A cousin suggested this post when I first started blogging. How do you handle the brick wall that is writer’s block? And I put off writing about it, thinking, What if writing about it would cause it? Well, hopefully I haven’t jinxed myself with this post.
So far, I haven’t suffered a full-blown case with my works-in-progress. At times I feel like I’m pulling the ideas from a sea of molasses, but they do come through. Maybe my characters and I need to work on widening those tunnels between their universes and mine. They might be getting clogged up with cut scenes or dropped dialogue tags and extraneous descriptors.
However, for some time I’ve been catching glimpses of that wall from the corner of my eye with the blog. Some of you have undoubtedly figured that out already from previous posts. I don’t think it’s hard to read between the lines on some of them.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott handles the topic well. And I really like her idea that writer’s block can come about because we become so familiar with our work that it starts to sound cliché or trite. I know that happens to me. And then I wonder if my ideas are any good. And I find myself starting at the computer screen or a hard copy and not writing. Fortunately, I’ve always gotten going again with the books.
You can find all kinds of advice out there about how to get past it. Take a walk. Clean the house (maybe that one’s desperation). Put the story away for a week. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Write something else (hey, a blog post!). Write one sentence—then try a second. Work from a prompt. Lamott suggests writing 300 words of anything—even if it’s how much you hate writing at the moment.
All of that reminds me of people’s suggestions when we have the hiccups. Hold your breath and count to ten. Drink soda while holding your nose. Eat a spoonful of sugar. Get someone to scare you. . . . How many of these remedies work for you? Maybe only one. And what works for you may not help your spouse or friends. But one is all it takes, right?
I think getting past writer’s block is similar. Each of us has to find our own way out of it. What works for me may not work for you because the underlying cause could be different. Maybe it’s realizing our current endeavor isn’t working and needs to be rethought. Or maybe we’ve written ourselves into a corner and don’t know how to escape.
But it may also mean we need a break from the writing. We can’t run non-stop. People who work 100-hour weeks may do it for years. But it takes a toll, whether they realize it or not. If you’ve come to writing later in life, remember that the time spent writing used to be spent on something else. The brain and body might be missing the former activities.
Some writers are afraid to take a break, fearing inspiration will leave them. But I think the opposite is true. Just as a vacation can reinvigorate us when we’re back on the job, a writing break can help the brain and Muse recharge.
One of the things on my “to do” list is to find interviews with my favorite writers about their experiences with writer’s block. Then, when it hits, I’ll reread them as I face that wall. Knowing that they deal with it, too, is reassuring. And then a brisk walk in the park sounds like a good idea.
How about you? Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, what helped you get through it?
PS. If you don’t yet follow The Write Transition, I’ll give a shameless plug here for Carrie’s Thursday post. Her posts are always great fun, but this one does touch close to home for me. 🙂