Writing Decongestant


I have stalled in my edit. I don't really *believe* in writer's block. What I think these periods of difficulty suggest is that you need to take a break, look at your work differently, write something else for a while. Back to the whole multi-tasking thing, it helps if you have a few other projects on the go so you can still keep your hand in. But while change is nice, I find it's never a case of just *waiting* until the block suddenly lifts (not least because the block is imaginary in the first place...) - you have to find a way to clear your way back to your original work... some way that doesn't include burning, an axe or psychotropic medication, preferably.

writer's block

Here's what works for me:

  • Ok, maybe just *a little* psychotropic medication. Or caffeine, or alcohol. Or cheesecake. Get happy, anyhow, whatever causes your large iron vessel to remain afloat.
  • Get out of the goddamn house/pit of death/cafe/library/cave - go and actually look at some real, living people, instead of writing about them. Talk to someone - oh, hang on, dialogue doesn't sound like that, does it? Pretend like you're crossing a road and LOOK, LISTEN and LOOK AGAIN.
  • Travel. Yeah, if you have the cash, go somewhere exciting, but if you're a regular skinto like the rest of us, then get on a bus, a train, a tram - something you don't need to steer or drive yourself  if possible, allowing for maximum peoplewatching concentration. My BEST ideas have all popped up on commutes. Oh, and bring a pen and notepad (or a dictaphone if you like to look like a private detective and/or crazy person).
  • Chop wood. If lumberjacking ain't your scene, then do something similarly menial, repetitive, rhythmic. Cook. Knit. Paint a wall. Sweep a floor.
  • Exercise. If I knew anything about statistics I'd tell you something like: My productivity is 87.3% higher when I've cycled to my writing cafe than if I drive there. I'd believe that percentage - blood is rushing, brain is going *meep meep meep meep use me use me use me* a bit like the little byte from Tron (1982 version - we're not going to even get into that debate).
  • Read something that makes you go "faaaaaaaaark I wish I could write like that" - then get depressed, think you'll never amount to anything and you might as well shred your manuscript for insulation. But don't. Go take a bath, take a week or so, then go back to your work and go "heeeeeey its not actually that bad... I can work with this."
  • Get prompts, suggestions, nudges, pointers, critiques, reviews, comments and ideas from other writers and writing sites. My favourites are Show Me Your Lits, 26n, One Word, Zoetrope and Bridge the Gap. Oh, and Stumbleupon- although you lose several hours, you find some gems. Need I say Google? Wikipedia? Your own bookshelf?
  • Cheat. Skip the chapter that's doing your head in. Go look at the end, or your favourite scene. Read from the beginning and make a note of phrases and sections you're really pleased with - work out what you like about them and learn how you write best. Give yourself a break and get on with life for a while, because if you're really a writer, you'll get back to it eventually.
Posted on February 8, 2011 and filed under Writers' Groups, Writing.