Tag Archives: writer’s block

When all else fails, JUST WRITE!

Recently, I  had occasion to do some…errr…research on writer’s block. Yeah, research. That’s what I was doing. Like a scientist.

I found lots of great ideas to get unstuck and wrote the best ones on index cards to create an Oblique Strategies-like deck. Swipe, share, and add you own in comments.

  • Talk to a monkey – Explain what you’re really trying to say to a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout.
  • Do something important that’s very easy – Is there a small part of your project you could finish quickly that would move things forward?
  • Try freewriting – Sit down and write anything for an arbitrary period of time—say, 10 minutes to start. Don’t stop, no matter what. Cover the monitor with a manila folder if you have to. Keep writing, even if you know what you’re typing is gibberish, full of misspellings, and grammatically psychopathic. Get your hand moving and your brain will think it’s writing. Which it is. See?
  • Take a walk – Get out of your writing brain for 10 minutes. Think about bunnies. Breathe.
  • Take a shower; change clothes – Give yourself a truly clean start.
  • Write from a persona – Lend your voice to a writing personality who isn’t you. Doesn’t have to be a pirate or anything—just try seeing your topic from someone else’s perspective, style, and interest.
  • Get away from the computer; Write someplace new – If you’ve been staring at the screen and nothing is happening, walk away. Shut down the computer. Take one pen and one notebook, and go somewhere new.
  • Quit beating yourself up – You can’t create when you feel ass-whipped. Stop visualizing catastrophes, and focus on positive outcomes.
  • Stretch – Maybe try vacuuming your office.
  • Open a window – a little fresh air is a natural stimulant.
  • Add one ritual behavior – Get a glass of water exactly every 20 minutes. Do pushups. Eat a Tootsie Roll every paragraph. Add physical structure.
  • Clean off  your desk.  You know the saying…”Clutter on your desk is clutter in your mind.” 🙂
  • Rearrange your pens. I often arrange them by color and size.
  • Listen to new music – Try something instrumental and rhythmic that you’ve never heard before. Put it on repeat, then stop fiddling with iTunes until your draft is done.
  • Write crap – Accept that your first draft will suck, and just go with it. Finish something.
  • Unplug the router – Metafilter and Boing Boing aren’t helping you right now. Turn off the Interweb and close every application you don’t need. Consider creating a new user account on your computer with none of your familiar apps or configurations.
  • Write the middle – Stop whining over a perfect lead, and write the next part or the part after that. Write your favorite part. Write the cover letter or email you’ll send when it’s done.
  • Do one chore – Sweep the floor or take out the recycling. Try something lightly physical to remind you that you know how to do things.
  • Make a pointless rule – You can’t end sentences with words that begin with a vowel. Or you can’t have more than one word over eight letters in any paragraph. Limits create focus and change your perspective.
  • Work on the title – Quickly make up five distinctly different titles. Meditate on them. What bugs you about the one you like least?
  • Write five words – Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page. It’s like music to your ears, really…

On the other hand, remember Laurence Olivier.

One day on the set of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman showed up looking like shit. Totally exhausted and practically delirious, Olivier asked what the problem was, Hoffman said that at this point in the movie, his character will have been awake for 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that he had been too. Laurence Olivier shook his head and said, “Oh, Dusty, why don’t you just try acting?”

So, when all else fails, just try writing.



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Helpful hints if you’re self-sabotaging your writing career

Five Signs You May Be Sabotaging Your Writing Career

By Writers Relief Staff On March 1, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Self-sabotaging writerMany professional writers credit their success to both hard work and to being in the right place at the right time (note: Writer’s Relief can help with the latter!). But sometimes, being in the right place and working hard simply aren’t enough. Unless you’re truly open to success, you’ll have stacked the deck against yourself even before the cards are dealt! Here are five signs that you might be self-sabotaging your own writing career.

Sign #1. Writing doesn’t make you happy anymore. Maybe, at some point, you truly loved your work. But lately, your stories feel flat. You find yourself twitching and getting distracted when you’re supposed to be working, and when you finish a piece, you don’t get that lovely glowing feeling that follows a big accomplishment.

SOLUTION: Get back to basics. Stop and assess where your listlessness is coming from. What used to make you happy about writing that isn’t making you happy now? Make a list of what you love about writing, and read it before you sit down to work. Then, focus on what you love, and let the rest go.

Sign #2. You don’t feel your writing is strong. Perhaps you have many publication credits, perhaps you have none. Either way, you’re feeling down about your writing—and that feeling is leaking into the actual words you write.

SOLUTION. Time to reevaluate how you look at your work. Take drastic measures to do whatever it takes to begin to love your own stories and poems. Ask friends and family to tell you what they like about your work. Make a list of what you like about it. When you love your writing and are confident in your own talent, your chance at success improves!

Sign #3. You sit down to write, but there’s no inspiration to be found. You want to write but your fingers remain quiet on the keyboard. How will you become a well-regarded writer if you’re not writing? You’re caught in a downward spiral.

SOLUTION: Time to reinvigorate your muse—but there’s absolutely no reason to do it alone. Find a local poetry reading series—even if you don’t write poetry, you’ll be inspired. Join a writing group or a book club. Just being around words that inspire you—or even words that fail you and make you long for something better—will revive your muse. Also, consider going to an art museum or a concert, or take a class on glassblowing. Sometimes changing the direction of your creativity, if only for a moment, will reinvigorate your passion for words.

