How I Prevent Writer’s Block

Would that I could. But it happens. Here’s how I have learned to navigate it and get through it. First off, I think of it as being at a party. Lots of stuff is going on and you have to switch gears throughout the night, flirting, talking politics, helping with food, getting another drink, and meeting new people. You play many roles throughout the evening. Your day is the same way, but without the cool clothes and live band at the jazz festival above.

Everyday, I start the day by making a list of things to work on. Here’s what it usually looks like:

  1. Check email
  2. Check Facebook
  3. Check Twitter
  4. Check blogs I follow
  5. Draft 1-2 scenes in book (shoot for 1000 word minimum)
  6. Unload dishwasher
  7. Gym
  8. Work on query letter/send out query to 2 agents
  9. Write blog post
  10. Cook dinner
  11. Go to eye doctor

So I think you get the gist of it. I list everything I have to do that day (it’s usually 10-25 items long). Then I work my way through the list, alternating writing-related activities with other chores.

How does this help me with writer’s block?

I never allocate large sums of time to one task (including writing), so I never feel like I’m losing time to it. Also, when I’m performing other tasks, I think about the next scene in the book and what needs to happen to move the story forward. When I lose my way, I have a 5 page synopsis to keep me on track with where I’m going. It helps me understand what scene needs to be written next.

When I can’t think of the next scene, I switch to Facebook or email. Usually another scene in the book (possibly much later on in the story) is easier to draft so I move onto it knowing I’ll have to go back. But usually by the time I’ve run out of steam on that scene, the pressure is off and I can suddenly understand what the bridge scenes need to be.

I never expect more than 1000 words in a sitting. If 2000 come, they come. If only 500 come, then only 500 come. Then I walk away to some other task. My mind hates problems, so it keeps running over the book and trying to figure out what needs to come next. While I unload the dishwasher or hit the elliptical, my mind inevitably comes up with the solution. Then I finish my task and jump back on the computer.

Here’s a neat trick I read a while back. Stop writing when you still have ideas flowing. Maybe you just threw down 2-3 scenes and you already know the next one. Great! Stop here and make a note. That way when you pick it up tomorrow you won’t be facing that scary question of what next? You’ll already know and you can immediately get to writing.

There are days when no words come. It happens. Shake it off. You will have a day when double and triple the amount of words you expected flow from your fingertips. It’s okay to take a day off. Or a few days off. Switch to editing early scenes. Keep writing in some form, even if it’s a blog post. And don’t lose faith in yourself. You write because you can, because you must. Because you are a writer and one or two bad days doesn’t change that.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

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4 Responses to How I Prevent Writer’s Block

  1. Gerard says:

    I do a lot of writing in my job, which does result in writer’s block. I find driving in my car to be a great time for my mind to relax, and let things coalesce, and it works most of the time. Sometimes just shutting off the brain, and revisiting the topic the next day or two help immeasurably. And sometimes nothing works…proof of that lies in my desk…unfinished items that probably will never see the light.

    • Great point! I don’t have a car so I guess riding the subway would be the equivalent here. 🙂 With a book though, you probably can’t leave it on your desk forever. Though maybe a good idea would be to switch gears and write a poem or short story and then get back to the book.

  2. Emma says:

    I think all of us have to face writer’s block sooner or later, it’s part of the package. I like what you said about stopping writing when you still have ideas and just take notes. For me it is always the hardest part to get started up again. Once I’m done writing the beginning of a scene I usually get along easy with the rest of it (provided I know what will happen next). Oh and thank you so much for your last paragraph! I think this is going to be my new mantra for writing, thank you sooo much!

    • Writer’s block is a part of our writing lives, but there are ways to deal with it. Like annoying relatives or rude strangers. I think it helps to have ways to prevent it and to also be prepared to accept it. But not to let it paralyze you. Glad you liked my last paragraph. It’s what I tell myself when I’m not happy with my writing. 🙂 I was skeptical about that trick of stopping in mid scene but it does work nicely. 🙂

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