Writer’s block is an indiscriminate enemy. He doesn’t care who you are, how accomplished you are, what you wrote in the past, or what you’re writing. He crashes your party, eats all the hors d’oeuvres, spikes the punch, makes a scene to embarrass you, and then runs over your mailbox trying to drunkenly back out of your driveway. Dude’s a mean dude. Meanwhile, you didn’t get ANYTHING accomplished when he was hanging around.
In the shadow of this constant menace, it’s imperative you come up with a few strategies to chip away at that block. You have to power through your outages in ways that are just as creative as your brilliant and sparkling prose. Maybe you’ve even wandered over to this blog with your creative juices dammed up and in need of release. In that case, here are a few things you can try:
*Stare at the screen until your forehead bleeds – Per a quotation attributed to the late great Douglas Adams, “Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds.” Some of writing is thinking, and some of it is doing. And you need to keep yourself in a position to do both. You’re much more likely to come up with something if your fingers are on the keys and you’re staring at Word’s white abyss, than if you’ve given up for the day and are watching TV. Some people will urge you to get away and take bubble baths or indulge in a chocolate chip cookie (so naughty!) to break the block. I say sit your butt down and stare.
*Remove Your Filter – Ernest Hemingway said that “the first draft of anything is [not a nice word for manure].” You have to shed your perfectionist urges and really get yourself committed to writing dreck. What’s the point? The act of writing is its own point. Plus, you’re very likely going to be able to mine some non-dreck from the dreck. Either this “bad” writing will spur your creativity and propel you into “good” writing, or the “bad” label is the product of your own foul mood, and objectively your output is not even that bad at all.
*Tangent Writing – Sometimes it’s the format of your writing project that feels asphyxiating and stultifying. When you’re stuck, write in a different format. For example, if you’re writing a novel, write a journal entry like you were one of your novel’s characters. Or write just the dialogue of your novel’s scene, like you were writing a play. You may not be able to use this material in its present form, but it will keep your motor running.
*Rewriting is Writing – Most writers agree that rewriting is significantly more pleasurable than writing from scratch. Give yourself a treat—relatively speaking—and revise stuff you’ve already written when you can’t come up with anything new. You’re still expending creative energy, but in a different and less existentially painful way. You’ll fall in love with your writing all over again in the process, too. And reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing is never a bad thing.