Prevent and Overcome Writer's Block
We all know it, and we all despise it. It strikes without warning, usually when we need our writing to flow the most. The muse who sits on our shoulders as we weave our tales takes a sabbatical, leaving us blank, staring at a blinking cursor. No matter how much we seem to try, nothing comes, and if it does, it is quickly vanquished by the backspace key. Do not despair, for writer's block is a normal thing, and it will pass. I've dealt with it frequently, and I'm here to share my tips for preventing and overcoming writer's block with you.
1. Keep writing.
You may feel that nothing worth its salt is coming out of your fingers or your mind, and the words appearing on the page are pointless and senseless drivel. I urge you to persevere and keep writing. Don't delete, and even if you believe every sentence you type is garbage, keep going. Eventually, something will happen, and your characters will take you where they need to go.
It's as simple as writing your characters in a mundane situation and having a boring conversation, but what happens next could be anyone's guess! Perhaps, they are interrupted by an explosion, maybe pink rats nibble on their toes, or maybe a portal opens into another dimension. No matter how outlandish it sounds, just keep writing. You never know what will appear! As they say, it could be a diamond in the rough, or maybe I'm just quoting Disney movies from my childhood—moving on.
2. Stop writing.
If you've been on a good streak, putting out words with little problem, and you hit a block, you may need a break. If continuing writing doesn't lead to anything, it may be as simple as walking away. Sometimes, your mind needs time to refresh. Brew a pot of coffee or tea, mix up a drink of your choice, and relax. Read a book, watch a movie or television, or play a video game. Lose yourself for a little while in someone else's story. You never know what inspiration will come from taking a break, escaping, and letting your mind rest.
3. Pull out a pen and paper.
Sometimes getting away from the computer is a good idea. Pull out a notebook, post-it notes, or a big piece of paper and write notes. I find when I'm struggling with where I want to go next, creating a chart can help. Start with the situation, or a character, and branch out by jotting down everything that comes to your mind, even if it sounds silly.
I'll often go on for pages like this, and eventually something miraculously appears! Write everything, your characters aspirations, what he/she wants to accomplish, your setting, the problem, ways to solve the problem, relationships, and your antagonistic force's goal. Just keep jotting things down, and you'll be surprised what you come up with.
Preventing a block is another situation altogether, and I want you to feel comforted with the fact that it's not always preventable. Writer's block happens, and it's something we all have to deal with. Despite it's inevitable occurrence, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to reduce its frequency.
1. Outline, a bit.
As a writer, I sit very much right smack in the middle of the outliner/seat of your pants writing style. I do both depending on how the story is flowing and how much of the story is in my head already. One way I try to prevent a block is to sit down and plan where I would like to go in the upcoming chapters. I usually never plan over two or three chapters this way, and the plan only comprises a few sentences with a general theme of where I would like to go. I never outline my whole book before I start unless I have a clear vision, but I know many writers are very successful with that method.
Loosely planning the next couple of chapters before I sit down not only lowers the frequency of my blocks but also gives me enough freedom to take the story in another direction if something else comes up. Knowing my characters, I'm often surprised, mouth agape, with where they take me on their adventures. I always joke that I don't have control over my characters, and that they do what they want with or without my permission. Don't worry if you go in a different direction than your outline. It isn't set in stone.
2. Stop writing when there is something left to write.
I've heard this piece of advice float around the writing community for some time. Sometimes I adhere to it, and sometimes I don't because I can't stop writing. This method has its merits. The times I have stopped when there is something left to be said, I find it easier to pick up the next time I write. When I finish my writing session, I write a sentence in my document detailing where I would like to go next. The next time I open my document, I have an idea—sometimes clear and sometimes vague—of where I want to go.
Even if you follow all these tips, writer's block can and will still strike. We are all human, and our brains and muses will take a vacation, leaving us treading water with no place to go. In the end, I urge you to write. It may seem like junk, but most times, something will come of it. If it doesn't, that's okay. It happens all the time. Take a break, enjoy stories you love, and come back to your writing later.
Thank you for sharing this time with me, and I hope these tips help you defeat your own writer's block. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavours.
Have you ever experienced writer's block? How did you get rid of it?
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