I was looking over my so-called writing accomplishments for the year so far, and I started to feel a little down about my writing. I know I shouldn’t; it’s not like I’ve wasted the last 23 days. In fact January has been pretty good so far. I launched Write Good Books on the first of the year, Theme of Absence is continuing to grow, and I’ve already a short story accepted for an upcoming anthology.
So now you’re wondering, “Well, what’s the problem then?”
The problem is with my writing. More specifically, it’s that I haven’t been doing any writing.
Now, don’t think that means I haven’t been working. I spend 2-4 hours a day–without exception–working on writing. That includes Theme of Absence submissions and correspondence, Write Good Books posting and design, revising and resubmitting short stories, and all of the social media stuff involved with trying to market myself as a writer.
In other words, while I have been busy with “writing stuff,” I haven’t actually been writing.
I know I have to prioritize. This blog is a priority to me. So is staying up to date with my Theme of Absence submissions. But the whole reason I’m doing any of this in the first place is due to my passion for writing fiction and how it can strengthen me as a writer.
Jaime Picked Up A Stick
So a couple of nights ago, I said screw it. After finishing up some of the other tasks I had scheduled, I decided that it was time to just shut up and write something. It didn’t have to be anything good, just something new. I gave myself an easily attainable word count goal (and I mean EASY: 250 words) and said that’s it–no bedtime until I reach that word count on something.
I opened up a blank Word document, placed both hands on the keyboard and…you guessed it. Did nothing. Not a single keystroke.
With no planning, no prompting, and no real ideas in my head, I had nothing to type. After spending so much “writing time” not writing, when I finally sat down to write, I end up with writer’s block?
Are the writing gods kidding?
What could I do?
An empty Word document is writer’s block’s best friend.
When you’re faced with writer’s block, you can either let it defeat you, or push it aside. I wasn’t going to let it defeat me so quickly, but I did decide to take a quick time out. I instantly closed the empty Word document.
What I needed wasn’t an empty page staring me in the face taunting me to try to write something. What I needed was something to pull me into a more creative place.
Steps I took to overcome writer’s block
1. Start with the music. Yes, searching through my iTunes library can double as a stall tactic, but it is important to pick the right music to put you in the right mood for writing. If I’m writing horror, I listen to new age. If I’m writing science fiction, it’s usually Blue Oyster Cult or Rush. If it’s something upbeat, I listen to top 40 stuff. Figure out what music helps get you ready to write and start listening.
2. Open up your WIP Folder. I’ve got dozen’s of works-in-progress. I scanned over the pending titles to see if any of those would catch my eye. Sometimes there might be that one story that you haven’t touched in months, or even years, that will suddenly jump out and say “Finish Me!” Nothing kills writer’s block quicker than that. But in this case, none of my WIPs felt like talking that night.
3. Hit the internet. Yes, this is a risky move that could quite possibly be fatal, but if you’re a responsible web user, you just might find the inspiration you’re looking for before getting sucked down into the bottomless void of Facebook and Youtube. I’ll often browse through writing prompt sites or look at pictures from horror movies to find some inspiration.
4. Close your eyes. You’d be surprised how much more creative you can be when you shut out all of the distractions and just let your mind do the work. I come up with my best ideas in the shower, but I don’t want to recommend you take a shower here. The point is, when you get rid of all the distractions and just let your mind take you where it will, or even just daydream, the ideas will just start flowing in.
5. Type the first sentence that comes to mind. If all else fails, try this: Look at an object or imagine one in your head. And then write down a sentence about it. Anything. Earlier in this post, I wrote “Jaime picked up a stick.” I honestly don’t even remember where that came from, but as soon as I typed it, I hit the ground running. I hit my measly goal of 250 words in about ten minutes.
So how did I overcome my writer’s block that night? Maybe it was Jaime (whoever the hell he is) who bailed me out. And all he did was pick up a stick. Steps 1 through 4 can help get you inspired, but really, in then end, it’s up to you to create a Jaime and put a stick on the ground for him to pick up. As soon as you do that, you beat writer’s block.
I’d like to close by noting that if you can force out 250 words in ten minutes, that adds up to a whopping 1500 words in an hour. Sure, I spent 45 minutes goofing around and finding inspiration, but once I got past that, the words practically came out faster than I could type them.
This brings up a very interesting point. I wrote 250 words in ten minutes. Let’s say you can write, on average, 250 words in fifteen minutes. Do that four times and you’ve written a thousand words.
When motivated, writing 1000 words in one hour is NOT an unreasonable goal.
Keep that in mind. And next time you get struck by writer’s block, come back to this post and try to remember Jaime and his stick.
And then get to work.
How do you overcome writer’s block? Feel free to share in the comments section.