Writing Through It
Writer’s block sucks. There, I said it. Sometimes you find yourself just staring at the screen with all these ideas in your head but they just refuse to come out. They get lost somewhere between your mind and you fingers. What can you do? Well, that’s the age-old question that’s troubled writers since the invention of the written word.
I’ve struggled with writer’s block, on occasion. I hate it, but there isn’t much that can be done. I didn’t say nothing, I said not much. You can do things to try and coerce it but there will be times that it will just have to run its course until it’s done. Now, having said that, I don’t give up easily so I tend to fight it every step of the way. I’m as stubborn as a Missouri Mule.
So, just to toss these out there, I’ll give you all a few examples of things I’ve tried to break my own writer’s block. Attempt these at your peril and use only with adult supervision. Just kidding. Well, mostly. I hope these work for you. Some have worked and some are just things I tried that didn’t work. However, having said that, they might work for you.
Music. I have had good luck with music. Different types of music to fit the mood of what I’m writing at the time. Dramatic scenes call for classical music. Fight scenes call for Heavy Metal. Action scenes call for good old Rock and Roll. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If the writing isn’t flowing, try switching up the music. Throw your mind a curve ball. Working on a tough action scene, throw on the Goldberg Variations of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Trying a difficult fight scene? How about Enya’s album “Memory of Trees.” The sky is the limit. A touching love scene? How about Disturb’s album “Indestructible.” Music sets the mood for everything. Sometimes, you can use it to change your moods and sometimes, you can use it to shake your mind up. Be creative with it. See what works for you.
Other Projects. I’ve had moments when I just couldn’t go on with what I was writing. It wouldn’t come out, no matter what I tried. At that point, I figured it was better to be writing something than nothing. So, I would dream up a new project (or go back to an older one) and think about that for a while. Maybe write a poem or a song. Start a journal. Write your feelings down and fully express exactly what’s bothering you. Then delete that shit because I doubt you really want someone to read EXACTLY what you really think. You might just inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. Unless, what you pen is the ultimate love letter to someone dear to you. Then, by all means, share that with them. Who knows, having that pent up inside you might have been what caused your writer’s block in the first place. The point is, write something different. Write what you feel because you can’t force it if you’re not feeling it.
Watch a movie. Yeah, I said it. Stop writing for a couple of hours and relax. Pop some popcorn. Grab a cold beverage. Pop in a DVD (yeah, I’m old) or put on Netflix. Then watch a movie and don’t think about the writing for a couple hours. You could easily break that cycle by finding something else to think about for a while. Now, be careful and don’t wind up binge watching then entire season of “It Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” That goes from a distraction from your writing to avoiding it, entirely. Use the Netflix option sparingly. Be careful and use in moderation. You’ve been warned.
YouTube. Yeah, I said it. Watch a video on YouTube. But, YouTube is like the siren call from Homer’s Odyssey, be warned. This can go from one video on marketing to just a couple of funny videos from that comic you like and suddenly! BAM! “Honey? Why is it already dark outside? It was morning just a few minutes ago.” You’ve lost the entire day. YouTube is great. I use it to listen to music all the time, but beware the other videos. They will call to you. Entice you. Promise to take you away from that terrible place we call Writer’s Block. But you blink and hours have gone by. Use extreme caution of you attempt the YouTube method. Have someone you know and love check on you every couple of hours to make sure you haven’t fallen victim to the siren song. Have some safeguards in place. You were warned.
Read a book. Yes, I know, you’re trying to write the next big literary blockbuster. You don’t have time to read, right? Well, sometimes, just reading words on paper has a soothing effect. It also shows you that there are other stories to be told. Immerse yourself in a story told by another author. Not only is it a great way to improve your own writing by studying the craft of others, it also fuels your own creativity to see how they put a phrase together. How they do dialogue. How they put a chapter together. It’s all research. Plus, if you find yourself engrossed in the story, then you also had the added benefit of enjoying an escape from reality. After all, that’s what writing is. We’re creating stories for people to read and find themselves in another place or time, living that story with you. There’s plenty of bad in the world. People read to escape that, if only for a little while. Books can inspire, give hope and share a glimpse of much needed beauty. Taking a mini-vacation in your mind. That’s why we write. To let the readers experience the world we create through our words. Sometimes, the words of others can help to sooth us, as well. Let them. You’ve lost nothing but gained a great deal.
Play a game. This one’s dangerous, too. I rarely use this method because I can lose an entire afternoon doing this. I don’t play many games, but if I load “Left For Dead” on the X-box, then I can happily mow down zombies for hours. “Left For Dead 2” is the same way. I love those games. Whatever your choice is, you can play a game to ease that burden you feel when the writing won’t come. It’s a distraction for a while, just don’t let it become the entire focus and forget about the writing. It doesn’t have to be a video game. Play a game of chess with someone. Monopoly with the family. Maybe solitaire with actual cards instead of on the computer. Just an easy game to break the cycle. Give it a shot and see if it works for you. I’ve had limited success with this. Yes, it’s worked a few times. But I’ve also lost an entire day of writing to trying to beat the entire game of “Left For Dead” through all the campaigns. Use this method with caution.
Alcohol. Yep, I said it. I nice glass of Scotch or Irish whiskey can smooth the nerves. A cold glass of Guinness goes down well, too. Just go in moderation. One or two can loosen the nerves and relax the mind. More than that and you run the risk of suddenly finding yourself writing like you’ve never written before. It’s flowing fast and furious. Words are pouring out of you and the word-count just keeps climbing. Then, the next day, you read over this masterpiece to find a drunken miasma of disjointed phrases, spelling errors, poor grammar and incomprehensible story. Congratulations, you just wrote sixty pages of gibberish. Time to highlight it all and hit delete. If you’re not a drinker, then this option probably isn’t for you. If you do want to drink more than one, space them out. One an hour should do the trick. I refer to this as a Literary Libation. It does work, to an extent.
Food. Yeah, eating a slice of pizza. Grilling a bratwurst. Throwing a couple of corndogs in the air fryer. Mixing peanut butter and honey together and spreading it on toast. The possibilities are virtually endless. Use your imagination. If it doesn’t break the writer’s block, at least you’re not hungry anymore. Sometimes this is an easy break that can jog the writer’s block and help you write.
Exercise. That’s a great way to change your outlook and possibly release the floodgates on the writing process. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Go to the gym. Walk on a Nature Trail. Hit the treadmill. There are plenty of ways to get that exercise. It can be good for the writing process and it’s definitely good for you. Try to work a daily walk into your schedule. Maybe take a camping trip. It’s amazing what a few minutes a day can do for your mental health and for the writing process. Take time for you.
Caffeine. This is the method I use most. Coffee. Rich, black, hot goodness. I love the smell of coffee when you open up the container. I love the smell when it’s brewing. I love to enjoy the aroma wafting from my cup. Then the flavor. Oh yeah! I prefer my coffee strong. Almost two decades in law enforcement has given me a love of strong coffee. At the sheriff’s department, it was strong but it was also terrible. I’ve developed a taste for strong, good coffee, now. Why not treat yourself. Drink a good cup of coffee instead of a bad one. I used to drink it just for the caffeine when I worked the graveyard shifts. Now I drink it because I love it. The caffeine helps, too. It makes the mental machine’s wheels turn and creativity flow. Remember that this option might make it very difficult to sleep.
My point is, there are a million things you can do beside stare blankly at the screen. Try one of these. Try something new. Try changing the subject entirely. Anything is better than nothing. Writer’s block strikes all of us. From the Stephen Kings to the names we’ve never heard of before. Writers, one and all, hit the block sometime in their career. Dealing with it is as unique as we are. Everyone is different and what works for some might not work for others. There is no one true method. Find what works for you and do that. We used to say at the department, “If it’s stupid but it works, then it isn’t stupid.” Find your path. After all, we all face this dilemma. There is no wrong way to solve it. Be creative. That’s what we’re writing for, anyway.
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