Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How I Beat Writer's Block

Yes, it can be beaten. In fact, that's the first step for beating it. Acknowledging that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don't feel inspired, but that doesn't mean you cannot become inspired.

So here are differant methods I've used over the years. Some of them are good if you want to keep writing, but find your energy/interest/brain processes slowing.

On getting my brain to work (or focus):

Drink a full glass of water. The majority of our bodies consists of water, and dehydration can really slow your brain down. Drink a full glass before beginning to write, and never write for long periods without having some source of hydration nearby!

Go outside and take a five minute walk. The fresh air and physical exercise will invigorate your body and give your mind a major boost. Just don't walk too much and tire yourself out!

Drink caffiene. Even Jane Austen drank tea. While I don't advise drinking caffiene every day, it can be a beautiful kick when your mind is just working too slow and you desperately need to get some work done. Coffee of course is the biggest motivator, and if you don't like it straight, there are plenty of amazing flavors to add for extra zest. My personal favorites are vanilla, caramel, Irish cream, pumpkin and white chocolate. However if you hate coffee or don't want that much caffiene, tea is an excellent substitute. I love Irish Breakfast Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, any kind of White Tea, and Green Tea mixed with Pomegranate or Cranberry juice. The teas, of course, can be iced if you're writing on a hot summer day.

Pick up the computer and start typing. I may not be enthusiastic about it at first, but by the time I've worked steadily for ten minutes, I'm usually pretty into the story. If I'm not, then there is something wrong with my mind and it's probably physical (tired or sick) and needs to be addressed.

On getting inspired:

To be quite honest, I don't struggle with this as much anymore. When I have a book going, I'm always thinking about it and usually have my work planned out well in advance. I rarely sit down at the computer without already knowning where I'm going next. However, occasionally I do get stuck (especially on overarching plot!), and here are some things that have helped me.

Listening to music. I have a wide variety of music, and can pick songs that fit the tone of what I'm trying to write if I need to get into a specific mood.

Writing off of emotions. If I'm particularily mad, or sad or depressed, sometimes I'll use the high of those emotions to fuel my writing. My first five minutes or so are usually awful, but then I flow into something that works.

Watching a movie. Again, this is an emotion fueling thing, but it can also trigger thoughts. Watching how a story plays out can tip you off to why certain aspects of your own story aren't working.

Ditto for reading a book.

Talking with others about the story. Always make sure you have at least one person you can talk to about your story. I usually talk to myself first, but then run my thoughts and ideas by a trusted friend/editor/mentor who can give me solid honest feedback on those ideas. They can also help me when I'm stuck, tell me what isn't working, or give me random ideas that often flow out into entirely new plotlines I never thought of before.

Write backstory. If you can't write the novel itself, then write about your characters. Who are they? What makes them tick? Fill out biography sheets for them, or write sketches of what they were like as children, or what they might be like as adults.

Write something else. If I can't work on one story (and I have seriously been blocked on my current book for months at a time) then I don't give up writing. I usually turn to fanfiction, because I feel a lot of freedom there and I don't have to worry about the nitty-gritty pieces of developing characters. Fanfiction is easy for me to slip in and out of, and therefore is great for side projects when I need some time away from the main project.

Take time away from the project. I said this in the previous paragraph, but it is really important enough to state again here. Sometimes you do need to take time away from a project. Sometimes this just means you need to stop writing it for awhile, but continue to brainstorm/pray about it/research, etc. Other times, though, especially if you are really, really stuck, you need to take time, live more of life, and come back to it and revisit it with fresh eyes months or sometimes years later. (You need to take time away in between edits anyhow)

Research. Ah yes. Research can help. Even modern day books or fantasy books can require some kind of research. So if you can't write - fill your time with the subject matter anyhow.

Keep writing on something else. If you are a writer you must always write. If it is not your major project, then work on a short story, or a description sketch, or a differant novel, or a fan fic, or post well-thought out posts on a forum or correspond with friends or write in a journel or update a blog. The important thing is to try your best to write every single day, in some way or another (and yes, that is part of why I keep this blog). This keeps your writing skills sharp and your mind strong! (not to mention your fingers...)

Sit down at your keyboard and write. Yes. I'm repeating this. It's a temptation to get so wrapped up on these other "inspirations" that you put off your original project and it never gets finished. Don't fall into that trap. Keep working at it. Keep sitting down at your keyboard and trying to write for ten minutes. Don't give up. Not this week? Then make sure you sit down and try next Monday.

Pray. The ability to write and create is a gift from God, and if you are a Christain you will want to use your abilities in a manner that is pleasing to him. He is the one who gives us our inspiration, and it is he who holds the fate of our work in his hands. Nothing can be done without him, but in him all things are possible.


Nonexistant anymore said...

Great lists! I have used mosts of those tips, and they really work. Particularly talking to others about the story, I have always found that to re-inspire me or my siblings.
May I post this on my blog?

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Certainly! So long as you make sure to attribute it to me and post a link back to my blog. I'm honored! :)

Nonexistant anymore said...

Thank you!
Here's the link to my post: http://thesongofthewind.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-to-beat-writers-block.html