Anyone who has done any significant amount of writing has experienced Writer’s Block. If you write as a career or are at least hoping to some day, then you’ve experienced this more often than others. It’s really one of a writer’s worst enemies.
If you’re reading this, you likely already know what it is. If you’re one of the rare ones who may have experienced that feeling of staring at that blank page as you painstakingly tap your pen or pencil, or that blank screen as your fingers caress the keys and may even press a few of them from time to time, only to tap that “delete” or “backspace” button just a little bit harder each time you have to do it and you aren’t sure what that’s called, then this is the name for it. Writer’s Block.
I am a poet, author and aspiring screenwriter. Since I have recently secured a literary manager, I’m focusing all my efforts on screenwriting, even though I do still write poetry from time to time. Writer’s Block is just a cruel and nasty thing sometimes. Many of us writers feel as though our only skill is temporarily taken away when Writer’s Block sets in. Of course, if you’ve written for a good while, you know it will pass, but when you’re immersed in it, it can sometimes feel very depressing. It may cause you to want to stop working on that particular project for the time being, or even cancel that project all together.
You’ve waited all day to be able to sit down and write, or you’re right on schedule (if that’s how you do your writing) only to be “blocked” by the fact that ideas are not coming to you as you would like.
For me, here are some ways I get over Writer’s Block:
I start thinking of what I’m going to write long before I sit down. I honestly believe that one of the biggest reasons writers experience Writer’s Block is because many of us may not think about writing until we sit down in front of our computers or laptops. That doesn’t mean that writing isn’t on our minds, but I’m talking about particular projects. For example, say you just finished Chapter 3 a few nights before and you still haven’t began Chapter 4. I think some may not start planning that chapter out until they sit down. Even with outlining, it may not help because many of my fellow writers have said that they outline mostly as a general blueprint, as the specifics will be brought out later on. That’s a good idea so that the freedom is there to let the creative juices flow, but again, none of this happens until sitting down.
I start planning the specifics out at times that I know I’m unable to write. Many of us know that of course, the best ideas come to us when we can’t sit down to write, so I began to start using this to my advantage. This doesn’t mean that I always come up with the greatest ideas, but for some reason, knowing that I cannot write at that very moment is why my mind seems to still work a little better.
Think of it this way. When you’re out and about, since you can’t write, there’s really not a ton of pressure to come up with anything. Once you sit down, then the pressure does exist, because now you’re all set up. Now you have no choice. Your laptop is open, Microsoft Word’s blank white page is covering your screen and screwing with your head. That’s how some people operate. The ideas may very well be there, but the pressure may be enough to sidetrack them. Just try that out and see if that works. Think about the specifics of your project when you’re unable to sit down and work on it. That way, when the time comes, you can get right to work.
This also includes multiple ways you can record your ideas as they come to you, whether you use a notepad or the voice recorder on your phone. This may hinder some folks also. The ideas come, but we figure we’ll remember them later only to realize that we were wrong. Once we sit down, we spend so much time trying to remember what we thought about as we waited in line at the grocery store or in the middle of the night as we stared at the ceiling. The next thing you know, time has gone by or we’ve gotten sidetracked with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as we convince ourselves that the ideas will come back.
I have a 40-minute drive back and forth to work each day. I recently started using my phone’s voice recorder for any little idea I come up with, whether it’s a simple line of dialogue or a scene description. You may think that little bit is not important, but try this a few times and you will quickly notice the difference when you finally sit down and are able to write.
I don’t stop at a typical “stopping point.” This may be a bit of a tough one and I wouldn’t blame people for not trying this one out. When I’m working on a particular project and I’m ready to stop, I stop at a part where I know I’ll be more anxious to come back to it. In my case as an aspiring screenwriter, I’ve often stopped in the middle of scenes. That can get tricky because then the concern becomes, what happens if I forget how the rest of the scene is supposed to go? When I worked on my books, I would choose a part of the chapter where the action has picked up a bit. In both cases, I do it in such a way where I’ve written enough so that what comes next won’t be forgotten. It’s a little hard to explain.
For example, in the latest project I completed (an attempt at a sitcom spinoff from a drama), there was a scene where the two main characters were arguing in their bedroom. I specifically remember stopping in the middle of that scene because the way it was going, I knew it would be easy to remember when I came back to it. It was that and the fact that it could have gone multiple ways. That’s another way to look at it. If you reach an area of your project where you know it can go in more than one direction, use that as your stopping point.
How does this work for me? Well, when an area such as a chapter is finished, yes, it’s a great feeling, but then, there’s a lot more to consider when beginning that next chapter. Some have a tough time beginning chapters anyway and in my case, even though the conclusions of the scenes were sort of open-ended, knowing that there are even more ways to continue make it a little tougher to get back to as opposed to when I’m in the middle of scene.
Let me try it this way: You’re watching a show and you pause in the middle of a scene to get up and use the bathroom or get something from the kitchen. On the other hand, you pause when the commercial is to start. In which case are you quicker to rush back to the television? I sort of incorporate that thought process in my writing.
Does all that make sense?
If I MUST mess about on the internet, I stick strictly with topics on writing. We’re all guilty of rushing to social media when we get stuck or are taking a break. A good while ago, when I realized how long I was spending on social media, I stopped doing that. In the event that I got stuck or wanted to take a break, I decided to stop going onto social media, especially when I knew I was going to continue writing at that sitting. I began going to Google and looking up topics on writing, especially when questions came up. This kept my mind where it needed to be. I can tell you that when you’re experiencing Writer’s Block, there really isn’t a whole lot going on in the world of Facebook that will help you. An idea may come here and there, but you’ll spend more time scrolling through your friends’ silly posts and your mind is going further and further away from your project. Then you’ll reach that point where you’ve wasted just enough time to where you just decide to say, “Eh…I come back and finish this later on.” You don’t really want to do that. Especially if that wasn’t the original plan.
That’s just a few of the ways I deal with Writer’s Block. The main idea is to just keep your mind on writing. This doesn’t mean our minds ever leave, but when you are struggling with writing, at least in my experience, being distracted by other things only makes things tougher.
I know that a lot of us have heard that it may also help to walk away from it and come back later, and I don’t disagree with that. Nothing wrong with recharging. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do that. This is when you’ve gone that period of time without writing and you KNOW you need to get back to it. If you’ve been very busy with your work, then it is certainly the best idea to leave and come back. But when I know I’m behind, these are just a few ways I combat that.
So what about you…what are some ways you get over Writer’s Block? I’d love to hear them.