Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breaking Out of Writer's Block

Sooner or later, it happens.  Eventually you are going to find yourself sitting down to write, whether it be in front of a computer or with a pen and notebook in hand, only to find yourself stuck.  The ideas used to flow like a mountain stream, and suddenly it's more like a dripping faucet, if that.  The harder you try to fight it, the more stuck you become.  You have writer's block.

The question is, what do you do about it?  How do you "fix" it?  Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent it from ever happening, so I thought I'd share some simple strategies to help you get through writer's block when it does happen to you.

1. Don't quit, but don't push yourself too hard.  If you keep at your writing, sooner or later there will be a "breakthrough" moment, and then things start to flow again.  The trick is that you can't expect yourself to do as much as you do when things are flowing.  Whereas you might average a page or two when things are going well, you may have to settle for a paragraph or two (maybe less) when you're slumping.  Still, don't throw in the towel altogether, or that breakthrough will never get a chance to happen.  But don't push yourself to frustration...if you have to, take a break from it for a day or two and come back with a refreshed mind.

2. Revisit your inspirations.  Whatever or whoever inspires you in your writing, make time to revisit it.  If it's a particular author, read some of his or her work again.  If it's a movie or TV show, watch it again.  Try to reconnect to what gets your creative juices flowing in the first place.

3. Ask yourself the hard questions.  Often my slumps are brought on by something that I'm not doing right in the first place, and the writer's block is the effect rather than the cause.  I have to ask myself the following questions, and they're hard because invariably at least one of them will give me an answer that means I have to either backtrack on something I'm working on, or maybe drop it altogether.  Here they are:
  • Am I trying to do too many projects at once?  Do I need to let something go?  I can get enamored with multiple ideas at a time, try to "juggle" too many at once, and get myself tangled up.
  • Is this project I'm working on right for me in the first place?  Sometimes, in trying to expand our horizons a little, we go too far off our own track and get stuck.  Kind of like driving down a road with a low or soft shoulder and floating too close to the edge.  Some limits should be challenged, but some are a good thing.  Learn the difference.
  • Have I stayed true to my own voice?  If what you're trying to do isn't consistent with your voice, then you need to drop it like a hot potato, or else re-work it till it is consistent.
  • Should I "table" this till later?  I've had ideas that I've started, only to walk away from them because I've gotten stuck.  However, I rarely delete them, for sometimes I may get re-inspired and finish them months (or, in one case, years) later.
  • Did I take a "wrong turn" somewhere on this project?  Sometimes writer's block can be your subconscious mind telling you, "Hey, go back and reread that.  Don't you think you need to change that?"  Not always fun, but often necessary.
4. Don't panic.  Again, this happens to every writer, just like pitchers get sore arms from time to time.  It's not the end of the world.  Weather the storm without giving up.

5. Write something different...like a blog post, maybe.  Yeah, read between the lines here, I'm in a little slump myself as I type this.  Working on a blog post is a good way to keep your skills sharp without belaboring the project you got stuck on in the first place.

6. Pray.  Last on the list only because it needs to be the "lasting impresssion," not last priority.  If you believe your writing is a God-given talent, which it is, then take your difficulties with it to the One who gave you the ability in the first place.  Humble yourself to go to Him for help, and He will help you.

Hope all this helps.  Philippians 4:13.--SMS

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