Life was a lot less complicated back in 2008 when I was first drafting A MURDER OF MAGPIES. Oh, I’d known I wanted to be published since high school (we won’t go into how long ago that was), and I knew that I wanted to secure a literary agent and sign a book deal. Okay, done and done. While I still write new stories, something’s happened. I’ve gotten in my own way.
What’s the deal? Well, I’m not adept at shutting off my internal—nay, infernal—editor. I am also a certified worrier. Between three kids and three dogs, my house is one of perpetual interruption, and sometimes there is nothing more daunting than a blank screen with a flashing cursor that mocks you. So what helps when the words won’t come?
Here are some of the ways I try to beat writer’s block:
*Turn off the Internet on the computer. I do this all the time. Just shut off my Wi-Fi and don’t give in to the temptation to check Twitter, Facebook, any of my other online haunts until I’ve written at least a thousand words. I set a timer for twenty minutes, and then I’m done. No more online playground until more of the story is on the page. Those little bursts of online activity are my Scooby Snacks and keep me going until I can power through more words.
*Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect this time around. First drafts are first drafts. Second drafts are second. Final drafts . . . well, I think some of us could edit the same book continually. But there does come a point where you know it’s ready.
*Read other books. Honestly, if I’m in a dry spell, I will read other works, mostly outside of my genre. Books are fuel for your own creativity.
*Brainstorm. Got critique partners? Yes? Good. Now talk to them about what’s holding you up. I’m on good enough terms with my agent that we’ll talk about what I’m writing as well, and she’ll put in her two cents for what she’d like to see happen in the story. Sometimes a good conversation where you lay out the story is all you need to get over what seems like a massive obstacle.
*Relax. Eventually, the story will make sense to you and you’ll be drawn into writing again. Unknotting the threads of any given story happens to me in the strangest places: walking the light bulb aisle at Target, waiting in the preschool pick-up line, standing in the shower. Sometimes if you think about something too much, your brain revolts and you can’t do it anymore. And then it will come to you later when you thought it couldn’t be further from your thoughts. Let your subconscious handle your writing woes for a while.
Granted, there are times when a project does have to be shelved for whatever reason. Sometimes you’re just not that into it. It doesn’t mean it was all bad. It can be a learning experience. There may even be scenes or characters that you copy into another story. I do think that some of the best advice I was ever given to get through a dry spell was to write every day. No matter what. Writing is an exercise, and the more you do it the easier the words will come.
Anyone else have a surefire cure for writer’s block? Leave a comment and tell us!