Ten Steps to Beating Writer's Block
It's really too bad writer's block isn't literally a big block that you can't beat the crap out of. Man, that would feel good. But it isn't. It's psychological, emotional, physical, societal, paranormal and anything else my gooey brain can come up with. I usually have no problem with receiving any and all inspiration, but like everyone else out there, find myself struggling with the whole process now and then.
So what do you do? Some writers are very adamant that you just keep writing. It's a job, not a party. If you want to be a writer, you have to produce no matter what your mood, no matter what the inspiration. Others will suggest that you step away from the project and wait for the muse to come around and sprinkle her magic dust on all your thoughts; tossing words into your brain like a parade goer tossing candy out to kids lining the happy avenue of life. The problem is, that can take years, or never. Waiting for a muse is like waiting for Twilight to come in on the holds list at your local library. In other words, it ain't gonna happen. You have to be your own muse. You have to create the atmosphere, find the inspiration, block the inhibitors of flow, tell your family to support and respect your writing, pray for prolific success.
I certainly would never accuse a victim of the block of being lazy. Come on now. Let's help each other out just a little bit. Supporting another writer can go a long way. Some day you might need the same encouragement and compassion. In the world of music, one musician will say to another, "Dude, it'll come. Just relax. You've written songs before and you'll write them again." In the world of art, when a person has the block one artist will say to the other, "You're heading in a new direction. This is a good thing. Go out and buy some new paints and start again." But when a writer has the block, it's as if the world has disappeared and it's just you and your brain eating each other's flesh like two rabid piranhas in a nuclear waste infused Amazon.
The block is agonizing, but, curable. Here's a ten-step list to get you back on your feet.
1. Don't psyche yourself out. I repeat, don't psyche yourself out. That's what starts the block. Imagine it being quicksand: the more you thrash around, the more you're gonna die. Just relax, dude.
2. Go read a book. There's something to be said for embracing abandon. For me, reading has always been a great way to let go of it all and just become whatever character or place I'm reading about. Allowing yourself to do that is a great salve for stress or worries that might be stunting your creative juices.
3. Water breeds thoughts. Go take a shower, wash the dishes, do the laundry, drench the garden. Just don't tell Al Gore and everything will be fine.
4. Write in longhand. Yep, retro is betro. We think it's easier to use a computer, but if you've been sitting there all day and night thinking, editing, squeezing thoughts out of your brain, then maybe you need to step away and find a new canvas to create on. Longhand is nice because it's not as formal as a white screen with a blinking cursor. It has texture, life, and it can be burned.
5. Exercise. Yeah, yeah. A true artist doesn't own a treadmill. We smoke, drink coffee, suffer . . . but have you looked at your butt lately? Yikes, there's a permanent imprint of the office chair on your flattened gluteus maximus and it ain't pretty. For the love of God, go do some squats or something. Aside from the physical aspect, exercise can be a great tool in relaxing your mind and allowing thoughts to open up. The rhythm of physical action is a great distraction from just sitting there in agony. Have you ever noticed how you can't think of a certain name or word until you get up and start doing something? I know we've all heard of Einstein locking himself in a room for three days until he came up with the theory of relativity, but geesh, he could've just gone to the YMCA and figured it out in half an hour. Or maybe not, but we're just writers here. Go take a walk once in a while and see how it helps. Your brain needs a break and a little oxygen. Get up, move, breathe, live. Dancing is exercise, so is some hot lovin' with your marital counterpart. I'm just sayin'.
6. Go to the bookstore and look at your competition. That's right. People are getting published and the proof is in a latte infused environment with Miley Cyrus being piped out of the overhead speakers. Don't be afraid; seeing your competition hurts I know, but it's also stimulating. Your book needs to be on that shelf too, and somebody just like you is walking around in a daze just hoping to discover what you are currently working diligently on in a little room in the back of your house. Move one of those best-sellers out of the way and picture your book sitting there in its place. It is possible. Miracles happen all the time.
7. Clean your house you slob. And then come clean mine. I don't know how it'll help us writers, but it might. Yes, friends, it just might.
8. A word a day keeps the block away. When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to pull out my grandfather's old, and very tall, clothbound dictionary. We'd read words at random, then inspect all the little etchings that looked like they came from days of Victoria. It was exciting, it was educational, and it was fun.
9. Write in a blog or keep a journal. I have like, what, three random readers or something? I could write about my cat's hairball and nobody gives a crud, but the act of writing is immense in helping me to keep from developing the block. Just like physical exercise and its ability to get your body moving, scheduled writing has taught me that I can compose no matter what the mood or planetary alignment. I'm not curing cancer or anything, I'm just putting down some words, and so have proven to myself that it wasn't just a fluke when I first started. I really can produce words on a regular basis and sometimes those words come together in a beautiful way. My three readers might even like it once in a while. You do, right . . . like it? Oh, shew. Check's in the mail, mates.
10. Get in that chair and stop yer complaining fool. That's right. I'm getting all Mr. T up on your ass. Get in that chair and just write a sentence. Strive for three pages. You can always edit, you can always erase. What you can't do it bring back time and intent. You have to use every minute you have. Write, write, write and think later. Don't let that internal critic get the best of you. I'm guessing that every writer throughout history has had his or her doubts, and wanted to give it all up at one time or the other. But the good ones didn't. They hung in there and kept creating. Someone out there wants to read your book, your article, your story and it's up to you to fulfill their need. Okay, don't . . . let that last line stress you out. Don't let anything stress you out. Writing is fun, remember? Just relax, dude.
11. OH! OH! I almost forgot (and notice I broke a rule and added an extra thingy here to my list. Heh, heh, heh evil writing is fun). Listen to music. Find a theme that sums up all your character's struggles and joys. Listen to it while writing, listen to it when thinking of writing. Music is a true muse and can open imagery, as I've said a few times before. I don't know what I'd do without tunes. Maybe die. Okay. Now go write.