First, let’s get a few housekeeping things out of the way. Typically, I’d leave it up to my sidebar updates section to inform my readers about Web site changes, but since I’ve got a few readers that subscribe to my feed they’ll miss out on the wealth of entertainment to be had from other parts of my blog! With that said, I’ve added the rest of my meager REVIEWS and Articles for your viewing pleasure. I’ve also wrangled the layout to my MySpace page so that it kind of reflects what I have here. Now that I think about how hard it was styling those damn tables, that makes me never want to change this layout if only to keep from having to change my MySpace page. Whatever. You can check it out at www.myspace.com/workingauthor. Add me if you’re on there.
OK, with that said, let’s talk about the dreaded Writer’s Block.
Writer’s block can come at any stage of the writing process, really. I think, typically, most writers experience it at the beginning of a project. I can totally understand that. There you are, staring at a gigantic monitor with all that white and one, solitary blinking cursor, prodding you incessantly. For many, I think the blockage is due to the formality of the medium. With today’s word processors, everything you type looks great and spell check can easily fix your mistakes. It’s hard to not want to live up to that by churning out something of publishing-caliber immediately. Some people suggest writing the part of your work that you’re inspired to write or know very well, just to get some text down, but it’s awkward doing that on the computer. So while I agree with the “write what you’re inspired to write first” suggestion, you may want to do that manually on regular ol’ paper. I know that it’s helped me many times, working through a particular scene, drawing arrows here and there to connect the random paragraphs. On a word processor, it would have been a mess, with a bunch of carriage returns to break everything up. No good. Plus, with paper, you get that added tactile sensation of your pen or pencil in hand, scarring the page. I know it’s a little silly, but I love being that much more connected to my work.
Writer’s block can also come in the middle of writing. How many times have you gotten to that point in your story where you simply didn’t know what your characters did next? For this, pre-writing (yes, that crap they forced you to do in school) can certainly help. Outlining your story so that you at least know where things start and how they end is certainly important. When you do that, make sure you have iconic scenes for your characters to reach along the way. Still, the best outlines are simply that: outlines. They’ll still have gaps. And those gaps, no matter how small, can still snag a toe and trip up the most focused writer. At that point, it’s time to step away from your work. Get up. Go outside. Have a cigarette. Mix a drink. Clean up your home. Go shopping. Ease the pressure to write. After some time away, come back to writing. Read your work with fresh eyes and see if you know where to take your project next. Ha, I make it sound so simple!
Personally, I experience writer’s block, but only when I’m not inspired to write whatever it is I’m writing. I had this problem throughout school with essays and research papers and I experience it on a daily basis with my day job. As the main copywriter for my company, I’m forced to be Johnny-On-The-Spot with my writing on a daily basis. I’m writing blurbs, disclaimers, marketing descriptions, business letters, press releases, headlines, you name it. I’ll tell you, it ain’t easy coughing up salable material for spas and saunas and gazebos over and over again. Since every minute of my day is a deadline, I don’t have the luxury of “stepping away from my work” to “ease the pressure of writing.” So instead, I resort to the last method of dealing with writer’s block: I muscle through it.
I just start typing. Usually, it starts off reading like crap, but since I only have to write a blurb it’s easy enough to spit it out in one go and then start revising. For longer projects, I just keep reminding myself to get to the end and fix it later. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a writer it’s that the process is not so much “creative writing,” but “creative editing.”
If any fellow writers get around to reading this, I welcome you to share your insight.