BEATING THE BLOCK

Writer’s block is a pain in the ass. It’s insidious and mean. It can strike at any time and gives no shit for your plans or ideas. So, what do we do? How do we defeat this menace? Here are some suggestions from my own experience that will hopefully help guide you through the misery of avoiding the dreaded white page.

LET’S GET STARTED SHALL WE

     For any creative person, the blank page has meaning.

     It could be the start of a new project or the final page of an old one. It could be where you intend to create a list of all the awesome things you are going to do on a holiday or what you are going to say in a speech.

     Maybe it’s a reminder of just how much you suck and of how little you actually have to say! I think for most, this is the reason the page remains empty. But it’s not the only reason, nor is it a good one as I’ll explain later.

     Let’s take a step back.

     So you want to write something. I use to write over draw or whatever other methods that come to mind because it’s most applicable to me, but the causes and hopefully the cures (for the most part) are one and the same.

     Let’s roll all writing projects into one and highlight specifics if and when they come around. So we might be talking blog post or short story, we might be talking about a best man speech or a critique.

     It’s what we do about the blank page that matters.

WRITERS BLOCK VS. BLANK PAGE SYNDROME

     Simply put, writer’s block is when you find it impossible to put ideas on a page. Blank page syndrome is similar but more of a short term or specific problem, that is an inability to work on specific pieces.

     There are many sources on the subject, from writers talking about their problems like Phyllis Koestenbaum , Alice W. Flaherty and Gabriele Lusser Rico  (you should really check her out!) to studies done in the early 1980’s.

     The actual causes of writer’s block vary depending on your source but most fall under two headings, Well-being and Pressure.

     With the first cause, illness or depression, physical or mental stresses, curing the problem is tied with coping or regaining health. It’s not a switch, it’s a process and writing can be used as part of that process, such as a journal or word cloud.

     The second cause, pressure, is a more, nebulous in the realm of feelings woo-woo idea, but it’s actually far easier to manage.

THE GET TO IT!

A lot of people don’t work well under pressure. It’s all about deadlines and time management. There are those who thrive under these conditions, yours truly being one of them. Give me five minutes and I’ll shine. Give me a month and I’ll put on weight and perfect my ‘choose a category’ skills on Netflix.

     The how’s and whys aren’t important here but somewhere down the line I think it’s a worthy topic to broach . . .

     It’s the rabbit in a headlights factor. You have to produce something and soon and your mind goes totally blank. Dear gods but where do you even start?

     What did you just do?

     Like five minutes ago.

     Did you read something or play something? Did you watch a video on YouTube or listen to some music? Did you microwave some chilli cheese hot pockets and totally destroy your taste buds?

     What did you do? What was on your mind?

     That’s a fix, believe it or not. The problem with free reign over topics is that there are just too many choices. So scale the situation back. Think small.

     Ask yourself, what’s on my mind. What am I interested in, what recently caught my fancy or tickled my unmentionables. If you must be specific, then ask yourself what about the topic interests you or disappointed you. Have you interacted with the topic recently, in what way or ways and how?

     The cure you see is specificity.

     Rather than give yourself a realm of possibilities, limit yourself to that which affects you.

     This works best with blogposts and essays but also for short stories. Don’t try to shoot straight for the stars with an expose or Hemingway styled masterpiece. That kind of grand finish all comes later. But if you don’t start, nothing will come of it at all Tweet: If you don’t start, nothing will come of it at all. http://bit.ly/2wgMHkx.

     So start small.

THE GET TO WHAT?

