Get out of your own way – banishing writer’s block

This was done for a column elsewhere…something that never actually went out. I found it while looking for a different file, as I sometimes do and thought it really needed to be shared. I’ve seen so many social media posts lately about this, and hope this can help those who are struggling.

THE POST & edited repost:
I vacillated for a while on what to write here that would be beneficial. I was working on several guest posts for something and realized that I’m possibly an anomaly in the writing world. I decided that I would take the small guest post I did and expand on it. The subject is Writer’s Block, and it’s honestly a hard topic for me. Not because I don’t know how to overcome it, more so because I seldom have it. So, let’s see if I can summarize the issue I have, and offer some tips for those who are plagued by the silent muse.

It goes like this… Writer’s Block. This is a phenomenally difficult subject for me, I can’t claim to have it. Because I’m a plotter, and because I do the research-heavy, plot board intensive work before I sit down to actually write, by the time I sit down, I trip on words, but not the story. I’ve been known to put a ______________ in the page just to keep moving instead of getting stopped up by the word on the tip of my tongue that I can’t find, or read in the mirror making faces. 

I do have, when I’m storyboarding or plotting, moments when I can’t find the next piece for an arc that I’m working on. Usually though, if I switch to a different arc, the piece ferrets itself out and is right where I need it to be when I come back to it. Worst case scenario, I find it during my final review before I sit down to write it out. I understand writer’s block in concept, it’s just that by the way I work, it isn’t part of my writing reality. Instead, I have procrastination.

So, what does this really mean? For me, writing is a long period of work on the story before I sit to write. I spend days, weeks, and sometimes months figuring out the arcs in my head, and then researching before I approach my wall. I plot every scene and location out story-board style so that when I get to the writing, it has become a vacuum. I have all the pieces to complete the puzzle and there is little room for writer’s block because the next piece is waiting on the wall to be taken down and written.

I have the faces of my characters staring at me too and because I color code the wall, I can clearly see what is coming next. I know simply by looking up if I need to begin using building language, or to work with words that lay a foundation for something else that is coming…sorrow, change, regret, or even supplication. Everything I need is in front of me waiting, so being blocked is not really an option.

But, I know there are lots of pantsters, and plotters too, who hit the proverbial wall, or stare at a blank screen unsure what to write next. I can only imagine the misery. For those folks, I have a couple of suggestions for things that I use when I cannot get to the plot wall that might be helpful.

The first, and biggest one is the title here, Get out of your own way…and do something else. When we are encompassed with a need to write and find that we can’t, the frustration levels go up, and quickly. Let’s be honest, stress begets stress too…so the longer the state continues, the higher the anxiety of it. Take the time to step back. I have found that scribbling notes about what I do know about the story helps, as do word association games. Sometimes, being able to string words together for no reason other than to define the state the work is in or where it needs to go opens the gate to free up my thought process. Inspiration can strike when you aren’t actively fighting yourself to get the next word on the page.

Next, find what mellows you out. I’m sure many of us can relate to the notion that we’ve gotten great story or dialogue ideas…when we were sleeping, or dreaming. Why? Because we had allowed ourselves to let go and gave our mind freedom to do what it does, create. When our mind is unencumbered by the eleventy-billion things we are forcing it to process at any given moment, and it has no agenda, we dream freely. For the creatives…the authors, poets, painters…I think this is part of the inspiration process, if we let it be. The difference between the random dream we lose upon waking, and the next great storyline, is giving ourselves permission to retain it. The mind is an incredible tool, if we harness it to work for us instead of against. Like the young mother who is a heavy sleeper who tells herself to listen for the baby crying…you can tell yourself to remember too. (This does not mean I don’t lose dreaming sequences, I do. I have simply given myself permission to let them go or return another time and don’t stress over the loss.)

By finding what we need to let our mind wander, we clear the footholds that writer’s block uses to stop us from writing. And, by giving our conscious mind directive to retain, we can recall what comes when we aren’t forcing it. So, chill out, go for a walk, take a nap, sit in the sun and actively don’t think…whatever it is that lets you let go…do that, and then re-approach your project.

Lastly, whatever the solution is that you finds works for you, avoid commiseration and social media at this crucial time. It is easy to slip into the ‘woe is me’ posting and let others join in the maelstrom of your block. This is counterproductive and gives energy to the very thing you are trying to overcome. What we feed is what grows…guess what? It is true with this too. If you want to overcome the thing that holds you back, you have to take away the power that it has, and that means not giving it an audience.

I’m not the great writer’s block whisperer…I only know what works for me. I hope that some of these can help you too. I’d love to hear other solutions. Give me a shout here at my webpage or over at Facebook any time!! 

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