I’m writing this blog post selfishly, as I am suffering from Writer’s Block. It’s now moved into Phase Two, which I could penn as ‘Writer’s Malaise” or “Writer’s I-Feel-Sorry-For-Myself.” I used to be prolific, people! This was an adjective I heard often from others describing my writing. I had a strong, almost effortless work ethic. The first year I worked on my YA novel, I think I wrote every day, except for maybe three or four days, and those were major holidays that I decided to close the laptop. I’ve chronicled in other blogs the cause (my IVF struggles and obsession) but I think any major life trauma can cause a writer to lose their way.
I’ve read a few articles and blogs to say the least on the subject, and my favorite gem was when one author suggested to stop reading blogs about writer’s block. OK, already! I get it! If you’re reading this, perhaps you are in the same solitary boat. A few things I’ve picked up is that there are different causes and cures for Writer’s Block and not a one-size-fits-all approach. This is more of a reflection of where I’m at today, but I am yearning for a few simple tools to try to get out of this. So I’m going to focus on five tactics.
1. Start Writing in a Journal
This has been chronicled by many people, most notable Julia Cameron’s ‘Mornings Pages’. Part of why it works for me, is it helps me develop a daily practice of writing. It’s also to help subside immediate ‘Editor Brain’ telling you that this writing isn’t good enough, so just stop already. When I had no problem writing daily, I suggested this to other writers. I’d use the metaphor of you wouldn’t just run a marathon, would you? You’d train first. I see ‘Morning Pages’ as that writerly training to prepare for the prose that you are gearing up for. This technique of just getting ideas down on paper, waking up your creative mind was very well explained in this recent New Yorker article on Writer’s Block.
2. Writing Prompt
When one stagnates in their writing, there can be a fear that the creative game is over. That there are no stories for you to tell anymore. That you will become someone who just wakes up, eats food, watches TV, talks with friends, works, and then goes to sleep (or is this just MY fear??) Getting caught in the malaise of what was (I used to be inspired and write) and what is (I’m not inspired and don’t write) can cause anyone to go in circles. I know, for me, waiting for inspiration at this point is not the right path. I thought it was six months ago. But now almost at a year anniversary of not writing anything substantial (except for a rambling first draft of a play without a great structure) I’m seeing the malaise is more of a paralysis. That being said, one needs to get their confidence back, even in drips and drabs. I think that sitting down, finding a writing prompt, diving in and writing for 15-30 minutes, is a really good baby step. Part of it for me is I have this 60K YA novel needing some final chapter revisions, and I can’t find my way to open it. But perhaps I need to rev my creative engines first, do some writing prompts where there is no pressure. If you google this, you’ll find lots of options, but here’s one list of writing prompts from Writer’s Digest that looked accessible.
3. The Pomodoro Technique
Caveat to add to my number two suggestion, I never really dig writing prompts. But man, I’m willing to try it. Even the thought of doing one makes me feel like slumping back into the E! Network, which is not where I need to be putting my energy right now. To help me, I will try the structure of The Pomodoro Technique. The essence is that you set a timer for twenty five minutes. Then you sit down, and write for that time. When the timer dings, you take a little 3-5 minute break. If you feel like you have another Pomodoro in you, set the timer for another twenty five minutes, and keep going on your writing prompt, or do a second one. After four Pomodoros, take a longer fifteen to twenty minute break. This little video really dives into the thinking behind this. But the idea is to take the pressure off of ‘I have to write for two hours’. You commit to do doing a task, in this case writing, for twenty five minutes. And if you can only do one Pomodoro, bravo!, at least you got started.
4. Read, See A Play, Watch a Brilliant Movie, Go to a Museum
This might seem pretty doctor obvious, but I have often had ideas from experiencing others work. The dialogue they begin with their piece, my mind pings in another direction, and often what I have then made has been like a response. The Debbie Downer POV on this would be to think, I’m just going to feel less inspired by seeing what others are making. It’ll just remind me of how uncreative I am. Hey, if this happens, take it in. But for me, it’s about awakening my creativity, and I feel like from years passed, this has always gotten my juices going.
5. Set a Deadline
I’ve been pretty anti-deadline lately, and for me, that’s helped free me up in a lot of areas. But, when it comes to Writer’s Block, I think setting a date can help. What this means is no matter what, you sit down and write something on the date you choose. Even if it’s for fifteen minutes (and you can use the above suggestions of writing prompts and pomodoro if you haven’t used them yet.) It might be uncomfortable and the writing might feel ugly or forced. But it’s about getting you out of a rut. If you wait for the magical Writer’s Block fairy to come lift the spell, you might be waiting a long time. By setting a date, you are committed to taking a small step that day.
That’s what I’m beginning to grasp. Cracking Writer’s Block isn’t one explosion and you are free of it. It might take time and come more slowly. In my ideal world, I am doing the writing prompts this month and next. My personal deadline date will be May 1st, 2016. On that date, I am hoping I am looking at my YA novel and am editing those final chapters. But if in March and April, I can’t follow my own advice, then on May 1st I will be doing a writing prompt no matter what. At the end of the day, if you’re grumbling about Writer’s Block like I am, it’s because there’s a part of you that wants to write again, however foreign it might seem to you now. I feel lost in it too, but know that I just need to take small steps, and I’ll get there. You will too.
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