Posted by: Kathleen Mix | September 16, 2014

Slaying Writer’s Block

Writers frequently hit difficult spells where daily word counts dwindle to zero. The premise that seemed so wonderful seventy-five pages ago suddenly seems lacking, or we’ve reached the middle of the story and decided our plot is a tangled mess.
When this happens, we lament that our creative juices aren’t flowing, our muse has left the building, or our ideas are blocked.
New writers may simply be paralyzed by fear and self-doubt.
Published writers may feel pressure to be prolific. They’re told to produce a book a year, or worse every six months, to ensure readers remember their name. Slow writers may panic, and as a result, their minds go blank.
A writer with a contract may be facing a deadline. Some people dig in and forge ahead, others sit around wringing their hands and worrying about being late, making their time crunch worse.
Writers who have had a successful book before are under intense pressure to produce a good book again. The stakes are higher, and their inner critic sneaks out to whisper their work-in-progress won’t meet expectations.
The cure for writer’s block is always the same: write. Sit down and put something on the page. Temporarily forget quality. Go back and fix whatever you produce later.
If you’re out of ideas, try a few minutes of free association around a character’s occupation, the topic or theme of your story, or the problem your character must face. Jot down the words, concepts, and images that pop into your mind. Make a list of fifteen things that could happen. Brainstorm an unlikely plot twist. Maybe you’ll like that direction better than the way you’d originally planned to go.
Another trick is to open a new file and imagine a child just said, “Tell me a story.” Glance around the room, pick out an object, and use it to kick-start a narrative or inspire a character. You wouldn’t disappoint a child. Don’t disappoint yourself. Get your fingers moving over the keys. Keep going until you circle around to something you can use in your work-in-progress.
When panic starts crawling up my back, I usually think of Scheherazade. If she’d begged off telling a story using the excuse of writer’s block, she would have had a much shorter life. She had good reason to sit staring, wide-eyed and dry-mouthed, but she kept talking night after night, weaving tales to keep the king enthralled.
Somewhere inside, I have equally as many stories to tell. If you’ll just relax and let them out, so do every one of you.


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