Written August 20, 2013
I don’t do a lot of writing advice on my blog. I don’t tend to think that it is my place to dole out advice. I get irritated when people who are, essentially, nothing but people who like to write tell other people how they should write-especially when they take the attitude of “you do it this way or you are a terrible writer”
But this isn’t advice-per say. This is just me telling you what works for me.
Writers block is a terrible thing. It is particularly painful when you want to write. You feel that itch in your fingers to sit down at a keyboard or pick up a pen and paper and then you get there and…
the blank page taunts you.
There is something that you have to say but you can’t figure out what it is or how to phrase it.
Here is what I do. Most of this I have discovered accidentally on my own, but some of it came from reading my favorite authors.
1) Make Playlists
Spotify is great for this. If you have a PC especially. If you don’t then the $10.00 a month is worth it to listen to make and listen to your playlists wherever you go, though the interface isn’t quite as nice for browsing.
The playlists themselves should consist of music you love but that you can tune out. I have two different playlists for writing because sometimes I need heavier music and sometimes I need mellow music. The heavier playlist consists of Evanescence-whose catalog I own completely and can sing to without actually paying attention to what I am singing-and bands like Stone Sour, Disturbed, Tool and A Perfect Circle. The Mellow Playlist is mostly piano and acoustic stuff that is easy on the ears even when I turn it up loud to tune out my own thoughts. The Mellow Playlist consists of bands like Go Radio, J. Wride, Kurt Scobie and Avian Sunrise.
Another good reason to have Spotify is to discover music that helps you write and artists you never would have found otherwise. I had never heard of three of the four above bands in the Mellow playlist but I like a couple songs but Kurt Scobie so I started a radio based on his music and added music that I really liked to my playlist. I accidentally found out that it helped me write when I wrote ten pages three days in a row with the playlist on and couldn’t quite concentrate when it wasn’t playing or if I switched music.
It might take some time to discover what helps you write but when you find something that clicks, go with it.
Video game music is a great place to start because it is actually designed to be stimulating without taking away your concentration.
Podcasts or television shows you can listen to without listening to are great things to put on when you want to hear people speak rather than sing. I listen to Hollywood Babble-on with Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin or I watch something like King of the Hill or Eureka.
2) Keep a Journal
This is a long term commitment and, admittedly, not something I have always been great at. I hate taking the time out of my day to write about myself most days. I’m boring and I tend to dwell on embarrassing moments that happen in my life-even though most of them only happen in my head. But I have also found that it is sometimes easier to write when I am consistently keeping a journal.
I think the reason for this is because sometimes things in our lives that are unresolved can cause blockages-for me at least. Most of the ways that I resolve things that are bothering me is to write them down. Make them concrete and then deal with them on the page. I don’t have great social skills and most of what comes out of my mouth when I speak is sarcasm. I don’t like that part of me but it’s been a defense mechanism I have been unable to overcome. But I can write it out and usually come up with ideas even as I am writing down the problem.
Relieve the problems-imagined, real or otherwise-in writing every day and you will have less of an issue. Or, at least, I do. When your brain is clear the muses can talk to you so to speak.
You can even write about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write about. I do that all the time.
3) Talk To Yourself
This one might sound crazy if you aren’t already doing it but…trust me. Just for a second, go with it.
Play out conversations in your head. Not your own conversations that you have had-which I also do-but conversations between characters. Do this when you are not otherwise occupied. The shower or a walk around a marina or through a park is a great place for story starting conversations.
The best part is that you literally don’t have to know anything about the characters. That part comes later. Just think of a sentence.
“The weather is nice today.”
“I prefer the rain.”
Or you can start something with drama which I actually think is probably easier to play off of. Sometimes the conversations won’t lead to anything. Sometimes lightning will strike and you will be hit with inspiration. I don’t even always use the conversation I had in my head. But the conversation will reveal something about the character to me that will spark something else. The beginning of a story or the motivation of a character.
One time I was walking to work. I had been stuck on one of my novels for months because I knew what the villain wanted and what he was going to do to get it…but I couldn’t figure out why he wanted it. I knew he had motivation and I knew what he was doing was personal for him. But I didn’t know what that motivation was.
On my way to work I was playing out a conversation in my head with him and his second in command(for all intents and purposes) then she asked him a question and the answer came to me. I knew why he was going to burn the world to the ground and I knew how he was going to do it. I had to stop on my way to work to make a note in my phone so I could recall it later.
The hardest part of this particular tip is letting it flow. I’m a character writer. As such there are always characters in my head saying something so this might be easier for me than for you. Or this might not work at all.
These are all personal tips, you know. And none of them work a hundred percent of the time.
You have to let the conversation flow. Like free writing but in your head. Don’t force it. Isn’t that what has led to your writers block in the first place?
I’m going to make these next three short because I’m tired, it’s late and you have probably heard them before. But they bare repeating:
4) Free Write
It might sound silly and, if you’re like me and are compulsively driven to self-edit, free writing is hard. You want everything that comes out of your pen or keyboard to be perfect and sometimes that’s just not possible. You don’t know what gold is locked away in the brain of yours. Set it free by not thinking too hard about it. Just be. Like meditating with a pen. This is kind of combining writing a journal with talking to yourself. You have to set your brain free from concentrating. Sometimes you will be free writing, not thinking, just doing and sometimes something wonderful will come out. Something you can’t even believe you came up with will flow from your fingers.
5) Write something else
I often get stuck when writing long novels that I have been working too hard on. Either because I get bored or because when you work too hard on something you lose perspective of it and suddenly everything that you write is terrible and you start to hate yourself as a writer. Don’t worry. That’s normal.
When you get that urge to write and it’s just not flowing and you know that free writing won’t work because you are itching to be creative change what you are writing.
Googleing “Writing Prompts” can sometimes work wonders. Pay attention to the links though. A lot of them are for elementary school kids and won’t necessarily do you a lot of good(Though they might…it never hurts to look) When Googling prompts doesn’t work, Google images of stuff that can get the creative juices flowing. If you want to write fantasy google things like “Vampire” or “Dragons” or even “Fantasy”(though for that one I recommend having the safe search on) Google Images for stuff you want to write about. Some of the art is amazing and you might find a scene that you want to write the story behind.
6) Don’t Get Discouraged
This is the hardest of all of the tips I have for you tonight. Some days you can go through all of the above and still not feel anything creative. Or you can write fifteen pages in your book and not a single page is worth keeping except for maybe some of the base ideas on them. You can want more than anything else in the world to create but everything that you touch turns to crap.
Set your pen down and walk away. That’s not easy. That’s sometimes the hardest thing in the world. Especially when you feel like a junkie who needs a fix; but your writing won’t be at all improved by self deprecation. It just won’t. Every artist in the world hits a phase of their writing when they feel like they are the worst artist in the world. Don’t believe me? Go watch Back and Forth the Foo Fighters documentary and go through some of Neil Gaiman’s old blogs. Some days are going to be terrible creatively. But if you love it and it makes you happy it doesn’t really matter if you do suck at it. You could be the worst writer in the entire world but if writing brings you peace that doesn’t matter. But find solace in the fact that while there will always be a better writer than you, there are definitely people in the world who are worse than you and a lot of them get published.
Hope this helps someone out there. If it does, let me know. If you have other tips let me know as well. I always like to try new stuff when I get blocked. Doing new stuff can help too ;D
Love you all