Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Defeating Writer's Block

Writer's Block... people cringe at those words, as if the words themselves were contagious. Most writer's block is anxiety based. We can literally talk ourselves out of writing for one reason or another. Every writer asks himself these questions from time to time: What if my plot is 'ordinary?' What if I can't make my characters sound real? What will my critique partners think of me after they read this? And the big one... Am I good enough to be a writer?

I don't suffer from writer's block, never have, never will. You too can avoid writer's block, and here's how:

1. Work on multiple projects at one time

Every project needs "down" time, so we can distance ourselves and literally let our brains rest. By having other projects to work on, we don't waste the time stressing over being stuck on one project, we simply move on, avoiding the stress of "not writing." And once we put the “troublesome” project aside to work on another, the answer will strike us when we least expect it.

2. Just start writing

If you're up against a deadline and don't have time to let the project "rest," then just start writing. Put your pen to the paper or your hands on the keyboard and write. It doesn't matter about what. It doesn't have to relate to your project, in fact it often works better if it doesn't relate to your project. The idea is to get your creative juices flowing.

Start writing about how weird or interesting your neighbor is, or why you can't stand that annoying advertisement on TV. Literally jot the first thought, or even word, which enters your head. And if nothing comes to mind, then starting writing about how nothing is coming to mind! But don't stop writing... that's the key. Don't stop for anything, until you've filled at least two pages. Don't stop to fix your grammar or spelling. Don't stop because you've accidentally shifted thoughts or POV midstream. Keep writing. Make it one long, run on sentence if you have to, but keep writing. Before you know it, you will find it hard to stop.

Now pick up that project which stumped you in the first place. If you find your mind wandering to every topic except this project, try this same free-writing approach again, only this time focus on the details of your project. Start writing about which character is your favorite or why the topic should have been discussed in every newspaper. Again, spelling, POV, jumping from idea to idea doesn't matter, as long as you're writing about your project in some form or another. Before you realize it, you'll be writing "The End" on the last page of your project.

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