Friday, September 09, 2016
Beating the Writer's Block by Dellani Oakes
Writer's Block—these ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer's block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.
1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured. . . .of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.
2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as What Word? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to Thesaurus.com or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget's can pull a writer past this hurdle.
3) Post Climactic Stress: Or Where Do I Go From Here? The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles—celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It's not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming "Solve Me!" What to do?
Falling action after the climax isn't always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, "Hey! What about this?" To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it's better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it's absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it's a trip to blockage category # 4.
4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can't seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending.
I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can't even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a might re-write or splitting into multiple books.
None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.
5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer's block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating…. There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition.
Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer's Block obviously hasn't written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. (Hm, can a Volvo go 90? Maybe an Escalade?)
In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer's block. There's no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile.
Instead of fighting the block, which only ends in tears, 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 days, 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.
Umbrella holder made from an elephant's leg.
Bookends decorated with miniature loaves of bread & shocks of wheat. (I got a set like this for a wedding present)
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 Thanks for the ?:
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 present! 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, unproductive and unprofessional. Instead, be proactive. Face your block and find your way past it.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes
Dellani Oakes is the author of 10 published novels and over 100 more which haven't been published yet. She's a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network. She's also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.
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