I’m not dead, I swear…

Wow, I haven’t updated in forever!  I wish I could say it’s because I have all these other things going on and I’m just so very busy, but really the reason is simple…I’ve come down with a severe case of the ever dreaded Writer’s Block (yes, with a capital W and B).

So I figured instead of giving in to it, why not use it?

If you’re a writer, chances are pretty good that you’ve come across the big W-B at some point in your life.

Most writers (especially the successful ones) have their own tricks and techniques for breaking past the blockade.

I’m not a successful writer and I usually find myself thwarted by Writer’s Block, so much so, that I’ve built up my own little stash of tricks and techniques to help get myself back in the game, many of them suggestions from other writers.  Today I’m going to share some of those techniques in hopes that reviewing them will help remind me on how to break past the Block.

Who knows?  Maybe someone out there is struggling, same as me, and will find in this post the trick to win their own battle, go on to write the next New York Times Bestselling novel and mention me on the Acknowledgment’s page.  Hey, a girl can dream can’t she?

Trick #1: Read your favorite book or watch your favorite movie, something that you find inspiring or that stirs strong emotions inside of you.  You ever heard the saying: Monkey see, monkey do?  That’s kind of how this trick works..  You see, most writers got into writing because at some point in their life they were told a story.  And they felt something, a great and powerful passion building in them from the words, the characters, the plot, the dialogue, the scenes, all of it, that they just had the urge to tell a story, many stories, of their own.  Writers are passionate about storytelling, but when they feel their passion growing stagnate, it makes sense to go back to the root of that passion and renew it.  That and it gives your brain a nice break from the pressures of trying to write which allows the creative juices to start flowing.

Trick #2: Take a walk.  Go out somewhere, to the park, to the mall, grocery store, go hiking in the mountains, just go!  And take your notebook with you.  This is advice you’ll find in just about any book (or chapter in a book, or on a blog, or website, etc.) on defeating Writer’s Block and  there’s a reason for it: it works!  I believe that broken down into its base molecules (I’m talking subatomic particles here), every great story is ultimately comprised of two elements: perspectives and experiences.  But you can’t tell a great story if you don’t have a lot of diverse perspectives and experiences of your own.  So go out and have them!  And, once again, going out helps relieve the stress of trying to write.  That’s why you take the notebook, that way if (when) the flood gates open, you’ll have a place to jot down all your new, great ideas.

Trick #3: Do writing exercises.  You know those annoying prompts your teacher used to make you do in Creative Writing class?  Oh yeah, you remember.  The ones that would go something along the lines of, “Write a dialogue between two characters such that the reader knows their having an argument even though it isn’t obvious from their words” or, “Tell a story from the perspective of an inanimate object”.  Turns out their great little platforms for jumping right over your Writer’s Block and getting back on the path of creativity.  How does it work?  Well, it gets you writing again for one thing.  And, it gets your mind back into the frame of brainstorming around an idea and developing a story, without the pressure of having  to come up with that starting point.  And who knows?  Maybe the work you turn out for that simple prompt will be the springboard for that novel you’ve been wanting to write.

Trick #4 Read back over your older work.  If your goal is to start turning out new material, this may sound slightly counter-intuitive but there are several benefits I’ve found to reading back over work.  For starters, it can be a bit of a confidence builder.  Kind of like saying, “Hey, look brain, we could do this before, we can do this again.”  Also, I’ve found it kind of reminds me of the mindset I was in when I wrote the story.  It kind of refreshes those parts of my brain that write, reminds the old gears how their supposed to be turning.  Another benefit, if you’re anything like me, reading back over an old piece generally leads to proofing the old piece which leads to making changes to the old piece which leads to rewriting parts of the old piece and I think you get the point.  Voila, you’re writing again.  And in the same vein, turning out new material doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be new material for old material.  Pull out a story you never finished, or an idea you started developing but kind of shoved aside when something else came along.  Coming back to a piece you’ve been away from for awhile can cast it in a whole new light, and you might find the story flowing from you anew.

Trick #5: Read non-fiction.  I was reading an interview with authors Terry Pratchett and Niel Gaiman (because I’m obsessed with him) a while back and when the interviewer asked the question, “What types of fiction books do you read for motivation?” I was intrigued by Terry Pratchett’s response.  He said something along the lines of, “I only read non-fiction because there’s not much inspiration to be found in fiction, the story ideas are already there and developed, whereas in non-fiction, the ideas are there still waiting to be turned into a story.”  Obviously, if you’ve read my first trick, I don’t really agree with the first half of his answer, however, when I was in school, I never felt inspired to write in my English classes, but I had an abundance of ideas for stories jumping out at me form all angles of my teachers’ lectures in social studies, government, history, science, and even once calculus (yes, math can be inspiring too!).  Stories are reflections of real-life, so it seems logical to look to real-life for inspiration for your stories.

Trick #6: Create a soundtrack.  I might be revealing a bit too much of my crazy in this admission but I like to pick out background music for scenes from stories I’m writing and when those songs play I visualize the scene unfolding to the music; kind of like imagining the movie version of my story I hope some Hollywood producer will someday make :P.  This way, everytime I hear the song, maybe if it pops on the radio, I think of the scene, planning it out, pinpointing the appropraite dialogue, perfecting the descriptions, and most importantly, finding the right emotions.

Music is a form of storytelling, by stringing together notes which tell the story and elicit an emotional response from the listener.  Picking out songs to fit particular scenes is a great stress reliever that keeps your mind focused on your writing without the pressures of trying to write, and playing those songs while visualizing the scene can help put you in the mood to write that scene.  Listening to music, also, a great stress reliever.

The last trick I have to share is not only the most important one.  It’s also the most obvious.

Trick #7: Just write.  Now wait a minute, some of you might be thinking, this isn’t a real trick.  But it is, isn’t it?  In fact, it is the most trickiest trick of them all.  As the old saying goes, when you fall off a horse the only thing you can do is just get back on and ride it.   So sit down and write through your writer’s block.  Write anything, write everything, write the first thing that pops in your head or the last thought you’d ever think.  Just write.  I know, it sounds so silly it just might work.  And I can honestly say, 1300 plus words later, that it did.

So I hope someone out there found some use from this late night excursion in deafeating the dreaded Block.  If anyone’s got any tricks or techniques of their own for defeating Writer’s Block, please, feel free to share.  I know I’ll run into it again someday and I could always use more tricks for beating it.

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  1. Such a great post and wonderful advice. Thank you.

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