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Creative Writing: Writer’s Block aka The Dead End

So for an opening article to get me into the swing of things here, I thought I’d tackle something that every writer can relate to. No, not overpriced fuel or the pros-cons of a liquid diet, writer’s block.

Ice Cream Truck by thespiroImagine you’re walking down the road minding your own business, clutching your ‘to-do list’ like the map to buried treasure. The sun is out, the birds are singing, it’s not one of those dreams where you’ve forgotten to wear trousers, everyone is smiling and waving at you…there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s hot enough that you quite fancy yourself an ice cream. Then…

BANG!

You get run over by a stolen ice cream truck. Ironically, you got your ice cream.

Writer’s block is like that though. It strikes when you least expect it, and it can be hard to beat. I’ve used the above introduction to try and show you something. Basically, when everything seems to be going right, even when you have it all planned out…writers block can elbow its way into your head (or run you over).

Everyone has different ways of countering writers block, but here’s some of mine.

Forest Path by GlennGordonGet Outside

You heard me. Get outside. Sure, we’re writers, stereotyped to dark corners and mother’s basements. Quiet places where we can get into our own heads. Now, I don’t know about you, but getting outside can clear your head pretty quickly (if it’s windy it might even blow a bit of fresh air between your ears!). Everything can seem so much easier after a walk. :D

EXERCISE!

Yes, that’s right, you heard me. I’m lucky that my job requires me to maintain a decent level of fitness and that I am allocated said time to do so. It’s amazing how an hour in the gym can burn off the stress of writers block.

Mind Map

Write it all down. EVERYTHING. Get it out of your head, then you can forget having to think about it and refer back to it on paper later.

Read – Research

She's Reading by StreetByOuritRead everything. I mean it. Read everything in sight. The newspaper is good, particularly if you read something you have heard of before. It’ll get the gears going in your head, get you thinking, building the network/relationship between what you know and what you’re discovering.

Don’t just read YOUR genre, reads others too. And big thing – read your idols. Remind yourself of who you want to write like (that is, if you want to write like someone else).

Research is another tag I’ve added to reading, as this is how I view it (it’s a matter of opinion). I’m a big history fan, particularly Roman, Persian, Nordic and Celtic. Research any given topic, you never know, you might end up using it!

Watch – Listen

As with reading the same can be said for both watching and listening. It’s the ability to take something away from a program, a film, an advert, a song, an audio book – different receptors pick up different things. Listening is a big one – as in my eyes (haha, confused yet?) – you can write something a thousand different ways dependant on what background noise you have, though I’ll talk about this at another time in another article.

Change Story/Scene/Genre

Pens & Pencils by Unknown ArtistJump a chapter ahead, go back and edit (be careful of this second one, don’t get sucked in!), go to a different story in the same world (if you have one – for example I have several books concept’ed for different times in my fantasy world).

Change in genre is a little different. Primarily, at the moment, my focus is heroic-fantasy. I do however dabble in horror, sci-fi, crime, romance, thriller and yes, shame though I admit it, ‘adult’ stories. (The fiancée never seems to complain about this last one – I guess it’s like having your own personal 50 Shades of Grey on tap? Babe, if you’re reading this, the secret is out. Oh, and I know you have probably shared a story or two at work. THE CHEEK OF IT!)

Plan

Similar to mind map, but the idea here is to plan something that you want to write. It’ll give you a goal to aim for, a juicy chapter that you can’t wait to knock out!

Write Fine Art Print by creativelifebydesignJUST WRITE ALREADY

Seriously, just write. Put pen to paper, finger to key (giggidy). Get on with it. Not every day is going to be a good writer day. Nor will every week or month. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and your story won’t be written in a year if you don’t start somewhere. After all, you can always come back and edit later…or even delete and re-start if you’re really brave.

If you have any more tips and tricks, feel free to share them in the comment section!

Now, what’s your excuse for not giving it a shot even when you have writer’s block?

((No ice cream trucks were hurt during the writing of this article – though there was an unsolved incident involving a Magnum.))

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6 Comments

  1. Here’s another tip that works for me: change your writing venue.

    I have an office at home, but if I hit a sticky patch I go somewhere else to write – take the laptop outside if it’s a nice day, commandeer the dining room table or curl up on the sofa. When I get stuck I start to dread having to write, and that horrible sinkingbegin to associate the familiar environment of my office with that dread. Going somewhere new helps shake my brain out of the rut. If you don’t have another room to use or a garden you can take a notebook and pencil to the park or even up sticks to the local coffee shop, which has the added advantage of caffeine on tap: win-win!

    • Whoops, hit “submit” too soon! That line should have read “When I get stuck I start to dread having to write, and begin to associate that horrible sinking feeling with the familiar environment of the office.”

      Apologies – I’m blaming the cat on my desk…

  2. Mark says:

    I’ve never had writer’s block. I half believe it doesn’t exist. I have certainly had periods of inability to write due to having nothing to say, and also have had plenty of periods of simply writing poorly. But never have I been in a situation when I had something to say, felt capable of saying it well, but been unable to. To me it sounds too much like superstition.

  3. wolfking says:

    I think fear is a primary cause for writers block, at least for me. I think too hard about a plot or a scene and get too caught up in what it could be that I can’t make a decision. Then I sit and stare, dwelling on it. That is my primary reason I get stuck and the best way to get over it is to write. Write it one way, if it doesn’t work, write it again. Eventually, something worth while comes out of it.

  4. James says:

    I agree. Fear. So much fear that I won’t write it well, I don’t write it a all.

    For me it helps to try to forget everything outside my story. Forget other writers or thoughts of being published. Just focus on a story that matters to me and that I would write even if I knew for a fact that it would never be published.

  5. L.K. Donovan says:

    Something else that can help: think about your story as you fall asleep. Let the scenes unfold as if you were watching a movie, instead of trying to direct the action. I’ve found that doing this over a series of days or weeks can get me past sticking points. Also, it’s a lot less pressure than staring at a blank screen :)

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