Writer’s block. It strikes us all, often at the most inopportune moments. Your brain might be a whirling kaleidoscope of plots, characters, idioms and ideas but as soon as you’re presented by that blank notebook page or the relentlessly blinking cursor it all drains dead away.
I’m not saying writer’s block was involved in the process of coming up with a blog entry for tonight, but I’m also not not saying that either…
So, how do you deal with writer’s block? Everyone has their own methods, but these are the ones I employ:
- Take a break. Though this isn’t the best strategy if you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, sometimes just the physical act of leaving your writing area can re-invigorate the old brain matter. Also walking around some is probably a good idea, as writing tends to be a sedentary pursuit and sneaking in exercise can’t hurt.
- Write something different. This approach won’t always help your NaNoWriMo word count during November if you’re going strictly by the rules, but it helps nevertheless. You might not have ideas for what you’re trying to write now, but perhaps you have the idea for a scene three chapters hence crystallized absolutely perfectly in your mind’s eye. Write that scene instead. Perhaps switch to a different project entirely to try and stimulate those stubborn writing neurons. Perhaps you’re having trouble getting a plot outline for your novel together and switch to creating a 40 part “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” blog series with no forethought or idea beyond “wouldn’t it be cool if…?”Not that I can think of anyone who has done that.
- Talk it out. Sometimes discussing the blocked scene or where you need the story to go with another person helps. Whether it’s a collaborative process of using them as a sounding board, or you just kind of bounce ideas around and see what sticks. Plus the social aspect seems to boost endorphins and reawaken the ol’ brain chemistry to help ideas flood out. This is a big reason I like to go to as many write in events as possible during November, as my word counts in those are often two to two and a half times as large as they would be if I was just writing by myself. I wonder if using a Skype video chat would work for that to. Maybe I’ll try bugging a few fellow WriMos and seeing if that works.
- Put the kettle on. Yes, it might be clichéd of me as an Englishman, but I find there are very few problems that can’t be helped with a decent cup of tea or coffee. (It’s been mostly coffee as my Twitter feed and the steaming mug of Simply Enjoy Pumpkin Spice I’m currently sipping can attest.) Sure, it’s become something of a running joke that writers depend on coffee to do anything beyond breathing and ablutions, but there’s more than a kernel of truth to that.
- Imagine the scene in a new medium. Sometimes, if I can’t visualize the scene I’m trying to write in prose, I might imagine it as a comic book page, and figure out how it might be framed, or what the big “splash panels” would be. It might help me figure what beats I need to hit for the writing. Or I might try to imagine the scene as a moment from a movie or television show. That also gives me the luxury of imagining who I would cast as the characters, and imagining the acting style of that casting might help me flesh out the character more and give weight to other actions in the scene or story. I know that a long time ago I imagined the main female character in a short story (the details elude me now, but it was some kind of mystery set on a broken down train) as played by Ellen DeGeneres, and the main male character being played by Pierce Brosnan. The interplay between those incongruous characters really helped the dynamic of the piece.
Those are my strategies, I’m sure some of them are yours as well (I know the casting thing is very common) but do you have any suggestions I have missed?
And who would you cast in an adaptation of your 2013 NaNo?