Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beating the Block

No two writers experience writer's block the same way.  Some see it as little more than a mild annoyance, or a lack of motivation to get the day's work done.  For others it can be a crippling blockage, clogging the vital arteries of the writer's creative heart.

The blockage usually resolves itself with time, but sometimes the blockage can impact other areas of the writer's life in negative ways.  In such cases intervention may be required.  

Here are 5 simple techniques to keep in your Writer's Toolkit next time the pipes gets clogged:

  1. Switch to longhand, or if you already write longhand, switch to the keyboard, blackboard, cardboard, anything that's completely different than what you're accustomed to using.
  2. Move to a new location, preferably outdoors if weather permits.
  3. Free associate on paper.  This is also called brainstorming, and can be a great way to break out of the box and through minor blockages.   
  4. Write something else.  It's not necessary to put away your novel and start another.  Try a short story or a piece of flash fiction.  Writing a piece that's under 1000 words is a great way to get the creative juices going.  If you can't think of a good story, it doesn't matter.  This isn't for publication.  Pick an object or objects next to you and build a story around them.  Think of it as writer's improv.    
  5. Try journaling, either about your day or what you're feeling, or you can journal about your writing.  John Steinbeck had a fascinating process when he worked on East of Eden.  He wrote longhand in bound journals.  On the left facing page he documented his day and his aspirations for the day's writing.  The whole things was published as Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.  I highly recommend it.     

If you're still having trouble, consider that you may be blocked for a reason.  I've found that when I'm having difficulty, it's often because what I'm trying to write doesn't work.  I realize it on a subconscious level, but bringing it into conscious awareness is too painful.  The ego resists, or we're pushing too hard to see alternatives.  In this case it's important to stop pushing and let go of the resistances that are keeping us from seeing the forest for the trees.

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