Writer's block is simply writers lingo for "I don't have a clue what to write about."
It happens when you face a blank page, or the next paragraph, or even the next sentence and find that your brain freezes. You can't think of a single word to write next.
Or if you do think of something, you keep hitting delete because the words won't flow right or they sound clichéd or stupid.
There are even those who get blocked in the pre-writing stage—having a difficult time coming up with unique plot ideas and characters.
Whatever the case, writer's block is paralyzing to many writers and prevents them from making headway on their manuscripts.
Interestingly, in all my years as a writer, writer's block is one problem I've seldom experienced. Of course, I have plenty of other issues I deal with (like writing slow, repeating myself, having a difficult time with rewrites, etc.).
As I thought about why I don't struggle with writer's block, I came to several conclusions:
1. Before writing, I come up with pages of "what if" possibilities for my story. I make long lists of all kinds of wild and crazy ideas that I could include in the story. I don't limit myself. No idea is too stupid. I write down everything and anything. And while I'm writing down those ideas, usually my creativity kicks in and spins new ideas off the stale ones.
In other words, the process of brainstorming is fundamental to unleashing our creativity. Usually the first few ideas we have are somewhat boring and cliched. So if we stop there, we'll find ourselves frustrated. But if we list a hundred (or more ideas), then finally we'll start digging deep enough into the creative well to pull out fresh ideas that excite us.
2. Before writing, I have the end destination of the story in mind. It's hard to take a journey if we don't know where we're headed. We don't necessarily have to have every inch of the route mapped out. We can allow the story room to develop as we write it. We can take detours, extra pit stops, and even new routes altogether.
But we'll move along more smoothly if we actually know our destination. We need to figure out how we want the story to end, what changes we want to see happen in the characters, and where they'll end up. Once that's clear, then we can write more purposefully. When we get stuck, we can remind ourselves of our destination and get our characters back on the road to get there.
3. While I'm writing, I don't let the internal editor out of her cage (at least very often). The internal editor is a vicious, critical, condemning beast. And rightly so. She needs to be if we have any hope of clawing away all the dreck that ends up in our stories.
But when we uncage the beast too soon, she makes us second guess everything we're doing, chews up and spits out our confidence, and often rips our work to shreds before it has the chance to take shape.
But for those suffering from writer's block, I suggest locking up the internal editor, putting duct tape over her mouth, and keeping her caged until the first draft is over. Just write. Don't think about whether it's good or bad. Don't worry about the word choices or the paragraphs of backstory or the cliched dialogue.
Let your fingers fly over the keyboard and don't stop to delete. Try that for several days, or even a couple of weeks. You'll find that gradually you'll begin to forget the internal editor is even there. She'll learn to stay in her cage—until the editing stage when it's time for her to come out and wreck havoc.
4. After years of writing practice, I've strengthened my creative muscles. I once believed that after publishing several books I'd have a harder time coming up with new ideas. But interestingly, my ideas aren't running out. In fact, the more I write, the more stories I seem to find. I just turned in a proposal to my publisher containing ideas for eight future books. And I have another 3 book proposal in the works.
Why do I have so many ideas? Because the more I workout my creative muscles, the stronger they get.
The principle is true of any muscles we use, whether we're jogging, lifting weights, or swimming. When we first start out, our muscles ache from the lack of use. We're weak, flabby, and tire easily.
But once we begin using our muscles on a regular basis, putting ourselves on a daily or weekly workout schedule, we find that eventually the muscles become limber and stronger. The workout becomes less taxing, we can go faster, and do more than we ever thought possible.
Constantly using our creative muscles is the key to keeping them in shape and preventing writer's block.
What about you? Do you ever suffer from writer's block? What are some ways you keep your creativity from getting blocked?
|Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com|