The best cure for writer’s block? Stop thinking of it as a barricade, and think of it more as a path. I find that most people who deal with writer’s block think of it as a physical block that has to be broken down or overcome when it’s better to approach it as a figurative block.
Imagine your creative flow as a road. Perhaps it’s pretty steady at the moment and everything’s going great. You’re writing up a storm and the printer is spitting out pages, but suddenly you reach a brick wall. You’ve lost your momentum and you’re perplexed or perturbed. Now most writers will just stare at that wall and bash their heads against it until it gives way, but perhaps choosing to turn left or right would be more beneficial.
This is where the figurative block comes in. Perhaps you walk down a block or two, and you find a road that leads you back on track beyond the dead end, or maybe it takes a few or a multitude; regardless, at some point you should find your way, even if it means going all the way back and starting over.
What is it that you’re exactly doing walking up these blocks? You’re having an experience. It could be taken quite literally that you’re going for a walk through town (perhaps to get groceries or just have a breath of fresh air). Maybe you’re watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to music. Or perhaps you’re taking big steps and going on a vacation or extensive adventure. Walking down these roads could be anything (heck, even eating can count), but what matters is that you’re broadening your creative horizons by having experiences to draw from. At some point you’re going to find the right road that leads you back on the right track, or sometimes on a new, more inspired path altogether.
To put it plainly, writer’s block comes about from a lack of inspiration. Rather than sit at your keyboard and question your talent, why not take writer’s block as an opportunity to indulge yourself in leisureness or activity? Why not let your mind rest up as well as absorb more ideas? There’s no need to fret, because the fact is inspiration doesn’t magically come about by staring at a blank page; it comes from living and being active. See the world, find a story, and make yourself hunger to fill that page, because you just can’t force-feed inspiration.
A lot of artists I’ve known throughout the years suffer from the same form of creative guilt as I do. This guilt is that little voice inside of you that says:
“Daniel, you haven’t done any writing today or yesterday! You’ve been working on the same story for a month now! You gotta do something big and monumentous! You have to prove to everyone that you can do it! You gotta drop everything and write for 4 weeks straight, never stopping and not talking to anybody! Everyone is going to think you’re some sort of hack if you don’t deliver some sort of product, and FAST!”
As great as these intentions are, this usually leads to something I like to call “breaking the dam.” It’s a creative act that seeks to do something REALLY BIG, and ALL AT ONCE, like some sort of creative hiroshima massacre.
Sure you got everyone’s attention with your huge explosion of creativity, but this doesn’t give you a good foundation to build on. Instead it gives all artists a false sense of accomplishment.
Please learn from my mistakes, and know that leaps of absurd ambition do not equal productivity… or product. Haven’t you ever heard anybody say, “quality, not quantity?”
I know there is a lot to be said about setting high goals for yourself, and I’m all-for people trying to pursue their dreams. I also understand that there are some artists who can’t help but get a flush of inspiration. This is an enviable aspect of the craft. Yet it is an aspect that is strengthened by a routine, rather than a stand alone occurrence. But if you ‘break the dam’ on your craft… yes you will be doing something big with your life, but at the end of the day you’re left with a broken dam. You’ll be drowning in your own flood waters, and you won’t have any energy left to pick up the pieces.
Try to build a foundation for yourself – brick by brick; a great cement dam that holds back the demons of guilt and doubt. You need to be prepared for failures. I’m sure everyone has heard the bedtime story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins this race. Don’t tucker yourself out and feel depleted every year. If you do that you won’t get anything done.
Famed director Stephen Spielberg made several made-for-TV movies, and TV-Specials before he even attempted an ambitious project like JAWS. Learn from my mistakes. Please. Small ‘doable’ actions have gotten me further than I ever thought possible.
Practice some self discipline, and map out a plan of action for yourself before making any drastic decisions. Then put your plan into action, and by all means PACE yourself.
Just try to be a doer, and NOT a doer-all-at-once.
- Daniel J. Pike
If you remember the last writer’s tool about the “Gadget Free Day”, equally can be said for having a gadget on you at all times.
Some writers may tell you that getting a portable recording device is an integral tool to the craft. I say bull$*&%. If you have a cellphone, chances are you have two functions: Voice Recorder, and a Notepad.
