What do you do when that pesky well of inspiration runs dry? How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
Saira posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
I’m confused, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and it was always my way to ‘get away from reality.’ I mean, I could really get inside my characters minds and just enjoy telling their story but now I’ve hit a giant brick wall… no ideas flow and if I get one I don’t like it, or I can’t go off of it. I don’t know how to get over this brick wall of writer’s block, it’s almost as if I’ve lost all desire to write… but I LOVE writing and I don’t want to give it up… how can I get past the brick wall and start the work on my novel? How do I reignite inspiration?
Randy sez: A lot depends on what’s causing your writer’s block, Saira. I can think of a couple of reasons you might be blocked:
- You’ve written everything you had to say. When you run out, you run out. It’s that simple.
- You’re trying to create and edit at the same time. This is like driving while pressing both the gas and the brakes all the way to the floor.
If you’ve run out of things to say, don’t panic. You’ll get your inspiration back, but you need to take a break and do something else for a while. Read some good books. Watch some movies. Teach a kid to read. Play chess with your cat. Fly a kite. I don’t recommend trying to find your inspiration in a bottle. Your brain is a fantastic machine. When it’s out of gas, fill the tank, don’t throw in sugar.
If you’re trying to edit yourself while writing your first draft, then stop. Right now. When you’re being creative, create, don’t edit. Give yourself permission to break every rule in the book on your first draft. As the saying goes, get it written, then get it right. The surest way to freeze you up is to insist that every word you type be perfect. If you need some outside motivation, visit Dr. Wicked’s “Write Or Die” page. (I confess I’ve never taken the Dr. Wicked challenge, but a bunch of my writer friends swear by this.)
Truth to tell, I’ve almost never had writer’s block. That’s probably because I usually start writing when there is just barely enough time to get the book done before my deadline. That’s a powerful motivator.
When you know that you have to write 3000 words every day to hit your deadline, and you have three hours to write per day, then there just isn’t time to have writer’s block. You write your thousand words per hour and that’s that. If you get behind, you wake up one morning in a cold sweat wondering how in the name of Gandalf you’re going to hit your deadline. Then you realize that your back hurts from all the writing you’ve been doing, so you call in sick and tell them you can’t work today because your back is killing you. Then you sit home in your underwear all day and write like a maniac and put eight thousand words in the bank.
As Mark Twain said, when you know you’re going to be executed tomorrow, it concentrates your mind wonderfully. Ditto with a deadline, which is probably why they call it that.
If you don’t have a dragon-breathed editor breathing fire down your neck, you can get the same effect by finding yourself an accountability partner. My buddy John Olson sets a weekly goal and tells his friend Pete. If John doesn’t hit his weekly goal, then Pete gets $100. This works awfully well, especially if you can’t afford the hundred bucks. You might be up late on Saturday and email in your quota at 11:59 PM, but you will hit your target. And if you miss your quota once and have to shell out the $100, you’ll never do it again.
What do my Loyal Blog Readers do when writer’s block strikes? Leave a comment and share your secrets for beating the dreaded disease!
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.