow of the first story while working on the other, and vice versa. It's also a good way for the story to percolate in the back of my mind and the solution becomes clear so I can continue on.

The last thing that sometimes works is just pushing through. Yeah, the writing is crap and the story may not flow as well as before, but the good news is you can always go back and edit/cut/correct anything that isn't up to snuff. I usually have to do that for endings (since I'm not very good at them; the story already ended in my mind, why do I have to write the ending?). Pushing through is a good exercise in determination and persistence, and you'll need both to get published and be a successful writer. It's hard, it sucks, but it must be done.

One last thing. When it comes to writer's block, don't worry about it too much. If you think about it all the time, you only give it more energy and make it worse (read: stronger). Focus instead on the story, what you love about the characters and their situations, and go read a book in your genre for a half hour to remind yourself what you love about what you're writing. Tickle the muse, tease her with new ideas and seduce her back into telling you more of her secrets.

She's only waiting for you to say please. :)

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Comments are on moderation, so they'll become visible once I've read them. Words, words, words. I love them. Have you a few to lend?

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