Blocked? That’s OK; it’s common. When you’re writing fiction, you depend on your creativity and imagination. The bad news: you can’t harness them. The good news? You can baby them and reward them into giving you what you want.
Writing fiction takes imagination, playfulness, and energy
What sparks your imagination? Pay attention next time your imagination flows. I’ve found boredom and repetitive tasks useful. Whenever I’m stuck on a novel, I go for a drive, or I dust a couple of rooms in the house, and allow my mind to drift.
Tip: avoid social media. Today, when we’re bored we pick up our phone and scroll through our Facebook or Pinterest feed.
Pinterest can be great for coming up with character quirks, but in general, to spark your imagination, do something physical, and boring.
Now let’s look at some tips which will help to eliminate writer’s block.
1. Enjoy rest and recreation: fill your well
Self-publishing authors find themselves on a treadmill. Amazon rewards new content, so for a month after you publish a book, your Amazon catalogue will enjoy a boost.
Some authors set themselves huge challenges, such as:
- Publish a book a month, or even every two weeks;
- Write a million words in 12 months…
While challenges can be beneficial, and anything which inspires you to write is good thing, you need time off.
Rest when you complete a novel. Give yourself time away for a mini-break if you can. Time away from your desk helps you to “fill the well” as Julia Cameron puts it.
If you allow your imagination and creativity time to recover, there’s less chance you’ll burn out.
2. Read for creative energy: find authors who inspire writing
Some authors, like P.G. Wodehouse, inspire me to write fiction. Reading nonfiction history does too.
Luckily I haven’t suffered true writer’s block (the horror) for at least a decade, maybe longer. But I do have days when I’m “not in the mood” to write fiction. On those days, I read a few pages of P.G. Wodehouse.
Here’s why reading works to unblock you: writers who get blocked have lost their joy in writing fiction. When you read a writer you love, you reignite your inspiration.
3. Your characters are your friends: enjoy them
Make friends with your characters. Think about them as you go through your day. Carry index cards so you can jot down ideas if you wish. I carry index cards everywhere, but it’s not necessary. When you’re inspired with a great idea, you’ll remember it.
Why this works: when you’re actively imagining your characters, you’ll be eager to write.
4. Grab your index cards and be outrageous
Recently a student told me that she was beyond bored with her current novel — and her boredom was shading into active dislike.
Here’s what I suggested: “list your major characters, and their attributes. Then make each one face his biggest fear, or his worst enemy. Be funny. Be outrageous.”
Index cards, the larger 5 x 8 size, are perfect to make notes on your outrageous scenes. Brainstorm ten scenes. Choose one, and write it.
Authors who block insist on perfectionism; they choke off their creativity. When you surprise yourself, you’ll regain your enthusiasm for your novel.
5. When you can’t write it, speak it
Do you talk to yourself?
Everyone does, constantly.
Mind-chatter aside, it’s fun to talk to yourself about your novel.
Tip: avoid talking to others about a novel in progress. Usually it won’t help. And if someone says the wrong thing — “that’s STUPID,” for example— you’ll lose heart, and the novel will be dead to you, forever.
Grab a voice recorder, or use an app on your phone. Talk to yourself about your novel.
- Talk out the novel’s problems: “I don’t want to write this scene because…”
- Discover your characters: “Malcolm is an unremarkable man — maybe he should be the murderer? No one would suspect him…”
- Build your plot: “I need two scenes before the midpoint. What if…”
You can transcribe this material if you wish. The Dragon voice recognition software will do it for you if you have it. Usually however, a complete transcription is a waste of time. Listen to the recording, then jot a few notes of anything you can use.
When nothing works, relax, and enjoy writer’s block
Perhaps the cause of your writer’s block is rooted in something that’s happening in other areas of your life. If it is, wait for your life to become stable again. Just try to relax, and focus on having as much fun as you can.
Alternatively, you may be too disappointed to write. Maybe your latest novel bombed.
Here’s what to do. Tell everyone you’re giving up writing fiction forever. Have a tantrum. Throw things. Before you know it, a little voice at the back of your mind will whisper: “what if…” 🙂
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