All writers find themselves struggling to write at one time or another. Maybe they’re facing the proverbial “block,” maybe the story’s changing direction, maybe the writer is stressed, or tired. Regardless of the reason, however, every writer must work through it and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) again.
But what should a writer do? What is the secret to unraveling writer’s block?
I have spent the last couple of weeks beating my brain against this issue, and the only answer I have come up with is that there is no one right answer.
Most of the time, the best solution is simply to keep writing. Whether words are pouring out of you or being pried out of you one painstaking letter at a time, just keeping the juices flowing at least puts you in the position to take advantage of inspiration when it strikes. Just seeing the page start to fill up can be a boost that will silence a Critic and give you momentum and energy.
Sometimes, though, plugging away just doesn’t work. In my case the last couple of weeks, I got so worn down trying to write that I couldn’t even come up with ideas anymore, let alone execute them. That kind of freaked me out, actually, since one line of a song on the radio will usually send me off on a story tangent. I’m not as disciplined or as fast at writing as I should be, but coming up with ideas for stories is one of my very best things, and I couldn’t do it.
Finally, last week I tried my other method for getting over writer’s block. I just left the computer off and gave myself permission not to write for like four days. I watched TV, and read, and went to bed earlier, and didn’t even try to write. Today I worked through an exercise for Chapter 5 of the Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and had a fanfic muse babbling at me about adding a section about him in a WIP. No drama, no stress, just smooth and normal.
The frustrating thing about the whole experience for me is that my instincts were telling me to take some quiet time and just recharge my batteries, but I ignored them. I had fixated on the idea that I had to just keep writing at all costs, and when I finally did give in and take a break I needed twice as much time away as I would have needed if I had listened to my brain and body earlier.
My learning lesson for the last couple weeks, then, is to go with your gut. It’s important to do your best to understand what is really driving the block (You don’t want to enable a fit of laziness, for example, but if you’ve been working more hours or are under more stress than normal, then you have to take that into account.) but for the most part I believe that we will instinctively know the right thing to do. The key is to do it.
What about everyone else? What are some things that you do when you’re having trouble writing or you need inspiration?