I don’t believe in it. Plain and simple. Before you get upset with me, let me tell you that I recently spent a year not writing because I was having problems. Yet, I still don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I believe it’s your mind trying to tell you something. Listen to it. It’s saying, “I don’t know where to go next.” Or perhaps, “Oops! Took a wrong turn there. Back up to the last turnoff.”
Sometimes, though, trying to find out what our mind is telling us is the problem. It was for me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get anything of substance to come to the surface and tell me what was wrong. Finally, though, it did. Come to find out, I’d outgrown the genre. I was writing in science fiction, but for several years, I’d been reading serial killer stuff. Finally, I wrote a serial killer piece of my own. It felt really, really good to be writing again.
Being stuck is an icky feeling. You feel like a failure. Your fragile writer’s ego shatters and you wonder what you were thinking when you decided you could be a writer. Never fear. There are quite a few things that can be done to get your writing back on track. These are some of the remedies I use.
Write – It may sound funny, but writing can help cure your writing. Try writing in a genre not your own. I go to poetry. The change from writing for meaning to writing for sound often jars my muse loose. Or do some freewriting. You know, just write whatever enters your mind for a timed exercise, even if it’s all the same sentence over and over again. There’s something freeing about writing something that doesn’t have to make immediate sense.
Change what you write with. If you work mostly on computer, try writing on a notepad. I have a notebook I write in. If I get really jammed, I use a pencil and a yellow legal pad.
Change where you write. Try writing in a restaurant, on a picnic table outside, in an empty stadium, in a classroom. We’re writers. We need variation, excitement, adventure.
Relax – I mean it. Sit on your deck. Take a loooong shower (most every writer I know comes up with ideas in there). Go to the beach. The mall. Take a long walk.
Read – Always essential for a writer. Even more so if you’re having trouble. Read tons in your genre, so you know what’s been done and what hasn’t, what trends are in and what are out. Also, read other genres. Read poetry. Read a genre not your own to pick up some hints. I love murder/thriller stories, but I also read a little literary fiction because I find I like the description used in that genre. Follow authors that you think write like you aspire. I follow five (because I’m always waiting on the next release from each of them).
Be healthy – Exercise. Doesn’t have to be strenuous. Just do something to get your heart pumping a little. No fried foods, no white flour. Get a physical. Yes, allergies and a poor feeling body can keep you from having a sharp mind.
Craft – Not only does this turn your mind off completely concerning your writing, it also jump starts your left brain which is where your imagination calls home. Any craft works: sewing, photography, painting, etc…. I quilted for that whole year I didn’t write. I still do. And believe me, you can certainly tell when I’m stuck in a story. My sewing machine hums.
Play with your characters – Actually talk to them. Sit at a table, pull out a chair for them, maybe even get them a glass of water. Take them for a walk. Discuss what they want. I know it sounds funny, but you’ve created these characters and you know their personalities. Your problem may be that you’re trying to force a round character into a triangle scene.
Talk – Tell a writer friend your problem. There’s nothing better for a writer than a buddy who has suffered, or is prone to suffer, the same problem. Get your friend to tell you any of his or her ideas. See if this will get your own ideas flowing, even if it’s just suggestions for your friend’s story. Repeat as needed.
Don’t – Never watch TV when you have trouble writing. It only makes it worse. While we think watching something on the screen is relaxing, it isn’t. Our minds, as writers, are constantly working during the show, constantly comparing and assimilating what they see to what we have written. Get away from that completely. One exception: sports. Glut on that if you want.
Don’t – Never play RPGs (role playing games) when you’re having trouble writing. They have specific rules for their characters and will only confine your characters within those rules.
Don’t – While alcohol and drugs (includes caffeine) may seem to loosen or focus your mind enough to help you write, sooner or later it will backfire. And when it does, it’ll be worse than if you’d never used any substance. Your brain will refuse to work without it. And while you use your magic drug, it will become mush. And yes, I DO know what I’m talking about. Years ago, I had surgery and was given morphine while I recovered. The stuff I wrote during that time was wildly beyond anything I’d ever written before. It thrilled me. While I didn’t become addicted, I became super critical of everything I wrote without using morphine. My self confidence took a huge hit, because there’s no worse critique than your own mind. Eventually, I just stopped writing for awhile. Do yourself a favor: don’t even start down that road.
Don’t – Never stress over it. The harder you push, the worse it will get.