Writer’s block. Two of the nastiest words in the English language when they get together to throw a party in your mind. If you’re like me, your writer’s block manifests itself as empty stares, wandering thoughts involving grocery lists, and that dog meme you saw on twitter yesterday. So, what do you do when you have writer’s block?
I have asked that question a thousand times, and I’ve gotten a thousand answers. I’ve been asked quite a bit as well, and I finally have the best answer. You do everything and nothing. Whaaaaat?
Yep, do nothing. It’s OKAY to take a break from your work and do something else, even for a few days. Note, I did NOT say don’t write – that would be foolish. Write something, just don’t force yourself to write the next chapter of that manuscript, because I promise you won’t like the outcome. You’ll rip your hair out when the editing process begins, and you will ask yourself what on earth you were thinking. Alien unicorns in historical non-fiction?!
Write a short story, a poem, a random list of things you want to do before you die. You’ll find writing anything at all helps clear the blockage, and before you know it you’ll be digging out from the rubble of the hundreds of ideas that fall on you when the wall comes tumbling down!
Or, do everything. Can’t figure out what your MC should do in the impossible predicament you’ve put her in? Write an alternate point-of-view! Write from the villain’s perspective, write from the love interest’s perspective, write from the fly on the wall’s perspective! Not only does it free up space in your mind to be creative without the pressure of knowing this chapter will be in your final manuscript, but it also helps you understand your minor character’s better.
That makes no sense, you say. I already know my characters, I wrote them after all, you say. Trust me, you don’t. You think you do, but until you shake off the persona of your MC, you can’t really see your supporting characters clearly.
But that’s a waste of time! Is it any more a waste of time than staring at your computer waiting for inspiration? Probably not. And look at it this way, if you plan on redeeming your villain in some way, it helps to know what he/she is thinking and feeling. It will come through in your work and when the time comes for the redemption arc, your readers will swallow the pill a little easier. You’ll always have that one person who wouldn’t forgive a bear for pooping in the woods, but you’re not really writing for that person anyway.
Have a strong MC but a wimpy lover? Give him or her a stronger presence (thereby making a stronger love) by climbing in the character’s brain. Your readers will feel that love more strongly if you feel it! I don’t feel quite right if I haven’t made myself cry writing the sappy scenes.
Don’t like alternate POVs? Write the ending to your book. You surely have some idea how you want your work to wrap up, so write it! Don’t worry, no one will know if you changed it entirely by the time you get to the actual ending, but it gives you a goal. How do you fill the space between where you are and your final destination? You’ll be surprised what having the final written chapter can do to help you fill in the blank space.
What do you do if these tips don’t help you? Watch TV, listen to music, read a book by an author outside of your genre, read a book by an author in your genre, read a dictionary (seriously, that little trick has helped me twice – no kidding), take a walk, call a friend on the actual phone (yes, they will probably think you’re insane), play with your pet, leave your writing space for a while and look at the world, run ideas by a trusted beta reader or friend, do one of the things on your to -do list.
Do whatever works for you, because honestly that’s the way the world works. Everyone is different, and not every tip will work for you. And sometimes what works now won’t work later. It’s frustrating, I know . We ALL know, because we’ve all been there at least once – twice on Tuesdays!
Don’t let it stop you from putting the words down. Someone wants to hear what you have to say; wouldn’t it be a pity if you never say it? Just keep trying techniques, and one day you’ll be doing this…