This is your Wednesday guest blogger, Kathleen S. Allen.
I’ve recently read articles/blogs about writer’s block and it got me to thinking.
· What is writer’s block?
· What causes writer’s block?
· How does a writer get out of a writer’s block?
WHAT IS WRITER’S BLOCK?
One writer I spoke to said that she believes that writer’s block is something tangible. It’s a block between someone’s ideas and putting it on paper. She suggested hinking of it more as a symptom rather than a disease. I believe that writer’s block is the writer’s inability to cohesively synthesize their thoughts into a form that makes sense to them.
CAUSES OF WRITER’S BLOCK
Although there are as many causes of writer’s block as there are writers here are a few common ones:
· STRESS-this is a twofold cause, first there is stress about actually putting words to paper and second, there is the stress of everyday life. The first type of stress can lead to what I call, writer’s panic. The second type of everyday stress: How many of us have tried to write after the kids are in bed? Or after the dishes are done? Or after we come home from work? We sit down at the computer and we can’t write a single word. Why not? Fatigue.
· WRITER’S PANIC-this can be caused by not believing in your writing enough to put words to paper. This type of panic goes along with the inner critical editor that tells you that you will never be good enough, no matter what you do, how many courses you take, how much you perfect your writing and so on.
· YOUR INNER EDITOR-See above cause. Your inner editor is a harsh critic. This is the editor that tells you your work sucks. You can revise and revise and revise and your inner editor will still tell you THE SAME THING EVERY TIME.
· NOT CARING ENOUGH-You are bored with your story, your main character, the setting of your story. You can’t face writing another word of this boring, pedantic piece.
HOW DOES A WRITER GET OUT OF WRITER’S BLOCK?
· STRESS-If it is stress about putting words to paper, there is something to break this pattern. It’s called stream of consciousness writing. This is a type of writing where you put down any and everything you can think of on paper. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, or have the right punctuation or even make sense; you just need to write SOMETHING. If you can’t think of anything to write about, write a sentence such as; EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE or ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY over and over until the sentence reminds you of something else. For example when I write: ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY, I could write about work, play, Jack, Jack and Jill, Captain Jack (Torchwood or Pirates), Jack Nicolson, The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, cinematography, movies, my favorite movies….and so on. I let my mind wander to where it will wander and I put it down on paper. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU WRITE, JUST WRITE. The type of stress caused by trying to write when you are fatigued is obvious. Take a nap, tell the kids to color for an hour, get up before work to write, whatever you need to do to gain more writing energy. If you only write for 10 minutes a day and do half a page of writing, by the end of the week you’ll have almost four pages of writing done. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s something.
· WRITER’S PANIC AND INNER CRITIC-I am grouping these two together because they are similar. You are panicked because you can’t write, you have no ideas and every idea you have is horrible. Right? Wrong. You have a unique writing style; you have your own writer’s voice, use it to shut your inner critic up. So what if your story isn’t perfect right now? Do you thing that your favorite author doesn’t have these same misgivings? One way I like to stop my inner critic is to write a fan fiction piece about a character I love (Buffy, Harry Potter whoever), not with the idea of getting it published, but with the idea that I can put a new spin on a character that everyone knows. This spin is what’s important. I also keep an idea file, this is snatches of conversation I’ve overheard, news stories that interest me, characters I’ve seen, articles on subjects I am interested in, whatever peaks my interest. If I am stuck for an idea, I go to this file to see what’s in there. Maybe none of it is useable right now, but maybe something in it will strike an idea for a story.
· NOT CARING ENOUGH ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS OR YOUR STORY LINE-If you don’t care about your characters, why should your readers? Ditto with your story line. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but don’t write to trends, write what is in your heart. So what if vampires are “over.” You love vampires, so write about vampires. Be honest with yourself about what you love to write about, what books draw you in? These are the books you should write. Start with short stories if the idea of a novel is too overwhelming. Getting short stories published is how many writers get started. Especially if you are writing for young adults, you need to be honest because if you aren’t, your readers will stop reading. So, if you’ve been working on a story for a long time and can’t seem to finish it, maybe it’s time to put your little darling to bed and work on something else.
Examine why you aren’t writing, if it’s work or family or school stress, maybe this isn’t the right time to write, if it’s your inner critic telling you your work is terrible, then turn off your editor and write anyway. If it’s because you don’t care about your characters, get new ones! I did this for my murder mystery coming soon from Gypsy Shadow Publishing, I edited and edited and edited and I still didn’t like the story. So, I kept the main character and some of the parts of it I liked and rewrote the darn thing. It’s a cleaner story now with a main character I like and I think the readers will, too.
My advice to someone who has writer’s block? WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. Even if what you are writing is stream of consciousness, at least you are writing. And sooner or later you will start to write again.