Last week in my fever dreams I promised to go over the dreaded specter of WRITER’S BLOCK. It seems to be a universal nightmare of writers, no matter race, ethnicity, language, religion, or style. There are dozens upon dozens of writer’s web sites that see the question loaded over and over: How do I beat it?
If only there was a simple answer. Unfortunately it, like almost everything else about the habit/hobby/career/obsession of writing, it all depends on the individual writer. Probably the most common advice I see posted is to walk away for a while, do something else, do some yoga, read, knit, watch TV. Yeah, great advice, but it doesn’t work for me. I will come back not refreshed but frustrated, and go back to staring at the notebook or computer screen.
I’ve also seen advice to force it, no matter what flows from your fingers. It doesn’t matter what you write, because it can be changed later. Better, but that works better for me if I’ve temporarily lost the ambition, which is an entirely different problem than a block. If I’m blocked where I am, I might as well be smashing myself into a cement wall for as many words as I will be able to force.
Personally, I have a few different methods. The first trick I try is to work on a different project. That won’t work for everyone, because not everyone is crazy enough to have three series dribbling from their pen at the same time. Pirates, faeries, and aliens are different enough topics that if I get stuck on one, I can usually pick up a few pages on another.
If I’ve really been on a wave of inspiration and don’t want to leave the current story, then what I usually do is pick a future scene that will be important to the tale and start writing from there. I get in the pages I want to and can worry about how to connect them later. Often by the time I reach the end of the future scene, I’ve already got some notes jotted on just how to do that. Sometimes it might take more than one future scene, and a couple times I’ve ended up with books in pieces—twenty pages here, ten there, fifty in the middle, and the end finished. It can admittedly get confusing, but eventually it’s all connected like Frankenstein’s monster into a hopefully coherent whole.
If it’s really bad, the kind of bad where it feels like your brain is stuck in a video loop that just replays the last few words over and over, than I have a naughty little trick for that, too. It’s terrible, it really is. I advise you stop reading. I blush even as I’m typing. Anyone who doesn’t have a strong constitution, stop, or at least cover your eyes until you get to the end of this section. Ready? Okay, here is my deep, dark secret to keeping the writing juices flowing: Fan Fiction.
Yep, you heard me. Fan Fiction. When nothing else works for me, this does. It lets me work on story, and nothing but story, because, hey, pretty much everything else is done for you. Half the work is taken out of your hands. Even better, there’s no pressure. It’s not something you can sell and will never be judged by a publisher or editor, so you’re free to play. That, I think, is what unfreezes me the most, the freedom from self-judgment, because in the end, IT DOESN’T MATTER, not even the stuff I post publicly on line. So go ahead, sneer, laugh, vomit in disgust, I don’t care. And I know of at least one published author that was discovered just that way, so don’t laugh too hard.
That about covers what works for me. If you have any other cures that work for you, let me know. This is something that can be talked about over and over and over and over . . . and is if the Internet is any indication.
For now, merry writing, all, and keep the neurons firing in whatever way works for you! Cheers!