Some writers claim to have never had writer’s block, or to have found surefire ways to overcome it. A friend once told me her guaranteed method for curing writer’s block was to say she was quitting the writing game. And the concept of writer’s block can be a really hard one to understand for people who don’t write, for whom writing is a choice rather than a compulsion. Some writers are lucky enough to be paid for their writing but with great payment comes great responsibility and they often have to work under deadline—something that’s aptly named. Depend upon it: when a writer is facing a deadline in a fortnight it concentrates the mind most wonderfully.
For those of us who aren’t being paid for our writing writer’s block can be especially painful because, even though no one’s banging down the door demanding the wit and wisdom of our lips or fingertips there’s an internal pressure to produce and while we all have our mental prunes they don’t always get things moving.
Every writer has their own tips and tricks, though. Back when typewriters were still legal a writer told me he’d get distracted by having to put in a new sheet every few minutes but overcame that by using a roll of butcher’s paper so he’d have one really long page. Some always start a new project with a mental image. Some of us fill up space by paraphrasing clichés and quotes from better writers or mixing metaphors. Some bloggers ask questions they expect readers to answer in the comments, leaving other chumps to do their work for them.
I was inspired to think about all this by this video of actors playing writers facing writer’s block. So if you’re a writer what’s your trick for getting the ball rolling into high gear?
I have no idea what or when my next post will be at any time. I sometimes have ONE blog post in draft because I half-worked on it, but I have seen some bloggers’ calendars and they know exactly what they are posting about 3 weeks from today. I am not sure I could work like that. My writing is triggered by someone saying “Remember that time…?” or something that recently struck me as amusing. When I write, I usually write about the funniest thing that just happened OR the funniest thing I just remembered. I feel the world will always be full of those triggers, but I can’t tell you what next week’s will be.
It’s funny you mention calendars because I meant to post this on Tuesday, May 10th and somehow fouled up and just hit “publish immediately, send it out to the world!” I love to write stuff in advance and schedule it. I’ve scheduled some things a year or more in advance. Some things I’ve written and put aside thinking, “Yeah, I’d better save that for Halloween.”
It all goes back to the start of this as a funny Friday email. It’s purely self-imposed and I now do stuff throughout the week but I try to keep myself on a schedule. It’s my way of saying to potential editors and publishers “Hey, I can work with a deadline!”
Did I just claim to never have writer’s block? I think I did 🙂
But I also have no schedule, no stresses.
Ugh, writer’s block. One thing I noticed last week is that sometimes, if I’m not writing the RIGHT thing, it is so hard to get words out. I don’t know if that makes sense? Anyway, I had it in my mind that I was going to write about a few funny experiences I had as an expat back in my ‘single days.’ (Like, the E-Harmony match up from hell, etc.) It felt like such a fun topic. But, as I was writing I kept getting distracted, and I felt stressed because the piece was getting longer and longer and longer and it all sounded so stilted and whatnot. I just wasn’t having fun. And, the past was not turning out well AT ALL. So, I finally just opened up a new document and started writing something totally different. I was thinking about white lies, for some reason, and went with that. Well, I totally got in to that one…and the writing came so much easier. So, it just taught me that maybe when things feel blocked or aren’t coming out right, it’s a good idea to switch gears completely? I also find that when I’m not sure where a post is headed (i.e. I’m discovering as I go) that I enjoy it a lot more than when I know exactly what I’m going to write about, start to finish? I’m also a big fan of starting a new page and writing, “I have writer’s block, this is terrible, I hate this feeling, I have nothing to write about” etc. etc. until I finally get that out of my system and move on to business. 🙂
Having trouble getting the words out if you’re not writing the right thing makes perfect sense. Sometimes I have an idea that sounds brilliant in my head until I start writing it down and then it just doesn’t feel right. Something weird happens between my brain and my head. And I often start from an ending and work backward, although I feel like it’s always better when I’m working along on something and an ending just hits me from out of nowhere.
Also it’s weird but these self-imposed schedules I’ve created for myself can be very inspiring because they give me a structure to build on. But I’m not sure that’s something that would work for everyone.
That video made me super stressed/hungry for muffins.
When I’m stuck I tell myself not to wait for inspiration but to just write, something, anything and then wade through it later and look for pearls.
If I can’t do that I will find stuff to read on the subject I want to write about.
If inspiration strikes in the middle of the night I will get up and write. This has the added appeal of making me feel like a really important and serious writer. Even if I’m writing totally superficial crap I kind of feel like Hemingway.
For me too writing something, anything, can sometimes be a good way to clear my head and it feels really good when I feel like I’m finding some wheat in the chaff.
Reading on the subject I want to write about, or reading things in the style I think I’m going for, can be helpful but also backfire. Sometimes I find that reality completely undermines what I thought I was going to say. And sometimes I’ll read something great and think, “Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll never do anything that good.”
Getting up in the middle of the night to write can be great. Sometimes I also feel like writing in public makes me look like a serious and important writer. Now there’s some superficial crap. It shouldn’t matter how I look to other people.
I keep notes on my phone throughout the week. Right now, for example, I have “Titus and the Magic Box”, and “I tell shitty stories” (sorry for the spoiler). I can usually spin those random thoughts into something. If that doesn’t work, I just start drinking.
So drinking inspires you? I know it loosens me up too which is interesting. When I was a kid a published writer told me writers drink when they feel guilty for not writing and then drinking makes them write even less and the next thing you know you’re F. Scott Fitzgerald or Dylan Thomas.
Or something like that. Anyway they did pretty well for themselves, so obviously drinking is good advice to anyone who wants to write.
I thought about this post for most of the day and I cannot come up with a good comment. I, personally, find inspiration from the news, other blogs, or something just comes up. Most of the times I start writing the first sentence, usually first thing that comes to mind, and save it as a draft…then I never really come back to it. I have a bunch of drafts open that I feel I should go back to, but writing them becomes a chore and I move on to the next (best) thing.
I was just on Twitter now, and someone posted a quote by Anthony Neilson “Listen to music to find a way into the story you’re telling. Music is incredibly evocative: find the right piece that reflects the world you are writing about, and you’re halfway there”.
I have to try this – again. Subconsciously I did this back in high school when replying to love notes and I would be inspired by the “syropy” song I was listening to at that moment. I used to write down the catchy phrases from the song lol
This is brilliant. You started by saying you couldn’t come up with a “good comment” and yet it appears inspiration struck and you came up with a great comment.
It’s also funny to me that you used to write down phrases from songs when replying to love notes in high school. When I was in high school I started writing poetry because I wanted to imitate the lyrics of songs I loved.
I have no idea why I never have writer’s block for my daily blog. Maybe now that I’ve written that previous sentence, I’ll have writer’s block tomorrow. If I do, I’ll just keep typing one word after another, letting go of any investment in how it all turns out. Or maybe I’ll just watch some great videos.
It amazes me too that you write something thought-provoking and fun to read every day, but I think being in the habit of doing it helps. The mind is another muscle and can be trained.
And if you do get writer’s block you can make it the theme of a post.