I thought I was immune to writer’s block. Most of the time, I juggled a dozen different writing projects without missing a beat. Then, my husband’s serious illness created a mountain of chaos in my world. Six months have passed since hubby’s heart attack and ensuing end stage renal disease. For a while, the hospital was our home away from home as we faced emergency after emergency. But lately things have calmed down some. And I’ve had to work my way out of a writing drought.
Writing Tip for Today: When writer’s block strikes, what’s a writer to do? Here are some easy-to-implement suggestions:
Get into Shorts
If you are writing a novel and get stuck on a plot problem, a rewrite or other blockade, try writing a short form–a short story, a poem, a magazine article. Novels force us to think in terms of a lengthy arc and sometimes (especially when things aren’t working) it helps to take a break from long works and refresh your creativity with a short form. I once jolted a mild case of writer’s block by studying the villanelle, a form of sonnet. I found that simply thinking in the strict parameters of this verse form helped me rejuvenate my ideas about the novel I was so flummoxed by. Write free verse, haiku, sonnet or even a limerick. Even if your product is awful, it can set the stage for better writing.
Read a Good Book
If writer’s block has slowed or stopped your word count, try reading a book you’ve heard about or one from a current bestseller list. Reading classics is good too, but I think writers, if the goal is to publish, should always balance their reading between the classic and the contemporary. Why? Many older novels wouldn’t stand a chance with today’s reading public, with their omniscient viewpoints and slower pace. Also, serious writers should stay abreast of what’s being published–if only to be knowledgeable about trends and bestsellers. When you read, do so first for pleasure, but secondly to analyze how other authors solve writing problems. There’s no shame in borrowing a literary device if it works to get you writing again. Your novel may not keep the device, but it might help lift you past the obstacle.
Do It Anyway!
I love a recent Anna Quindlen quote I ran across: “Some days I fear writing dreadfully, but I do it anyway,” she writes. “I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.” That old but sound advice to write every day, to produce word count even if it’s deleted later, to dare to write badly, is still the best way I know to keep writer’s block at bay. I’m working myself back into full time writing as I learn to cope with my husband’s illness too. I’m writing everyday, even if it’s a journal entry or a silly poem. I’m conquering my fear of writing badly by reading the best books I can find. And even if I manage to write crap, I’m keeping in mind Quindlen’s warning that writing nothing leads to nothing.
How about you? Do you have favorite ways to defeat writer’s block? What are they?