A list – can probably be applied to other streams of creativity too
A DEFINITON OF WRITER’S BLOCK: FOR ME IT’S AN INTENSE HEADACHE AND A STOMACH FULL OF SHAKING FRUSTRATION. PUSHING FOR A THOUGHT TO APPEAR WHEN THERE’S NOTHING. LIKE PUTTING ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF YOUR ENERGY INTO STANDING STILL. IT’S A FEELING WE WILL ALL HAVE EXPERIENCED, WHETHER THAT’S THROUGH WRITING OR ANOTHER CHANNEL. AND QUITE FRANKLY, IT SUCKS.
Nothing stops the flow of writing like stopping the flow of writing. If you are reading back over what you’ve already done, putting writing to the side all too often, or jumping back and forth through different ideas, you’re stopping the flow. Best to decide a time to write and stick to it. Some people write overviews of their stories to know which direction to take their writing, but I can’t be hypocritical, that kind of thing is all in my head. Although it is definitely better to write it down (see put pen to paper). As long as you have an idea of ‘this is what I’m going to write about when I sit down at that time’, you’re organised enough to make it work in my book.
One of the biggest errors I’ve made over the years is having a fabulous idea and forgetting it when I actually come to write about it. This may become a separate blog post, but I can’t stress enough how useful it is to use notebooks, for EVERYTHING. I have notebooks dedicated to certain stories whether it’s planning or the written first draft. That goes for poems too. I also have notebooks dedicated to scribbling down random ideas. I also have them to write down memories of a personal nature because journaling really is a beautiful thing. And – pretty stationery – am I right?
Try not to think about thinking
Don’t get stuck in a paradox of thinking about thinking. Put your mind to something else for a little while – a book, cleaning, ask someone else about their day. If you focus on a problem it becomes amplified. Allow thought to flow again and you may find an idea jumps out of nowhere (see have an adventure).
Put Pen to Paper
Instead of typing first drafts onto a computer I’ve recently been writing them longhand. It was a little experiment the last time I faced a block and it’s worked wonders. Because you have to think more naturally about what you’re writing (slower, no easy ability to go back and edit) you’re forced to keep the story moving. Plus it gives you more access to writing no matter where you are (see notebooks).
Have an adventure
Draw a stereotypical image of a writer and you’ll most likely imagine them holed up in a den, hunched over a desk. Alone and in the dark if not only for a single candle. Most of us will know that is a very dramatized version of things. But the important aspect is that we’re expected introverts. There’s nothing wrong with being introverted at all (see read), however, I strongly believe looking at the same four walls can’t be entirely inspiring for long. Over the last year I’ve made more effort to go out and about – now it seems I’m always terribly busy – and I’ve never had more ideas than right now. Although it seems counterproductive to spend less time writing, actually the times I do sit down to write have become much more valuable and I’m doing so much more than before. It’s become a mindset of literally finding the stories to tell.
Perhaps this one should have come first and foremost – I’m not even sure it requires an explanation. Stephen King said it best in ‘On Writing’, if you don’t read you don’t have the tools to write. Oh and if you’re stuck knowing what to read for now, I would highly recommend ‘On Writing’.
(please) Don’t Romanticise the Writer
Yes, this is a little bug bear of mine I’ve been able to slide in at the end. But in my opinion, if you are romanticising writing you are going to be disappointed. If you find yourself daydreaming of book signings and working from home and interviews about your general genius-ness. Anything that isn’t putting words on a page, then you’re not enjoying the one thing it takes being a writer. Writing. All the rest can be achieved on endless paths.