Let’s chit chat a little about what it takes to overcome writer’s block.
In case you’re not entirely sure what writer’s block is (lucky you), I’ve included an awesome analogy-opening link to digest. But for everyone who does understand it all too well, let’s get right to kayoing it.
Here are five steps to try to take it down:
Write anyway. I know we talked about this last week in “Getting Past the Writer’s Blahs,” but it’s worth repeating. Sometimes, you just have to soldier through a bout of writer’s block. It might feel unnatural. It might feel like an absolute waste of time, but the very act of clicking your fingers against the keys or moving your pen across your paper is a powerful writing exercise. It might take five minutes of this to overcome writer’s block. It might take 10 minutes or even 15. And you might not even know you’re over it after you walk away to sob over your consolation bucket of chocolate chip cookies. But come back to your writing the next day, and there’s a decent chance that you’re cured. Don’t ask me for a scientific rationale for this freeing phenomenon. But it’s often effective nonetheless.
Take a break. If you’ve been powering through your manuscript for weeks before you hit a writing wall, you might have just burned yourself out. It happens. Step away from your story and call a friend in that case. Go outside and see the sunlight. Just do something to give yourself a real break before trying again. You might find that your rested brain has overcome writer’s block all on its own.
Talk it out. It really doesn’t matter whether you talk it out with a fellow writer friend or a non-fellow writer friend. I’ve been able to overcome writer’s block both ways before by explaining my exact dilemma and then rejecting every single suggestion the poor person made. Because they weren’t inside my head or even inside my story, their actual input admittedly wasn’t all that helpful. But their time? That was more valuable than I can possibly say. The act of explaining the problem to someone else forces us to evaluate it in a way we otherwise wouldn’t have to. Our brain has to approach the problem from different angles, which allows us to see our way past it.
Read what you’ve already written. Normally, this is something I strongly caution against. The tendency to read over previous chapters of a not-yet-completed-manuscript tends to lead to premature editorial work, which tends to lead to never actually finishing our first drafts. Sometimes though, it is very helpful to be reminded of where we came from in order to get a better idea of where we’re going. So if you’re struggling to overcome writer’s block, feel free to review what you’ve got. Just make sure that reviewing is all you’re doing. Don’t get caught up in an editorial frenzy. That’s for later.
Skip ahead and write a future scene. Do you have a particular plot point you’re really looking forward to writing? In that case, you can overcome writer’s block by temporarily bypassing writing what you have no clue how to write by writing what you already do know how to write. More than likely, you’ll end up including something that needs to be established back where writer’s block struck, bringing your creative genius right back online.
If none of that works or if you need an additional boost of encouragement, ask your friendly neighborhood editor to schedule in some pep-talk brainstorming sessions.
After having to overcome writer’s block myself so many times, trust me. I’m good at this.
You’ll be in great hands.