Apr 30, 2015 · 64 Comments
It's been ages since I published a journal entry. Shame. On. Me. My only excuse? Writer's block--two words that writers fear so much that quite a few of us refuse to believe it exists. I've read so many great writers who say writer's block is all in the imagination and that it's never happened to them.
Well, they're lucky, because it sure as sugar happens to me. Lots. So many lots, in fact, that I've come up with a few strategies for dealing with it. If you're lucky enough that it's never happened to you, be very pleased! I find it takes a few different forms: can't think of an idea I want to write, can't figure out what happens next, can't focus enough to write anything, and the most honest one of all, absolutely terrified that all the writing I've done so far is nothing but dumb luck and any minute now everyone's going to figure out I have no idea what I'm doing.
The last on that list is probably the most honest, and also probably the real reason for all the others. It all comes down to one thing--fear.
Can't think of an idea?
1. Stop trying to. You've had great ideas before, you'll have another great idea. Forget about it for a bit. Go for a walk, play with the cat, talk to a friend. It'll happen. And make sure you carry a note book and pencil with you for when it does!
2. My favorite way to come up with an idea is to browse through webpages. I've gotten some great ideas this way. Usually they come from stories that are being shared around, because there's often something extraordinary or emotional in those. Sometimes it's a photo of a lonely spot in Iceland, other times it's a kid playing in a treehouse. It's often not even what's in the photo itself, but the feelings or ideas that spring from that.
3. Make up a character. Maker him/her as funny or silly or serious as you want. Think of everything they like or dislike. Imagine them until they feel almost real to you. Then, once you know what they want most in the world, think of what could happen that keeps them away from the thing they want most.
Can't figure out what happens next?
1. If you can, keep writing until what happens next just happens. Sometimes the not-knowing gets you real stuck, though, so that you can't possibly write another word. If that happens, then . . .
2. Scribble out a rough version of the things that could happen, and what things they would cause to happen next. Do that for all the different options you can think of, and see where it might lead you and which version you like best.
3. Brainstorm with a friend. This is my favorite and works so well for me! Natalie and I brainstorm a lot over the stories we write together, but we also often do it to help me out when I'm blocked on a story I'm writing alone (because she's just awesome at this). I also have a couple of friends who are great at helping me brainstorm too. One of them mostly just listens and asks the odd leading question until the answer hits me. Another one of them throws ideas at me until something either works for me, or triggers something else that solves my problem.
4. Read lots. Find your favorite Storybird writers, get a new book from your favorite author from the library, try out a new author with a totally different type of story that you'd normally read. Sometimes, you can get ideas from something in another story, or it can inspire you to try something new. I don't mean use the same idea, but sometimes you can see something in there that triggers an idea in your head.
Can't focus enough to write anything?
Well, there's really only two answers to this one, depending on what works for you (as far as I know, anyways!)
1. Force yourself. This might not lead to good writing, but as some wise writer whose name I forget said: You can edit bad writing, but you can't edit a blank page.
But if that doesn't work...
2. Figure out what's getting to you. Pressure? Tiredness? Worried about something? Once you've figured it out, try and be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. Sometimes that's all you really need to get motivated again.
3. Maybe you just need to recharge your creative batteries. This is another time that browsing through your favorite Storybird stories, or reading a book by your favorite author, or watching your favorite TV shows can really help. Focus on what you like about someone else's work, and what you can learn from them, and give yourself a break.
And the last thing, which is probably the real reason behind all the other things: Thinking you're not good enough/Fear.
1. Read through your other work and pay special attention to the things you've gotten better at.
2. Read positive things people have said about your writing before. Maybe a teacher graded you well for a story, or a friend told you how much they loved reading your writing, or you've published a story here on Storybird and you got some awesome comments. If you're feeling low, reading those things can really make your day. Reading our comments here on Storybird make me feel like a good writer and inspire me to keep writing. Positivity is a great thing. I often go back through our chapters on both books and read the comments to keep me going. It's another great reason to leave a comment on someone else's story too. You never know when you're going to make someone else's day!
3. Don't believe the mean voice in your head that reminds you of the things you've done badly. That voice is just a trouble-maker!
I've tried all these things and sometimes they work better than other times. But the one thing I know for sure never works is sitting and staring at a blank screen, trying to come up with words.
And if all else fails, there is always chocolate.
Have you ever had writer's block? How did you overcome it?