Hello, Everyone! I hope you had a good National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the hip kids are calling it). For those of you not aware: November is National Novel Writing Month, where people sit down and write a novel in a month. Breaking that down for you in pages 5 pages a day equals 150 pages, which is roughly 2,000-2,500 words a day. Anyway, if you participated then I hope it was a good experience for you.
So NaNoWriMo is the reason I didn’t post in November. Not that I was working on a novel (I had other things piling up on my plate), but because I figured everyone would be posting about writing and didn’t want to overload the Internet on literature. Also I didn’t want to contribute to the distractions of not writing. And again, the afore mentioned pile of stuff I had to get done.
Which brings us to what I want to talk about today; I want to talk to you about writers’ block.
I know, it’s such a cheery subject (especially for the holidays). I want to assure you: There will come a time when you don’t feel like writing. This is normal. If you do anything for any length of time you will get sick of it. I love writing—LOVE IT—and even I have days where the mere thought of what my character(s) will do next sickens me. One day I was staring at the computer screen, staring at the words from the day before, and just wrote: And they all died. Needless to say I took the day off.
Yeah, you’re going to have days where you don’t feel like writing. Writers’ Block is something else. It’s a persistent condition of being stuck, of not being able to write. No matter what you do you can’t put the next sentence together; can’t get through the scene; are unable to see the characters for the plot (or vice versa).
Don’t be ashamed. It happens to everyone. It’s no big deal. Seriously. It’s okay.
Here’s what I believe (and you may have guessed what it is): You’ve got to chip away at the block. You do this by keeping writing. It doesn’t matter if what you write is crap (in all honestly it probably will be), but you got to keep the writing muscle fresh. Do you know how many tons of earth miners have to move before getting to the good stuff? You should look up the statistics, it’s interesting. The same premise applies here, you keep working the earth until you hit a rich vein of creativity.
It’ll be hard work. It’ll be frustrating. That’s good. Eventually you’ll just want to write something and that’s when the dam will break and the writing will come.
At least…that’s how I do it.
For those of you who’d like a less aggressive approach here’s some things you can do.
1) Do something different with your writing: If you’re a horror writer try writing a fantasy story, or a sci-fi story, or even (GULP!) a contemporary (non-genre) story. The idea here is to keep the writing machine pumping while simultaneously cleaning all the gum out of the gears. Sometimes you can be too mired in a genre its tropes, and beats, and rhythms, and it clogs the thinking. The thoughts get jumbled up in possibilities and just won’t come out. Thinking about how different stories work and are put together can work out the kinks in your brain so you can come back to the story you really want to write with a clear head.
2) Do something different with yourself: Embrace the variety, my friends. Chances are if you’re a horror writer (going of the example from number one) then you watch horror shows/movies, and read horror stories. It’s good to keep up on your field, but this can also gum up the thought gears. Try reading a fantasy, a sci-fi, a historical novel, go to the movies and see a comedy, or a drama. Every once and a while you should, and can, come up for air from the full emersion in your genre.
3) Put the story down and step away: It’s okay. I know you can do it. Put the story off to the side (literally or metaphorically speaking) and work on something else. Move on to the next story you have filed away in your write brain; or you can pick up an old story that needed more work but you moved on because you decided you were done with it (the new perspective might be just what it needed). The point is maybe you need some distance from the story. It’s possible you have the story all outlined, but now that you’re writing it it’s going somewhere else and you’re trying to force it back into the original mold; some time may give the vantage point to see where it went off track, or where the story is going now.
4) It’s a 48 hour bug: It’s possible you just need a couple days to breathe. That’s right, a couple days off and you can hit the keyboard (notebook) hard and finish up the story. I don’t suggest taking more than a week off in the middle of a project. The hardest thing about being a writer is the self-discipline; you don’t have someone over your shoulder keeping you to a deadline, you don’t have to punch a clock, or even put on pants if you don’t want. So keeping yourself on track is a big responsibility.
Okay, here’s how I see writers’ block (and feel free to disagree with me): it’s all about pressure. You putting pressure on yourself to write, to be original, to finish in a certain time, to make it big, TO WRITE. Some pressure is good, it keeps us motivated, but too much can destroy you. Even worse too much pressure can take the joy out of what you’re doing. At the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about? Enjoying what you’re doing?
Happy Holidays from all us Hemlocks to all you Mistletoes. Enjoy yourselves.