DISCLAIMER: I may or may not be dealing with a slight case of this at the moment.
Sometimes, writer’s block is a quiet, somber annoyance, filled with insecurity and a tinge of disappointment. For me, writer’s block is a rather angering bout of self-doubt and frustration, perhaps spiced with a nice sprinkle of self-loathing. It makes me feel like I am wasting time or that I am missing out on some magical element that will make all the other elements of a project fall into place. And frankly, it just makes me mad.
But let’s not get angry, Michael. Let’s look at some strategies before we get out of control.
Find Some Fresh Inspiration
For me, I need to consume a large amount of inspiration to help me carry a project from 100 words to 80,000 words. Oftentimes, this results in a few lapses of writing, a few too many forays into movie watching, music downloading, daydreaming, and book reading. But for me, the biggest writer’s block is a lack of inspiration. If I don’t fell inspired, I’m not writing, even if I really want to or if I feel like I should be.
So, go out and find something inspiring. Watch a documentary about the subject matter you’re tackling. Go read a book in the genre you’re writing. Download some new music. Hit up a new museum or venue. Do something that will provide you with some freshness and newness that will breathe some life into your work. I find that old inspirations often yield that result: old, stale work.
Have a Goal
Another setback for me is aimlessness. I don’t mean to say that you should outline your entire novel — some may, but that’s not at all for me. I do mean to say though that there should be a goal to guide you. What is the goal of your character? What is happening in the scene? Where is all of this going? Sometimes it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the minute details of it all that it’s hard to have a clear direction. That lack of direction can sometimes be detrimental to the stamina it takes to write a novel.
Go For a Walk
Do it. Now. A change of scenery will help. I mean, how inspiring is your computer screen or your bedroom. Mine isn’t all that inspiring. Also, I find that if I have a negative writing experience in a certain space for a considerable amount of time, that negativity seems to linger. It’s as if I can feel it in the air around me and I predetermine that I’m going to struggle with writing before I’ve even sat down and perched my fingers.
So, bundle up, sailor, it’s getting cold (#CanadianProblems). But don’t let it deter you. And bring a notebook. There’s nothing worse that being struck in the head with a breakthrough and having nothing to record it with. Though, I suppose your arm and a pointy stick will do.
Just kidding. Put down the stick.
Skip the Scene
I find that I often feel more excited to write some scenes and less excited to write others. This is natural. Some scenes heighten the tension and other scenes are foundations for that tension. Either way, both the scenes need to be written, but no one says that you can’t write the more exciting one first. In fact, you may have a renewed sense of purpose if you have something to work up to like an intense moment between characters or an epic, change-the-life-of-your-reader twist.
Besides, why waste the time staring at a blank screen or a blank page for the scene you’re not ready to write if there’s another one screaming for attention at the back of your head? Go on and write that one! You can come back to that scene later on. In fact, you may be more ready to write it the second time around.
Take a Break
There. I said it and I’ll say it again. Just stop. Step away from the computer. Maybe come back tomorrow, maybe next week. Heck, it may even take months or a year. In fact, my first novel was completed after a bout of writer’s block. I wrote 40,000 words over the course of two years and then one day, I just couldn’t get the juices flowing. I took a break (though at that time, I felt like I was abandoning my project) and then two years later, I came back with a fresh head and new inspiration and I completed that bad boy. And look at me now! It’s due for release in 2015!
Long story short, taking a break and focusing on something else allows you to clear your mind and come back refreshed. It could allow you to shed some of that negative energy and frustration and get back to what’s important — what you’re writing. You may even find that the inspiration comes back to you when you least expect it, like when you’re doing laundry or at three o’clock in the morning. But just go with it. Sometimes muses are fickle.