No no, don’t look away, or squeal in fright. Just look at it. Stare at it. Brace yourself. It can smell your fear.
I spent a moment last night trying to decide how I got over writers block. It’s not that I was blocked. I mean, I’m sort of blocked at the moment, but it’s more like a rest, from completing The Dark Days. At the moment, I’m focusing on other things, like running and getting the blog, twitter, and facebook page appropriately into the limelight.
But oh, I know you, writer’s block. I see you lurking back there. Some people describe writers block like a big old rock, or a wall in their path, that they’re bashing their head against.
Some people see it as a murky road where their feet get stuck in the mud and they get eaten by bogs (I FOUND AN EXCUSE!).
Personally, writer’s block is much more like a smog. A big black cloud of ick and meh which descends upon me. Often, it sings in Tim Curry’s voice. Sadly, I do not have a dancing tree-growing fairy to help me, but I do have a bit of an arsenal. Some of it is obvious, some of it not as much.
Music. Music is an obvious one, in my book, but maybe not so much in other people’s. While it isn’t exactly the inspiration for much, it is a road on which my words can coast from my brain (where things are awfully loud) to the page (where things are a little quieter). Think of music as the pensive to my writerly thoughts (except with less creepy white floating stuff). It gives me a way to concentrate on what I know is already there.
Coffee. Ok. I admit. Coffee is not always a writer’s drink of choice, but I have built coffee to the point of being a classical conditioning signal. You can do this with any drink/food/snack. Do you remember in basic psychology when they told you about the guy (Pavlov, that is) who rang a bell and fed the dogs to encourage salivation – and after awhile all he had to do was ring the bell and the dogs would salivate?
Please don’t think I’m comparing anyone to a dog here, but if you take your snack of choice, and apply it while saying “It is now time to work” and then you actually work eventually, simply having the snack will let you focus on your work. Straight black coffee (or, in Korea,an Americano) does this for me. So while I am not comparing you to a dog, I am suggesting that you classically condition yourself in a similar manner. Is that bad? Sorry.
Outlines. Some people don’t like outlines. I’m using outlines in the very vaguest sense of the word. My outlines have gone from beautiful typed out classical outlines to bullet points in a journal. Either way, to prevent writers block, write something which gives the general curve of the story. The point isn’t to tell the story: it’s to make sure you always have a place to go. Remember, the rainbow doesn’t have to be beautiful the first time around. It just has to have the colors and a curvy kind of impression. The second and third draft are for the prettiness.
My Husband. No, I’m not telling you to go off and get hitched. Actually, I’m telling you to go find someone you trust. Now. Buy them lunch. That should be enough to earn a few minutes to an hour of a sound board. They don’t even need to talk, or pay attention. They just need to look at you earnestly, and maybe nod once in awhile until you can talk yourself out. Start by telling them where you are. Then tell them where you’d like to go. Then tell them the problems with that. If you are just too shy to to this, then take out a sheet of paper and write it to yourself: Where am I? What is everyone doing now? Where do I need people to be? What do I need them to be doing? How do I get them there? Somewhere in there, you will shake loose an idea. Occasionally, you will be forced to leave your lunch partner with a hurried “thanksIgottagowritethisdown!” Blessedly, if your lunch partner is also your writing partner and/or your husband, he will understand.
DO IT ANYWAY. (If I’ve been spending too much time on the internet, this become significantly more profane.) Sometimes, and I am sad to say this, you just have to sit down and say “well, shoot. This is going to suck. I’m just going to have to wade through.” Usually, this is after everything else has failed. I get stuck in this on big fight scenes. (You remember the K-pop and Rainbows post? Yeah, that’s what was happening there.) This is where the bog metaphor is particularly good. You must put on your galoshes, and just go.
When plagued by writer’s block, unless it magically goes away, you will despise every word you put to the paper. You will throw a temper tantrum. Your rage will be as to a great hurricane of fire riddled with lightning, biting insects, and evil smog that sings like Tim Curry. But put on your big girl/boy panties, tell yourself you’re a writer and just do it. No whining. Yes, even if you lose your shoes and get eaten by the bog. (Thanks to E.P. Beamount)
(Also, get on twitter and share some Beast-slaying tips! Hashtag #takingonthebeast – I’ll be there!)