I tend to use my notepad more often, but there are times when I’m out and I don’t have time to write anything quickly. I’ll just excuse myself into the bathroom or someplace private, record a few choice words into the recorder app, and BOOM. Instant notes.
I’ve outlined many plots this way. Most people have either a cellphone or ipod nowadays. Whether you have a Blackberry Playbook or iPad – or just a plain cellphone, why not utilize your morning commute to the fullest extent? Hell, I’ve even used my phone while sitting on the … well, I won’t go into details, but basically you can take notes virtually anywhere.
A lot of writers I know tend to forget, or under-utilize these functions. Sometimes it’s easy to remember to keep a grocery list, but forget notes about your characters. What I love most about my phone is that I have the option of just e-mailing lists or voicenotes to myself for later use.
Do I recommend texting your entire novel to someone? No.
Do I recommend tweeting your entire novel, or posting everything on facebook using your phone?- absolutely not. That’s annoying to everyone in social media platforms, and a great way to lose followers. Not to mention you’re inviting someone to steal everything you’re doing.
Do I recommend you use mobile technology to write down notes, and possibly write pages for yourself while you have a spare moment in your busy day? Abso-freakin-lutely.
If you’re always thinking about writing while on the go, this tool will help you start putting those instantaneous creative thoughts into practical application.
You can find other tools like this in the Writer’s Toolbox link, at the top of the page.
You’d never believe it, but in a timespan of just four months…
…I’ve locked my keys in my car a total of 7 times.
Oh yes, I’m an idiot.
Thankfully, I’m not capable of misplacing my brain (at least, I hope not), and there is usually always access to paper and pens. You’d be shocked how many coffee stores, or restaurants are willing to part with a few pieces of paper and a pen if you ask nicely.
Now, if you’re a dunce like me, and you need to wait around for people to bring you a spare set of keys, or for a mobile car service to arrive, you can get pretty creative in passing the time. I’ve learned the benefits of using this time to concentrate on my writing.
I get a good chuckle out of picturing the first few times I’ve done this, and literally thinking to myself “Oh no! My cellphone, laptop, and journal are locked in my car! HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE?” … then it dawned on me one day, while waiting for my parents to bring me my spare set of keys, that I could simply ask a local Starbucks for a few pieces of paper and a pen.
Not only did they provide the materials I needed, in feeling sorry for my predicament, they gave me a free latte! Score!
It’s funny how many businesses are so eager to help you when you do something stupid. It’s almost as if the break in routine gives them an excuse to leave their all important burger flipping, in pursuit of some scrap paper… or some band-aids (don’t ask.)
At any rate, the lesson I’ve learned in all of this, was how much ACTUAL writing I completed, not having my cellphone, or an internet connection to actively distract me from doing everything. It’s astonishing how your brain is FORCED to think, when you have nothing to do.
This is also a fantastic way to iron out writer’s block. I’ve climbed out of many plot holes, and character problems this way. It amazes me how much of a creative recovery it can be, not having a gadget at your side. Unless you’re some sort of business tycoon, and your crackberry or i-arm is some sort of appendage, then I highly recommend trying this out. Before the advent of technology, many writers got along just fine without a cellphone, laptop, or what-have-you. “Just turn it off” some might say …
… sorry, I don’t have that kind of willpower. Perhaps that’s also a reason why I’m tubby. Just leave your devices at home, and thank me when you get a crap-load of writing done.
TASK: Set aside a large chunk of time, and leave every precious electronic thing you own that may distract you at home. Bring nothing but some paper, and a pen. (perhaps an extra pen, just in case.)
This writing tip is brought to you by a forgetful idiot.
You can find other tools like this in the Writer’s Toolbox link, at the top of the page.
Today I performed a cardinal sin of writing, and now I’m paying the price. BAAAAH!
I had just finished an extensive amount of revisions on another project of mine that I’ve been working on, and I neglected to save my project. Needless to say my battery died, and I lost most of what I was working on!
Always save your work. Always.
If you’re lucky enough to be using a program that will automatically back up your file if you aren’t saving, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t using my regular screenwriting program…
So, never forget the simplest tool ever. Using the keyboard’s shortcuts, press “CTRL-S” to save your work CONSTANTLY. LOL
Or for us MAC users, “⌘ + S“
Well, as they say, writing is re-writing. Today I guess, I’ll be re-re-writing. FML