Sign #4. A great opportunity comes your way—maybe a literary agent is interested in a book project, or an editor wants to publish one of your poems, but she or he requests a few revisions. You worry. You worry so much that you end up sending multiple emails to the agent or editor in a single day. You call and pester. When you finally do get in touch with the agent or editor, you’re cranky and suspicious—you question everything. You feel you’re not getting enough attention. You think you’re being mistreated. You wonder why literary agents and editors aren’t taking you seriously and why good opportunities dry up.

SOLUTION: Your nerves may be blocking your path to success. Time to relax—but also to be aware of your own proclivity to botch situations that could help your career. When in doubt, treat people as you want to be treated—with trust, patience, and kindness.

Sign #5: You’ve finished your book, short story, poem, or essay, and after a period of procrastination, you send your work to a handful of literary agents or editors. Rejection letters ensue. You think: Well, I’ll send it out to a few more people, but then you don’t actually do it—or you do very little. Your work, which you suspect is quite good despite your handful of rejections, languishes and remains unpublished.

SOLUTION. Rather than relying on vague goals (I will send out my work), it’s time to make concrete, specific goals and stick to them (I will send my book to X number of agents per week/month). Tell others who will hold you accountable to check in with you and encourage you to stay on track (and remember to be nice to them even when it feels like they’re nagging you). Then, even if the prospects look glum, you won’t lose momentum.

Writer’s Relief can help you if you’re having a motivation problem. We keep our clients writing and submitting. Our system works and gets results!

BOTTOM LINE: This list of five signs of sabotage are symptoms of deeper issues. If you’re self-sabotaging your writing career, it’s time to do some deep introspection. Although you’re going after success, is there something that’s keeping you from getting it? Journal, listen to your own voice, and learn what may be blocking you.

QUESTION: Did you ever catch yourself in the act of self-sabotage? What steps did you take to curtail the problem? Share your story for the benefit of other writers!

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The download: My unique writing process

A friend of mine recently asked me about my “writing process,” and was hoping I had a lot of intense, sweat-driven, painstaking stories to share with him, but in truth, all I had to share was more about “the download.”

Here is how it works.  Sometimes it happens while listening to a song, sometimes it is a suddenly moment prodded by something emotional or inspirational, but it always comes as a sort of cinema-graphic download directly into my brain.  For example, recently a friend of mine wanted me to hear a song, so we sat in her car and listened to this wonderful jazz artist (purposefully not named) sing.  In a moment, I began to weep uncontrollably.  The song was not a typical jazz song, but dealt with the hungry, and it affected me profoundly.  The weeping was not just the result of being moved by good lyrics… on the contrary, it was the result of the download.  By download I mean while I was listening to this song, I had a cinema-graphic moment, and I saw the woman in the song, and her plight.  Not only did I see the character in the song, but in about a 10 minute period, I had the story-line for a feature film (beginning, middle and end), and I couldn’t find a piece of paper fast enough to jot this down, so I could return home and begin the writing process.

In truth (don’t hate me writer’s), this is how I get much of my fictional stories.  I see them, and in minutes, I know the beginning to the end.  The writing process for me is all about filling in the blanks.  Not, that is not always as easy as it sounds… Just because I have a complete story outline from the get-go, does not mean I don’t have to work, I do.  However, I truly never experience writer’s block, and I think it’s because I am not on a quest to tie in scenes and search for an ending.  I already know where I am going.

I feel exceptionally privileged.


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Let’s talk about writer’s block

It’s 2:33 am, and I have not done one stitch of writing all day.  No, I do not have writer’s block, I have been busy with life, and I suppose that I have been procrastinating a little bit.  Before you assume that I have writer’s block, let me assure you that my delay or putting off my writing is more related to fatigue than anything else.

Let’s talk about writer’s block for a minute.  It’s the dread of all writers… Picture it… you are in the middle of a fabulous adverb or adjective-driven paragraph, that promises to intoxicate the reader with clarity and description, when suddenly you have nowhere else to go!  Initially, there is a pause, then your right hand goes off the mouse, and you lean into the screen (left elbow on the desk), and you begin to tap the desk with your right hand (as if tapping and leaning is going to make any difference).  After about 10 minutes of this,  you lean back in your comfortable office-type chair, stretch, yawn, and rise from your  perch.  You make your way into the kitchen, and consider your options.  You could embark on a glass of pinot noir, but that is only going to relax you, and you need to be stimulated, so you decide on hot chai tea.  As the kettle is getting hot, you wander into the  bathroom, attend to the call of nature, and decide that a bubble bath might be in order.  You hear the whistle blowing, and run back to the kitchen half naked to fix your tea.  With tea in hand, you go back to the bathroom to enjoy a moment of reprieve and relaxation, with the hope  of stimulating your mind.  You tell yourself, “I just need to take a break, and then I will be right back in the zone.” Of course, you have only been writing for about an hour and a half,  so why  a break is necessary is a bit of a mystery, but it’s a worthy excuse.

It is like having a fine spa moment–You are up to your neck in bubbles wearing a green mud mask with cucumbers on your eyes.  The candles are lit while Sinatra’s standards play in the background.  Before turning into a prune, you decide to get out of the bath. Somewhere between the bathtub and getting dressed is your problem, because  you decide that you might better function in the morning.  After all– It is 3:15 am.

You know something has to shift when you lie in bed having conversations with your characters and begin to role-play with them.  It doesn’t take long before you realize that you really did need that glass of pinto noir!  Just before nodding off, you tell yourself that this is not writer’s block, but a part of character development, and that tomorrow will be much more productive day.


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