This problem, the problem of what to do next is particularly prevalent with long prose writers like novelists.      So, you have an idea, you have a character or a hook, maybe a scenario. You might only have a word that resonates with you but you can imagine taking it somewhere.      So where do you start?      Pantsers take their idea to the blank page and after a quick think, they begin. A lot of editing usually follows this technique but then again, there is always editing.      I’m a short form pantser.      When it comes to longer pieces, I like to have a map ready. This isn’t a beat sheet or complicated outline. It’s just a general direction to begin and an idea of where I want to end up. It’s usually all I need to be able to sit down and start writing from start to finish.      You see, when the blank page stares at you, you need to come armed Tweet: When the blank page stares at you, you need to come armed. http://bit.ly/2wgMHkx.      A little preparation can go a long way. If you’re writing a novel or novella, you can usually fix this problem by reading books in your chosen genre. You could also do a standard 5 Point Plot. This isn’t necessarily how the story will go; it’s just a means to start and a direction to follow.      For a blog, read other blogs, specifically on your topic. If you want to do a movie review, read some reviews, see how others handle it. If you want to talk about concrete ideas like politics, start reading political columnists.      The idea isn’t to copy others but jar your imagination.      Here’s a quick list of mostly does and a don’t. They won’t always work but that’s why there’s more than one way to heat a hot pocket.  

  • Procrastinate – don’t do this ever. Never begin something and then leave without reaching a milestone, even an arbitrary one. This will simply feed the blank page and make the next attempt even more daunting.

 

  • Use an outline – as I stated earlier, this isn’t a hard and fast beat sheet for whatever you are doing, it’s a guide to help you get going and keep going along the way. Of course, if you want a more detailed plan, that’s cool too.

 

  • Mind Map / Cloud – draw a circle in the middle of a blank page and write something in it. It might be a single word like a theme or emotion or the topic of what you want to write about. Then draw a line from that bubble and write something associated with your first word. Keep this up. The result is a cloud of ideas.

 

  • Listen to Music – is exactly what it sounds like. Throw on a few tunes and relax. Imagine you are in a dark movie theatre and the music’s playing. What’s on the screen? How does the music make you feel?

 

  • Go Away From your Desk – Go for a run or a long casual walk. Don’t grumble on your problem, rather try and let the outside in. enjoy the scenery and sensations and later, ask yourself what you want to write.

 

  • Check Out the Competition – if you want to write a blog post, essay or article, why not see what others are up to? It’s not stealing to offer your opinion on a shared topic. It’s smart. Steal like an artist  as Austin Kleon says. Grab inspiration from everywhere and be proactive in sharing your ideas. Creative people are not limited; they thrive on pressure and invent solutions Tweet: Creative people are not limited; they thrive on pressure and invent solutions. http://bit.ly/2wgMHkx!

BUT I SUCK!

     Yup, we all do. And that’s too bad, better scurry on home I guess. I mean, people read very rarely. No one looks for new subjects or new writers. We all have a very small field of interest and you’re not in it. Right? Bullshit!

     The two reasons we read something are, interest in the topic (crime, science, sport, humour, general nonsense) and interest in the writer (creators) point of view and their voice. It’s half the reason we read anything. We want to hear that particular person’s particular views in their voice, with their idioms and foibles and unique styles.

     If you deny your voice you may as well deny everyone else’s, I mean, who cares, right?

     Don’t worry about making mistakes. Don’t feel threatened by the faceless masses. You are offering your opinion. You are sharing ideas. You are throwing out possibilities and shedding some light on something you know or think. This is how we begin a dialogue. This is how communities are started.

EASY MULTIPLE-CHOICE ANSWERS

     In general, writer’s block is a pin in the ass. But it can be overcome. Sometimes it’s caused by your health, and sometimes it’s because you don’t feel you or your work is good enough or up to standard. These are real issues. And no one denies the syndrome exists, but there are ways and means of dealing with it.

     To that end, here is a bunch of other possible cures for your perusal.

 

     Write something else, try a different short project, don’t give up on what you’re doing, just distract yourself a bit

 

  • Close the door, declutter your workspace, dump distractions

 

  • Exercise; get your blood pumping or play (something physical)

 

  • Freewrite – begin with what’s on your mind & see where it leads

 

  • Get emotional; swear the house down, watch puppies on YouTube, do something to get mad or upset, exercise your feelings

 

  • Try working in a different setting, go to the library, go to the park, be a Starbucks douche for a day

 

  • Make a coffee or some tea; get a little caffeine into the system

 

  • Create a routine & see if the muse will turn up, set a specific time to work and stick to it

 

  • Read something, anything, open your mind to ideas and put your insecurities aside

 

     The best advice though holds true with many things in life; give yourself permission to fail.

Do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know what works for you.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *