Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unlocking the Block

Writing inspiration can come in waves. One day you’re trucking along great, knee-deep in your latest work, spinning out a definite bestseller, and then suddenly, everything hits the skids. Total log jam. Lots of things can cause this to occur. Lack of motivation, fear of writing a scene or that you’re moving in the wrong direction, boredom or a minor character has turned into an obtrusive annoyance and is hogging stage presence and you're exhausted from trying to contain him or her. Once that all-familiar blockage does occur, you can do something besides sit in front of your monitor with an unchurning mind. Here are some things I do to unlock the block.

READ: I find reading books on craft or an engrossing novel easily gets my juices flowing again. Usually, I only have to read a few pages of a novel and can’t continue reading because my writer brain gets the jolt it needed.

JUMP: Sometimes the next scene on our to-do list is the thing that’s causing a snag. I’m currently writing a novel, Sapphire Reign, and it’s so intricate, with multiple plotlines all woven together, so I find myself fighting to stay motivated. It’s a story I want to tell, but in needing to keep it somewhat harnessed so it doesn’t get out of control, I get tired and hit frequent dry spells. The next scene I need to write is something I’m just not feeling at the moment. I’ve been struggling all day to get back into my regimen, despite my sports ban. So, rather than letting it stall me, I’m jumping ahead to a scene I’m more in the mood to write. If you’re a gotta-stick-to-my-outline-or-kill-the-story type, jump to the end of your book, write scenes out of order. Don’t be scared. Mix things up. If you end up with junk, that’s okay, you can just go back to it and try again.

GET MESSY: You can power down and step away from the computer. That’s right. Get yourself a notepad, note cards or a binder and be willing to make a mess. I find when I spend too much time in front of the screen, my creativity can become hindered. So I like to use a manic pad for each long piece I’m working on, a utility drawer of sorts filled with ideas, scribbled notes, character sketches, bits of dialogue, brainstorming lists and scenes. I don’t let anyone touch my pad either. I’m very private about the contents. I don't even let my husband take a peek at my hair-brained ideas, hideous handwriting, misspelled words or story elements out of context. You’re a writer, so pick up a pen and let yourself get messy, yet organized at the same time. You can also take the pad with you when you go out, so when you find inspiration, you can jot down your ideas.

TAKE A BREAK: Usually if I set my work aside, write a poem, have sex, take the kids for ice cream, go for a hike or a run in the rain or whatever, I can come back to it with fresh thoughts. Break away from writing, do things you enjoy or take up new activities and then pick up writing again. Sometimes you just need fresh air or movement or your brain simply needed a rest.

GET IN THE ZONE: Whether you work better on the couch with the kids running all around or tucked away in your personal office, if your zone has lost its mojo, try working in a new space or prep your mind and body for writing in the same way you condition a child for bedtime. Get a routine, or mix yours up. Fix yourself a coffee, cocoa or whatever you like to drink, put on the comfy threads and turn on some music to inspire, even if you have to turn it off while you write. Having scheduled time to write can help. Give yourself some time to find and settle into your zone.

SWITCH IT UP: Write beyond your penchant. Work on short stories, essays, articles or poems and stretch yourself in new directions. You may be stuck in one area, and yet by moving to a new one, you can create a work that fills you with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

EXERCISE: It’s important to exercise your writing chops from time to time, even if you're not experiencing writer's block. There are plenty of writing exercises you can do, to get your drive and fire back. Freewriting is basically brainstorming with a time limit. Get paper and a pen, set the timer to ten minutes and just jot down whatever ideas comes into your mind. Don’t even lift your pen off the paper until the time is up. You may not end up with anything, but this could spark some ideas. Use a writing prompt like: I cried. And just go with it. Find the hidden story in photos or randomly selected words from the dictionary. I wrote a story with random words that I’ll share tomorrow.

I hope some of those ideas help you unlock your block. Keep at it.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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