How do you deal with writer’s block?
Excellent question! Writer’s block and the fear of the blank page is sort of the ‘common cold’ of a writer’s life. Since I’ve experienced creative blocks numerous times, I’d like to pass along a few thoughts in the hope that at least one will help you should you ever run up against this particular brick wall in your writing:
- “I don’t have writer’s block,” the voice in your head says, “I’ve just been busy!” Denial isn’t a solution for writer’s block but it sure is a sign that writer’s block has reared its ugly head. If you find yourself fixated on cleaning the refrigerator with a toothbrush, or running errands that take you far, far away from your work space for days on end…you might just be blocked.
- Admit it and move on. Judging yourself a bad writer for being blocked just adds to the difficulty of getting back on track. Most experts agree that fear of being judged by others is a primary cause of writer’s block. So, toss self-judgment in the shredder and get back to work.
- Sit with it. Employ Jane Yolen’s wonderful B.I.C. (‘butt in chair’) advice and spend time on a regular basis with your writing. Make an appointment each day with your muse and stick with it. Whatever you commit for the day, be it five minutes or five hours, do it faithfully no matter what. You have to show up for the words to flow. It won’t happen otherwise.
- Set deadlines. Make your personal deadlines a hard line in the sand. Do you want four paragraphs by the end of the hour? Set that deadline. Do you want something ready for the conference critique by Friday? Set that one, too. Adhere to your own deadlines as faithfully as you would those of others. Make a game of setting the timer on your smart phone for fifteen minutes and see how much you can write on your project in that time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
- Learn to juggle. When you find yourself stuck on a project, switch gears and write something else. Anything else. Something new, something old, it matters not. What matters is that writing in a different vein allows your brain to fire up a completely new way, and what you learn from one project may help conquer the creative block you experienced in another.
- Be willing to write crap. (Note to self: Yes, it’s okay to write a crappy first draft.) Forget fancy narrative structure and poetic imagery, and just get the bare bones down. We are always our worst critics. Just write and let it flow. Remember writing is a process, not a product.
- Drop perfectionism. Don’t demand that your writing be ‘perfect’ in the end. Shoot for your best effort and submit it when it feels right. For example, I know one author who has been writing the same novel for fifteen years; writing until the most perfect words are in the perfect order e before calling it finished, and ready for submission. This, too, is a subtle form of writer’s block. Resolve to be a ‘good enough’ writer and writer’s block (in any form) will knock on your door less frequently.