Writer’s Block?? Tear Down the Wall!
By Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Writer’s Block is the inability to begin a writing project or the inability to complete a writing project already in progress. Somewhere, in the back of your mind, you hear that nasty little editor saying to you, “You call this good writing?? This is garbage. Why are you wasting your time? You’ll never write anything worthwhile.” That voice may even sound a lot like your former seventh grade English teacher! So, how do you shut that whiny, negative internal editor down and get back to work? Here are some suggestions you might find helpful.
Permit it. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Just get those words on the paper. It doesn’t matter if the first draft is filled with misspelled words, rambling thoughts, and questionable grammar. Just get the ideas written down.
Date it. Make a date with yourself to write. Pick a time and a place and tell yourself, “On this day I will write one paragraph, no more, no less. It doesn’t matter how good it is.” When that paragraph is finished, take yourself out for a special treat. Buy a new book, go out for ice cream, go for walk; do something special that you’ve been putting off. Gradually increase your writing expectations until you find that you’re producing a lot of good writing without knowing how it happened.
Open it. Take your writing out of the box you normally work in. If you write at a computer, buy a bound composition book and write a few pieces by hand. Keep a journal. If you work in a home office, go outside. Or, go to a library, a coffee shop, or a mall. A change of scenery can often work wonders for the tired mind.
Join it. Take a writing class or workshop. Join an online critique group, a writer’s forum, or a local critique group that meets in person. Attend a writing conference. Communing with fellow writers who understand the writing process can be wonderfully invigorating. Just don’t allow your socialization to become an excuse for procrastinating.
Change it. Are you working on a novel? Try writing an essay or poetry. Do you write non-fiction? Rough out a few short stories. Experiment with different forms and genres, and you might find a whole new writing interest.
Create it. If you find you can’t write at all, then don’t. Do something else that is creative that you enjoy. Other creative activities can include: cooking, gardening, music, painting, crafts, etc. I’m a firm believer that creative endeavors begat more creativity. The most important thing is to get that right brain working again.
Time it. Set a timer for five minutes and start writing about any topic you choose. Don’t stop until the buzzer goes off, and don’t waste your precious five minutes correcting misspelled words, fixing grammar, etc. Just write. Five minutes is a long time. If you write without stopping, you’ll be amazed by what you can produce in a mere five minutes.
Move it. Sitting at a desk for hours on end can be stultifying. Get out and get moving. Regular exercise increases your sense of well-being and gives you more energy. Exercise also frees your mind to organize your ideas more effectively.
Share it. Find a writing partner who will help you set deadlines and expect you to meet them. A good critique group can work in this fashion, too. If you know that someone is expecting chapter ten of your novel by next Tuesday, you may find yourself working into the wee hours just to get the chapter finished. Deadlines--real or artificial--create pressure. That pressure could be enough to get you over the hump of writer’s block.
Storm it. Rather than struggle to write something linear and organized, take some time out to do some brainstorming. There are several popular methods for brainstorming. You’ll find links to those listed below. Remember the cardinal rule of brainstorming: All ideas are good.
Stop it…in the middle. Many writers have done this. They stop work in the middle of a sentence, a paragraph, a conversation, or an idea. That forces them to finish yesterday’s thought before they start today’s. Just retyping and editing yesterday’s work can often be enough to get the creative juices flowing again.
Remember it. Once you begin writing again, always remember to--
Oops! Did I say stop in the middle?? I guess I’ll have to finish that thought tomorrow!
Books to Inspire Creativity
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
On Writing, by Stephen King
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
Need something to jump-start your writing? Try these sites for some fun and challenging writing prompts:
Online critique groups
Online critique groups vary greatly by specialty, requirements, and members’ level of experience. Be sure to read the group’s guidelines carefully before you decide to participate. Here are a few established critique groups that have a reputation for being helpful:
To find a local critique group that meets face-to-face, visit the places writers like to congregate. Look for critique groups in bookstores, libraries, community colleges, coffee shops that host readings, and community centers. Do visit the group a few times before you make a commitment to join and actively participate. Every group has its set of dynamics. You need to choose a writer’s group that best fits your needs.
Organization and Brainstorming
Sometimes you just run out of good ideas. Here are some sites to help you with brainstorming and generating new ideas:
Are you having a problem starting or finishing a novel? Then you might want to take a look at this article by Randy Ingermanson. It offers some terrific tips for mapping out that big project:
Newsletter contributing columnist Jeanne Lyet Gassman is an award-winning author whose fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry has been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. In 2002, Ms. Gassman was the recipient of an Encouragement Award in Creative Writing from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and in the 2005 Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll her story, '”Healing Arts,'” was ranked among the Top 10 in the nonfiction category. She also teaches writing classes and conducts workshops in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Please visit her Web site at: