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:
- Check email
- Check Facebook
- Check Twitter
- Check blogs I follow
- Draft 1-2 scenes in book (shoot for 1000 word minimum)
- Unload dishwasher
- Work on query letter/send out query to 2 agents
- Write blog post
- Cook dinner
- 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?