Saturday, May 6, 2017

How Do You Beat Writer's Block?


This is one of those questions that I get asked pretty frequently, probably because it's one of the most frustrating things for a writer to feel like they've come up against. I've had teachers say that they don't believe in writer's block because it makes it into this invincible entity. However, here is my response to how to beat writer's block (pulled from my author site's FAQ):

I don't like the term "writer's block."  I feel like it gives too much power to the idea.  Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself, according to some smart witch/wizard or another.  (Harry Potter references ftw.)  

My friend Ian talks about "refilling the well," which I think fits much better.  Think of the well as potential for creativity.  You've got lots of passion for a story, lots of ideas and all that fancy jazz.  The well is full.  Then you're 50,000 words into a novel and running on empty.  Your well needs refilling.  This will happen differently for each writer: some need to read their favorite book for the billionth time; others need to people watch; some need to watch their favorite television show or movie and think about its character arcs or themes; others need to write something shorter--poetry, maybe, or just some freewrite scribbles; others still need to get away from writing for a while, maybe by drawing or knitting or getting lost on Tumblr for a few hours.  Take the time to do this so you don't run yourself into the ground.  When you've refilled your creativity well, you can return to your project or start a new one, as the case may be, with a renewed zest for your craft.


I also took to the Creative Exchange Network on Facebook and to my Twitter to ask other writers for their perspectives. After all, not everyone responds to the same methods or writing processes. (In fact, that's pretty much one of the main tenants of my teaching philosophy. I'm pretty married to that idea.) Here's what other writers had to say:

Erin Sullivan: "by giving up on coherency and just stream of consciousness word vomit, or going through old work and revising that instead, or or thinking critically about what i like/dislike about a work i admire, or just being content to let myself zone out and a stare at the screen for awhile. my personal experience with writer's block is it being less 'i can't think of anything' and more 'i don't feel like thinking of anything'"

Joe Ginman: "go out, get a coffee and people watch. Something usually pops into my head while doing that"

Louie Land: "Personally, I've never been a fan of the whole "if you can't write, you can work" strategy because it seems like trying to just push the big boulder of writer's block out of the way. I'd much rather go around it. So, if the writing isn't inspired, I'll take a walk, or do the dishes, while continuing to be engaged with the work. I'm not abandoning the concept or problem at hand per se. Instead, I'm trying not to beat my head against the wall too many times. I'm getting away from my need to fill the page and weather the boulder away with my nonsense, and getting in touch with the work on a more intuitive level. So while I might be reading someone else's work instead of writing (or whatever it is I'm doing to help me see the forest instead of the trees), I'm doing so with an eye to get around whatever obstacle I'm facing, and when I've figured it out, I go back to the page feeling fresh."

Meg Gaertner: "I exercise my creativity in some other way--painting + dancing, for instance, help me get out of my head and more in touch with inspiration" Thank you to everyone who offered their advice! So how about you? What do you do to beat writer's block? Are there any ideas here that you're going to give a try the next time that it's plaguing you?