Your brave knight has journeyed over mountains, fought hordes of orcs and resisted the wiles of a sea-witch. He’s arrived at last to the mouth of a darkened cave, sword drawn with sanguine rage boiling his blood, and….
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Ziltch (scratches head, consults thesaurus) Naught. Nullity. Nix. (slams laptop shut in disgust)
The Writer’s Block Dragon has inserted its black heart into your story. Again. Maybe it was that time you were writing about a first date between two unlikely would-be lovers and the conversation grew stale and you just want to quit. It’s boring and you’re out of things to say. Or perhaps it was that time your hardened detective with a troubled past just couldn’t figure out what to do next. Of course, it’s his fault, not yours. You’re the writer. Sheesh!
Hey, stop that! Give yourself a break, you wicked taskmaster, you. We’ve all had it before, and probably will again. Writer’s block happens. Relax. It’s not terminal. You can trick your mind into getting past it. Here are some tactics you can try:
- Do the obvious: take a break. A bath works; so does a walk. Heck, take a kid or a special someone to the movies. Meditate, read a book or make a sandwich. Drink some water; most people are slightly dehydrated anyway. Sleep on it. You’re probably tired anyway. The point is, you’re too close and a little mental distance will help. If not, keep reading….
- Do character sketches or background stories. They’ll get you back to thinking about the characters you’re writing about.
- Write scenes involving the characters in the story that have nothing to do with the story itself. A dialog only conversation, how they met, what they’d talk about over lunch, or if they were suddenly set in another story universe. What happens and what do they do?
- Ask yourself, for any character, what’s the absolute worst thing that can happen? What would make their life difficult? Drop an anvil on their heads. Write about that. It doesn’t matter if you ever use it. Just remember, adversity and conflict drive plot.
- Rewrite a scene from a different character’s perspective or a different genre. Just for the halibut. You might surprise yourself.
- Change it up. Go to another room or out to the coffee shop and write. Switch the laptop for a pen and paper.
- Write a Seinfeld or Tarantino-style dialog scene with your characters about nothing relevant. Bleed some ink on the page for no good reason.
- Pick a writing prompt at random and cram your characters in it. Seriously, pick a number between 1 and 30, no peeking. Doesn’t have to make sense. Doooo iitttttt….
- If you’re just staring at a blank piece of paper with no idea what to write, try writing about the life of your dog, from his point of view. Or your neighbor’s cat. Or the squirrel in the tree at the park, you get the picture.
- Talk to someone (or your neighbor’s cat) about your story. Read a passage aloud. If your cat offers creative input, thank him; you can chose to take it or leave it. The point is to get some lateral thinking going.
- Read and edit/review someone else’s writing. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Some clever snippet of dialog or a vivid description may be just the thing you need to break on through.
These work because they simply get those creative juices going, and, hey, you’re writing. Score! More often than not, some kind of gem pops up that you can use. No joke. Pinky-swear.
Keep in mind that sometimes, it’s best to just put it away- all of it. Just put the story away for a week or month or six- then come back to it and see if anything changes.
Most importantly, chillax. There’s always a good way to slay the beast. Sometimes it just takes a little while finding it.
Good luck and write on!
Photo by Silvercharmed
NOTE: This post was co-written with Tim Hillebrant and also appears at Writer’s Carnival.