Jo (jo_no_anne) wrote,
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JoHoTo #9: Pulverizing Writer's Block

To me, writer's block becomes a giant stone monolith in my brain when it happens, and I want nothing more than to pulverize it into a powder that will sift out of my ears like sand.
If you haven't experienced the joy that is writer's block yet, I can 100% guarantee that you will.
Sorry to break the news, but it DOES happen to everyone, even if it's just a pebble of blockage, rather than a stone monolith.

Signs of writer's block:
-Being at a literal loss for words
-Staring blankly at a computer screen or sheet of paper for lengths at a time
-Incessant doodling when you should be writing
-Incessant web surfing when you should be writing (not to be confused with procrastination in general)
-Sleepless nights of mulling over what should come next/what you should work on next
-Feeling hopeless about ever starting/completing a manuscript
-Anxiety attacks about your writing project

Cause of writer's block:

The pressure to please yourself/agent/editor/fans/family/friends

I'd like to say it's caused by something medical, so you could take pills and get rid of it, but it's all a mental game.
That being said, it IS treatable if you can accept it for what it is (versus "I NEVER have writer's block!") and get over the mental hangups:

"What if my writing is crap?"
"What if this story is crap?"
"What if I'm taking this story in the wrong direction?"
"What if I never finish this book?"
"What if I'm just out of ideas?"
"What if I never write anything as good as my last book?"
"What if I can't meet my agent's/editor's/fans'/friends' expectations?"

Treatments for writer's block:
-Repeat after me. "I can always revise." ESPECIALLY if you're on your first draft, this should be your mantra. Right now, you're just nailing down the story, characters, dialogue. Revisions are going to hone and polish your work into a thing of beauty, so just concentrate on writing a rough version of the story first. Who cares if it sucks more than a black hole? You can ALWAYS REVISE.
-Outline. If you're having trouble laying out a story and getting to the fabulous end you know is coming, return to your school days and outline the entire thing. You don't have to go into crazy detail, but define where your story begins, the turning point, the resolution and the main pieces of action it takes to get to those points.
-Read. I know it seems counterintuitive to take a break from your own work and get into someone else's, but you'll find inspiration and comfort in the words of others. And sometimes seeing how someone else handles a particular issue can jumpstart your brain.
-Talk it out. Writing is a solitary craft by nature, so when you're lost or confused, it can feel like nobody else in the world can relate. FALSE. There are so many people who have been where you are or are going through what you're going through. Sometimes just knowing that you're not alone and that others HAVE gotten over it is enough of a cure.
-Understand that talent doesn't just disappear. Singers don't suddenly wake up one morning tone-deaf. Painters don't suddenly wake up one morning drawing only stick figures. Why should writers be any different? If you had the talent yesterday/last week/last month, you have it now. If anything, the more you write, the more your talent grows.
-Set realistic expectations. Nobody will ever put more pressure on you than you. As writers, we tend to be our own worst enemies and punish ourselves for the slightest faults. Unless you've written 5,000 words a day in the past, don't make that a goal and hate yourself when you can't reach it. Just try again the next day.
-Don't view writing as a competition. This goes hand-in-hand with setting realistic expectations. Don't try to be like anyone else. Don't compare your track record with someone who's following a different life journey than you are. In the infamous words of Mary Schmich, "Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." 
-Draw inspiration from the world around you. I will go on record right now and say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there are at LEAST 100 story ideas in your house alone.

Care to challenge the 100-story-ideas-in-your-house theory? Go ahead. Post an object from your house in the comments and I'll give you a story idea for it.

Example: That vacuum in your closet. What if it wasn't an ordinary vacuum? What if you bought it at a garage sale and it turns out the woman who owned it before you was a demon hunter who used this vacuum-like device to suck demons out of the world? What if you didn't know that, and went to empty the bag?
Play the "what if" game with items in your house. Nothing is as ordinary as it seems.


Tags: johoto
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