The fear of the block is something most writers in history have had to contend with, some better than others. A lot of writers have no idea what to do when they get blocked so they decide to “write through it” but there’s a major problem with that approach. How is writing through your block supposed to help you if you never understood why you got blocked in the first place? Understanding a problem is the first step is learning how to overcome it. If you take the time to understand the issue that got you hung up in the first place you have a much better chance of fighting past it.
From what I have found from my experience and from talking to other writers here are the three most common reasons that writers get stuck:
1. Not Having Enough Detail or Information:
Like I mentioned in a previous post, writing is a form of illusion. You are attempting to create a fictional world within your work that is able to captivate and hold your readers’ interest. If you do not having enough descriptive detail in your piece, or if the detail you have is lacking, then you might find it difficult to generate ideas. Say your main character is schizophrenic, if you don’t know that much about the syndrome chances are going to run out of ideas. A great idea is to hit up your local library’s reference section and do some research. Research will help you both to create a world that your readers will buy into and to generate more ideas if you get stumped.
2.Not Being Interested:
Coming up with ideas is a daily struggle even when you are interested in your story, but if you have gotten to the point where the plot no longer holds any intrigue for you, what do you think a reader would say about it? If you get bored by your story go back through it from the start and see at what point you began to lose interest and what you could change to make it better. Say for example your character goes off on a long speech which has some crucial plot details in it, but goes on for so long that your readers’ interest begins to dwindle. In that case the best thing to do would be to find a way to break the speech into sections so that the reader is still getting those key plot details from the original speech, but in installments so it does not feel like too much at once.
3. Not Getting Enough Sleep!!!!!
Despite the picture some people have in their heads of writers as some sort of vampiric creatures who avoid sunlight and live on coffee, writers are still human beings. Humans need adequate sleep in order to function. Your brain needs rest in order to think, because if you can’t think, you can’t write…or at least you can’t write well. Have you ever written something when you were exhausted and then read over it later and had absolutely no idea what you were talking about? Well chances are if you can’t understand it, neither can your readers. Give your brain a break, get some sleep.
Alright, now that we’ve gone through some of the traps writers fall into that get them stuck, here are just a few of the little tricks that I have found helpful through the years.
1 – Take a Break:
If you get obsessed with whatever it is that has you stuck, you run the very real risk of over thinking it. If you think about your issues too much you will drive yourself INSANE!!! One of the best things you can do is to go for a walk. You need a little time everyday where you can just clear your mind and relax. Even though the stereotype of the “crazy writer” is popular even to this day, if you want to be able to have a long career as a writer you’ve got to protect your sanity!
2- Read a Book:
Reading books and watching movies is a fantastic way to help you generate ideas. Just pick a random book and start reading. Pick a random movie and start watching. Sometimes I like to pick a book or movie that’s similar to what I’m trying to write and then right after that I pick one that’s totally different. You never know what can give you inspiration! Keep your eyes open for any little thing, the setting, the characters or just a few little phrases. Just a few little pieces can give you an idea or two to get past writer’s block.
3- Learn Something:
A writer can never stop learning about their world. Go watch a documentary, take a class or read a magazine article about something you don’t know that much about. The world changes every day and if you want to write about it or to get new ideas, you’re going to have to learn as much as you can.
4- Don’t throw away your ideas-
Whenever you write anything, even if it doesn’t work, don’t throw it away. Store all of your old work and go back over it later. For example, I save all of my writing that didn’t work in a flash drive labeled “ideas”. A few times there have been poems and short stories that I was able to take off of the flash drive years after I had first written it. Some of them I was able to finish and others I was able to use as inspiration for something else. The thing is, when you’re a writer you need to be able to grow. If something doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get inspiration in the future.
5. Changing Perspective-
One thing that I like to do when I get stuck it to shift the perspective of the story. If I am writing a novel or a short story and I get a bit jammed I like to take some time and to think what one of the other characters in my story would say if they were the narrator. Sometimes I even shift formats. I was writing a novella once and I wasn’t sure where my story was going so I went back through and rewrote the entire thing as a stage play, and then again as a screenplay. Trying to transform the written words of the novel to incorporate the visual aspect of the stage and screen worked like a charm to get my creative juices cranking.
Exercise of the Day: The Rooms
People say that a person’s bedroom reflects their personality. Keeping that in mind, describe the bedrooms of the following characters in as much detail as possible.
1. A faded movie star with alcohol issues.
2. A person who is paranoid (now this paranoia can be real or imagined, like it can be a person it witness protection or even a person who thinks Elvis is after them.)
3. The arch-nemesis of a superhero.
4. A poor grocery store cashier who won the lottery.
Every writer is different so my techniques might not work for you but you never know, give them a shot. If you have different methods or exercises that you use to overcome blocks be sure to comment. I’d love to hear from you!