Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Breaking the Writer’s Block - Suggestions

Three o’clock in the morning, and I’ve been staring at the monitor for hours, unable to get anything coherent written. Banging my head on the desk doesn’t help, although it does dislodge a stack of papers exposing a CD I’ve been missing for months. I pop the CD into the player and wait for inspiration. And wait. And wait.
Nothing! Screaming in frustration, I shut down the computer, throw a temper tantrum and cry. I’ve got it for sure, Writer’s Block. We all go through it. The nightmare, the bane of a writer’s existence, the dreaded words echo through my brain like a trailer for a bad "B" movie. Sometimes, if it’s bad enough or late enough, the words dance in a circle like "Ring Around the Rosie" mocking me with their mere presence. They laugh and point their fingers, making me sink deeper into my depression.
Writer’s Block is normal. Though frustrating, at times infuriating, it is a fact of a writer’s life. Sometimes you just ain’t got it! I find this is especially true if I’ve just finished a book or am trying to finish one. Somehow, the last few pages of resolution don’t want to be typed. Like pulling hen’s teeth, (an expression which here means something which is completely impossible), I try to get the words to flow, but the dam is firmly in place. Nothing goes anywhere. It’s constipation of the brain.
I have a science fiction series I’ve been writing the last three years. I’ve completed five of the books, but book six is giving me fits! I have sub-plots that need resolution. I have major plots that need extension. I have characters who need something to do and others who are embroiled in turmoil up to their eyebrows. They are all sitting and waiting for me and I can’t help them.
Banging my head doesn’t help, screaming and crying do no good whatever. Eating a candy bar, though tasty, serves no purpose except to put a few pounds on my hips. So what do I do? Every writer you talk to will tell you something different. All I know about is what works for me.
First, I take a break from writing. I read a good book, watch a few movies, participate in mindless video games and otherwise do things to distract myself.
Next, after an unspecified period, ranging from hours to weeks, I sit down and try to write something. ANYTHING! It doesn’t have to be connected with the book, usually it’s better if it’s not. Long or short, good or bad, I write. Sometimes just embarking on the composition process is enough to break the block.
Doing short writing exercises can help. When I taught high school English, one thing I had the students do as a class writing project, was write thank you notes for ridiculous gifts. Each student chose a gift at random drawing a slip from jar.

The rules for this exercise are as follows:
1. Must be sincere.
2. Mention the gift in the first paragraph.
3. Site at least two uses for the gift (or plans of where to put it if it’s decorative).
4. Must be at least three paragraphs of two or more sentences each.
Suggested gifts:
Umbrella holder made from an elephant’s leg.
Bookends decorated with miniature loaves of bread & shocks of wheat.
An incredibly fuzzy pair of house slippers.
A really ugly sweater.
Something impossible to identify.
A painting with dogs playing poker. (I know, some people think this is cute.)
Clothing that is too small (too large, hideous color, wrong gender, etc.)
Music CD that is of a type you abhor.
A movie you hated and never wanted to think of again.
(The list can go on forever. Don’t only use my list, make your own. Sometimes just generating a list helps get past that pesky creative blockage.)
Sample note:
Dear Aunt Fanny,
Thank you so much for the really interesting gift you sent! I can’t imagine what I’ve done without it all these years. It will add a great deal to my decor. I can’t wait to find a place for it in the living room.
I showed your gift to my friends and they were speechless. What an unusual gift! They wanted to know where on earth you found it, several of them would like one for themselves.
Again, thank you so much for your incredibly amazing gift! I shall treasure it always and remember you every time I look at it.
Your Loving Niece
There is no set cure for writer’s block. Sometimes the creative well simply runs dry. The key is to accept it and try to move on. Fighting yourself, screaming and carrying on like a cry baby are pointless and unprofessional. Find what works for you.
If you have suggestions to add to this post, please feel free to contribute them. I’m always looking for new ways to get myself back on track.

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