Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Tips on Beating Writer's Block

Writer's block is a question I often get emailed about, so I thought it would be helpful to write a quick post with my thoughts about it, and some tips that often work for me! I just finished writing my third novel, which I felt blocked on quite a few times, and which felt like a giant mess quite a few times, but now that I'm on the other side I can cheerfully report that all those times I felt like just throwing my hands up in the air often precipitated a HUGE breakthrough. Pushing through the hard times was worth it one-thousand percent. The important thing is to not letter writer's block defeat you! Keep plugging away.

For me at least, writer's block usually stems from worrying that what I'm writing isn't "good enough"... when this happens, I remind myself that no rough drafts are perfect and, as one of my creative writing professors used to say to us in college, words down on the page are ALWAYS better than words just in your head.

If you're working on a longer project, maybe you simply need to take a break. Try to writing a short story featuring some of your characters, or even a short story featuring entirely new/different characters. This can help you see the idea from a new angle, get excited about the idea again, and get to a "finish line" of a shorter project. That might be just the motivation you need to dive back into the longer work with your batteries recharged!

Most of all, I always encourage my students and mentees to go after the idea that is sparking inside you, the one that makes you excited. There is no time to waste! Write what makes you feel alive.

If it's the idea you're working on now, great! If you wants to try something completely different and new, that's great too! Remember: you can always return to this idea later if you want. No idea is ever wasted or abandoned.

Finally, here's the number-one thing that works best for me when I'm battling the writer's block blues, and that has made the biggest difference in my productivity, creative energy, and happiness as a writer: write every day.

Make writing a routine. I think even trying to write at the same time of the day is best, because you train your body to prepare to write during that time -- much in the same ways athletes often practice at the same times. Then, when that time hits, you are ready to go! It's like a muscle memory you are building.

Even if you feel like the writing isn't flowing, even if you feel like every word you are writing is terrible, stay in the chair and keep pushing through to the good stuff. Because the good stuff will come, believe me. You just need to have the patience to get to it!
Here are a couple other articles I found that might be helpful, too:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Heather Waxman on "Why I Write"

One of my favorite bloggers, Heather Waxman, recently published a post titled "Why Do You Write?" As you might imagine, the title intrigued me a lot. I always love reading about other writers and their habits and thought processes. The four questions Heather answered were:
  • What am I working on?
  • How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
  • Why do I write?
  • How does my writing process work?
(Why don't we all take a few minutes to answer those questions for ourselves right now... either in your head or on paper in your journal...)

I thought Heather's answer to the last question was especially spot-on and helpful for other writers:

Three words: I show up. 
That’s it. I show up. When the urge to write comes up, I sit down and I let my fingers flow or I let the pen glide. Sometimes, I set the stage with a prayer or intention and say, “May all Divine guidance flow through me now.” But that’s it. 80% of the work is showing up to write. The rest is the technical stuff like editing and spell checking. “Just show up, babe,” I tell myself. And I do. And it flows. And then it works. When I’m writing a larger piece (like my book), I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. For one full hour, I write. No ifs, ands, or buts. And usually, the juices are flowing so much that I want to keep going. Try it. 
I really liked the way she phrased that: I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. So often, we drag our feet about writing because it's hard and scary and maybe we don't feel inspired or we don't particularly want to write in that moment. We'd rather watch TV or read a book or bake something yummy or eat something yummy. 
But life is full of things we don't particularly want to do, yet we do them anyway because we know they are the best thing for us. When you schedule a dentist appointment, you don't blow it off or not show up just because you don't feel particularly excited to go to the dentist. Nobody feels excited to go to the dentist. But it's an appointment, so you keep it. You show up, you do it, and before you know it you're done. And that's a great feeling.
So now I have a question for you: 
What would your writing life look like if you treated your writing time the same way you treat a dentist appointment?