Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Way We Are: Countering Writer's Block

When I was a kid and I first heard about writer's block, I always assumed it was some mystical thing that came over writers that stopped them from writing. Something like how vertigo can stop someone from piloting a plane. Something that happened to them that they really couldn't control.

Maybe I just figured that authors had a magical something that allowed stories to flow from their brain on command, and that writer's block stopped the flow. (Oh my gosh. Wouldn't that be so cool?)(No, not the writer's block. That's almost never cool. The having stories flow freely from our brains.) Since then, of course, I learned that writer's block is basically not having thought through your story enough. Not having figured out the next part or the next scene. That it isn't just a mystical thing. (I picture it as a reinforced steel wall in my mind, behind which all answers to my plot reside. I have to beat and beat and beat at it to punch a hole big enough to grab out a piece of the plot, then I have to beat and beat and beat to get the next part.)

Getting those stories to flow takes so much work! But beyond that, it takes your mind being in a creative place-- mentally and / or physically. When you are putting in the time and the work and the effort to try to figure out the next scene or that next plot turn, or how to make that climax more spectacular, or one of the million little things you have to figure out along the way, there are things that can definitely trigger your creativity more. Things you see or hear or experience or places you can be that help you unblock writer's block.

So what's your go-to? What creative triggers
can you count on to help you get past writer's block?

For me, it's walking. Folding clothes. Looking at pictures of fascinating scenery. Watching movie trailers. Listening to my daughter's wildly fantastical stories. That last few moments when I'm lying in bed before I fall asleep.

Now it's your turn! Share what works for you-- it just might work for someone else, too.

26 comments:

Joshua said...

I've mentioned this before, but I step away and look up into the sky. For some reason, looking at clouds or stars clears the junk away from my thinking brain. It often works for me.

Kelley said...

I must admit...I haven't really had this problem yet. I think because once I start getting bored with a ms (maybe that's my way of warning myself 'writer's block is coming') I move to another ms entirely. Haha.

But I get ideas by just day dreaming during the day.

Nick Wilford said...

I like the cartoon. I agree with walking as a good way to think things through (swimming, too). It's better if it's a good long walk, but I don't really have time for that these days! Anything to relax your mind is good, so you're not just thinking about your day to day tasks, that's when the answers tend to come.

Tara Tyler said...

taking a break! stop thinking and dwelling and worrying about it. the ideas arent ready to come out yet.

i also use this philosophy with skittish kids and animals,
ignore them and they will come to you!

Christa said...

I talk things out with anyone and every one who will listen. And then I read. Bad stuff and good stuff. I have no idea how I push past it, but I just do. And sometimes, I start something shiny and new and short and tell myself I'll go back to that painful one later.

mshatch said...

I usually find that if I'm stuck it's because I'm coming at it from the wrong angle. Maybe I need to start the scene later, or earlier, or in a different place. Maybe I need to skip the scene altogether and move on to the next. Whatever it is once I discover it then I can happily move on. And walking definitely helps :)

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I outline to prevent writer's block. It has really helped. My problem is knowing how to start each chapter. I really struggle to get through that part. Just wrote a post about it. Guess the two are similar, but different. I know where I want the story to go, but it takes forever to figure out how to get there, LOL.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

If I am blocked or need a break from some part of my manuscript, I just work on some other part of that WIP. If I've hit a dead end in the plot, for example, I work on the character sketches. There is always something in my manuscripts that could use work. ; )

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I turn to my writing books and biographies of other writers. It always inspires me and helps me to look at problems from a different angle. Great post, Peggy.

Patti said...

Going outside definitely helps and reading other books helps as well.

Leigh Ann said...

Guuuh nothing makes me feel more incompetent than writer's block. The. Worst.

I have all the usuals, showering, working out, sleeping on it, but I also like to read - sometimes a turn of phrase or something a character says will inspire me - and, OF COURSE, listen to the WiP soundtrack. Soundtracks are KING.

Nice post, Peggy. :)

J. A. Bennett said...

I think my biggest block is that I start to doubt myself, I can't say that I'll ever be good enough so why try? That's no way to live. I just have to find my positive attitude and jump right back in.

JeffO said...

A number of things have helped me get unstuck. Mostly it involves simply changing my venue. I'll take a walk, or grab a notebook and lie on my bed. A lot of times, just getting away from the computer for a few minutes is all it takes.

Of course, I've never suffered from a truly immense case of writer's block, either. This is all for the 'stuckies'.

Connie B. Dowell said...

Oh, those last few moments of wakefulness! I keep a notebook by the bed now, because I'm apt to have a great idea (or at least I think so in the middle of the night) and then forget the details of that idea completely by the next morning.

Lan said...

For me, getting over writer's block is difficult because it's usually caused by something specific. Like if I read a book that's so utterly fantastic that I don't think I could write anything close to that. So I just stop. Usually what get's me through is reading over my own work again or reading something that's on par with my work but has been published and is doing well. Besides that, going for a drive and watching an action movie usually get's the juices flowing.

Kelly Polark said...

I usually read in the genre I'm writing in to help just get back into the mindframe.
I want to start working on a rhyming pb. Usually it comes easy to me, but I been writing middle grade for almost two years, so I'm finding it hard to get back into picture book mode. I should follow my own advice and read a ton of rhyming pb's to get into that mindset. (Well, I guess I read pb's daily in the kindergarten class, but maybe pick some of my fave go-to's for inspiration.)

Jessie Humphries said...

I like to talk it out with a cp or friend. Someone like you actually! Brainstorming and bouncing ideas around with a creative person totally helps me.

Ruth Josse said...

Reading, running, mindless tasks, movies, sitting in the dark, sometimes writing through the block. All those things work for me. :)

Emily R. King said...

The best cure for me is to write something else. I take the pressure off by writing a new story line or even a poem. I also like to talk it out. Sometimes talking through what I'm stuck on helps me to figure why and how to fix it.

Jay Noel said...

Sock puppets.

Or listening to music. Sometimes both.

Susan Kane said...

My key is to "let the cat out of the box" (Schrodinger's cat?) Let my thoughts do some free association, with a notebook in hand. Good things happen when I don't push it too much.

Carrie Butler said...

Music. Definitely music. Oo, with a little daydreaming thrown in! :)

Tonja said...

Sometimes I need to walk away, but it's usually better to just write my way through it.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

A walk, or a nap. Sometimes both :-)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

A walk or run, folding laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, in the shower, falling asleep or just waking up...

Clarissa Draper said...

Walking and talking really helps me. Even just walking around my writing space, talking out the scene, imagining I was different characters. That really helps.