I thought about titling this post Coming unstuck, which lets you know how I feel about today's topic: Writer's block.
I never used to understand what people meant by "writer's block." I 'd always felt immune to that scribe's disease. When I wrote the first two books in my current series, I had a machine-like discipline. I'd get up at four a.m. every morning and write for at least two hours. No. Matter. What. My progress was always slow but steady. I wrote almost the same number of pages every day. My writing group members were in awe of me.
But then along came Book Three, and I went into a bit of a slump. Actually it felt more like an avalanche. Even though I loved the story I was working on, sometimes I'd find that days would pass without any progress at all. I eventually had to ask for--gasp!--an extension from my editor, who graciously granted it to me. But even then I kept running behind. Ultimately I made the new deadline, but barely. Now I have a recurring nightmare about missing the deadline, which has replaced my old nightmare about discovering that I've missed an entire semester of a class, just before the final exam.
So what exactly is writer's block? I think the term is a bit misleading. It implies that the writer doesn't know what to write about -- such as a lack of inspiration, perhaps. In my case I knew the story I wanted to write, but I seemed to have lost the daily writing rhythm along the way. Maybe what I had was actually energy block. Or focus block.
So here were a few of my cures for The Block. All of them proved to be helpful at times:
- Write 15 minutes a day
You can write for at least 15 minutes today, even if you're the busiest person on the planet. Doing that small amount per day helps you get the habit and rhythm back. Over time, your progress will add up.
- Write at the same time each day.
I think this is the single most helpful habit that will enable you to break through writer's block. If you sit your butt down in a chair at the same time every day, your body starts to learn that this is the time for writing. Your writing flow will start to kick in at that time.
- Free writing
This technique is where you grab a couple of random words and "free write" them into your WIP for a set amount of time. Actually, this one has never worked that well for me. Whenever I try free writing, I get stuck at the same damned spot that I'm stuck in my regular writing. And then I get even more depressed about my writer's block. But I know that free writing works wonders for some people. For great tips about free writing and other ways to break through The Block, I recommend Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's book, Pen On Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide To Igniting The Writer Within. (Guys can pick up a few tips too!)
- Put your writing first
I have many acquaintances who have endless reasons for not writing. Anniversaries, birthdays, conflicting deadlines, vacations, relatives visiting...you get the idea. Unsurprisingly, these people are frequently blocked writers. Your writing needs to be a first priority in your life, or you'll be doin' time inside The Block.
Coming Sunday, June 21, Paul Kemprecos tells us what it’s like to collaborate with Clive Cussler. And future Sunday guest bloggers include Robert Liparulo, Linda Fairstein, Julie Kramer, Grant Blackwood, and more.