Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Around Writer's Block

In recent months I've heard a great deal about writer's block. I'm sure that all of you have at some point felt it--your drive just isn't there, or if it is, the words you're searching for can't seem to be found. But what can you do to overcome it?

1. Write. I've heard this advice countless times. When you've written yourself into a corner, write your way out of it. Actually, all other solutions are pointless unless you write. If you're stuck on one scene, try writing another scene and coming back to it later. You may also want to backtrack and try the previous scene again. Maybe you can't do that. Well, then, you'll write a different book, or if you must, write about a completely different topic.

2. Brainstorm with a close friend. I struggled with a scene last week because I can't write about nothing. It bores me. While I knew I needed a scene between point A and point B, all I knew about it was that it had to show the relationship between two characters. There was no conflict, however, and when I realized this I tried to solve the problem on my own. I had no ideas. So I asked my husband, Jaron, to help me. He gave me a simple suggestion that spurred my imagination again: "Do they celebrate birthdays in your world?"

The answer was no, but that prompted more questions: What do they celebrate? Would there be some kind of festival at this time? What would it be for? Would they give gifts? What kind of things might they give as presents? Having a second mind was just what I needed.

3. Read. You may find the answers you're looking for are right under your nose. Books, poems, critiques, articles, blog posts, research... there's so much in the world to be studied. Chances are, one of those things will ignite your interest in your writing. 

4. Go outside. I know how easy it is to relax in your jammies and just eat cereal. But leaving the comfort of your home is essential if you're going to write anything. Why? There are so many things that you can't have from your seat in front of the computer screen; the sights, scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and emotions that make up your experiences will shape your writing, in whatever form that may be. 

Go to a museum, or a park, or a restaurant. Enjoy life. Soak up that information, and then use it. Take a notebook with you wherever you go, and write your thoughts down. It's simple and effective.

5.  Imagine the problem as an obstacle you can overcome. Jaron once told me that he imagines a little samurai slicing up his fears like they're made of paper. This can apply to your writing, too--and in a strange way, it works. I've fired catapults at imaginary fortresses, pretended flight or invisibility, and punched holes through 'impenetrable' armor. It's a temporary solution, but if it's the kick in the rear you need, go for it.

I've used all five of these things at one point, and they've always worked for me. But if there's any others that work for you, feel free to comment and I may include your solution in a future post. 



  1. Great points, I'll be sure to remember these things when I get blocked :)

  2. Great stuff, Rachel! Blocks are rough. They tend to pop out when the story is heading in the wrong direction, like a wrong turn on a road trip. Doesn't hurt to back up a few pages (or chapters) to find out where you missed the junction.

    Thanks for sharing this on inkPageant! :)

  3. Great advice! Often when I have writer's block, I don't write anything for a while. But I'm still thinking about it. Usually, I have to write down a general plan for what I want to happen in the story, or at least the next part, and then I usually can come up with ideas for the details to fill it in.

  4. Writing, reading and taking a break are things I do to get over writer's block, too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. @David: So true. Having an outline helps keep the story on track, too. I love it when I don't have to backtrack, but sometimes it happens.

    @Valerie: That's always helpful. Sometimes my characters protest, though. If I'm telling the story wrong, they're sure to tell me.

  6. Blocks are tough! I've found that taking a break from it for a day or two helps, and then brainstorming a bit on paper and writing out what if stuff helps. One time I cured it when I realized my FMC was being passive in the scene and so I backed up a bit and rewrote the preceding parts to get her pro-active and wham, all of a sudden their whole first kiss scene sprang fully formed into my head and the MMC was telling me what would happen when she found him in the room, etc. It was a weird experience!