I’ve known for several days what I wanted to write about this week, but this is the fourth time I’ve begun the blog post. Each time I wrote something, it stunk and I deleted it and started again. How fitting, then, that my idea for this week is to talk about Writer’s Block.
Have you ever seen a baseball game in which the pitcher is going through a bad stretch and just can’t throw a decent pitch? Or a golf tournament in which the golfer who was just recently at the top of his or her game now can’t seem to make even one good shot? That’s what I imagine to be the athlete’s equivalent of Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block is something that lots of writers fear, and that a few actually embrace. Why would anyone embrace the temporary inability to write?
I can’t really answer that, because I’m one of the writers that fears it. But I know I’ve read stories (I like to call them “legends”) about authors who don’t mind Writer’s Block…they know that they’ll come out on the other side a better writer.
The way I see it, there are two different approaches to Writer’s Block. The first is to keep writing and the second is to stop writing. I have tried both approaches, and I’ve actually had success with both.
The advice I’ve heard many times is to keep writing no matter how awful your words are. Eventually the words will straighten themselves out and you’ll find a thread to latch onto that isn’t totally terrible. You’ll then be able to write your way out of your funk. This really works…sometimes. Once I’ve picked up that thread and I’m back on track, I find that I like to copy the bad stuff I’ve written, delete it from the main document, and put it in a separate document. I refer to the bad stuff occasionally because (once in a while) I can go back and resurrect ideas from it and transform them into ideas that actually work.
My advice? Keep writing until you can’t stand it anymore, then try a different approach.
This can be broken down further: either stop writing permanently, or stop writing temporarily. I can’t in good conscience recommend that any writer stop writing permanently because in my opinion this is a rather drastic way of dealing with the problem.
So that brings us to a temporary break in your writing. A “temporary break” can mean different things to different people. For a writer with a deadline looming, the break is going to have to be short, maybe an hour or two. For someone who has a little more time, the break may be a little longer, perhaps a few weeks or more.
The important thing to remember is that during the break, do something that’s going to help you with your writing.
This may mean reading a book outside your preferred genre or a book within your preferred genre (whichever is better for you personally).
Or it can mean getting outdoors for some fresh air and a little while away from the computer.
It can mean writing something else, maybe a short story if you’re a novelist or an essay if you’re a poet.
It can mean taking a nap, if you’re so tired that the words on the screen in front of you have stopped making sense.
It can mean getting up and having lunch if you’ve forgotten to eat. Again.
The point is, you have to find out what works for you and then get out there and do it. It may take a while to figure out what works, but keep trying. Something will work.
I’ve now rewritten this post several times and it’s taken much longer than usual to write. That’s okay, because my deadline (which is self-imposed) isn’t until tomorrow morning at four o’clock. What do you do to combat Writer’s Block? I’d love to hear your solutions.
Until next week,