One of the scariest things to happen to a writer is to be chugging along, writing at the speed of light and then one day, an ordinary writing day, your fingers suddenly freeze over the keyboard, your brain churns off, and nothing creative this side of the Mason-Dixon Line comes out of you. You stare at the computer screen, hoping and praying that it’s just a bad day for writing. It happens. Some days you can write 1000s of words and other days you’re lucky if you hit 800 words. No biggie, you tell yourself, tomorrow is a new day. But tomorrow comes and then the day after tomorrow comes and you still can’t write anything worth being really excited about.
Then it hits you like a brain to the bullet. You have writer’s block.
As soon as you realize that, you run through your house screaming and flailing, because it’s the dreaded writer’s block—the most common form. Not the kind that prevents you from coming up with new ideas or writing new stuff, but the kind that hits you about 40k words into your shiny new idea or the third book in a series. The kind that zaps you of motivation and causes you to become addicted to Twitter or to start watching Honey Boo Boo—the kind that has you doing everything and anything other than writing. Maybe you’re baking cupcakes or you decide you need to clean your bathroom. You find yourself doing things just to avoid writing. When you realize that what you’re facing isn’t just a case of writing blahs, but a block, it’s a pretty scary thing.
I write full time and have several books under contract that need to be written. My biggest fear is that my creativity is just going to dry up one day. So when these moments hit me, I do get scared. I start to panic a little. I tell my friends that I suck at writing when this happens. I watch horrible movies on the Syfy Channel. I freak out.
Here’s the good thing, though. This happens to every writer out there. It doesn’t matter if the writer only produces one book a year on a half a dozen. It happens. And about 95% of writers get passed it in a reasonable time.
Recently I’ve battled writer’s block. Still am in a way. A few things I’ve done to help beat it is to realize what’s causing it.
- I’ve started to see that it happens every couple of books or if I have a lot going on outside of writing, like real life stuff or books that are coming out. Fall 2012 is tough for me. From August through December, I have a book coming out every month—two in November. I had to learn to give myself a break. I can’t always write a book in three weeks nor do edits in 48 hours. It’s not real to expect that out of myself every time or to allow anyone to expect that. Forcing myself to do this and then getting on myself when I don’t, creates a super strong breed of writer’s block. Take it easy on yourself.
- Another thing that caused me to really not be able to write was back when I used to read reviews. Man, let me tell you, when you stumble across one that flames the book and I mean really flames the book, it kills your creativity. You start to doubt yourself. You sulk. You feel bad. You think you suck. Cue writer’s block with a healthy dose of self-pity. This is why you don’t go trolling for reviews. Not only will it stop you from complaining to your friends every five seconds or to anyone who will listen (trust me, it gets old), it will prevent you from spending time trolling, complaining, moping, and all around suckery when you should be writing. I think all writers learn this lesson the hard way. It’s like a rite of passage, but to keep going back and stalking those 1 and 2 star reviews isn’t going to help you write a better book.
- Recently I discovered something that helped me get out of my writer’s block. I started to time myself in short increments. For example, for 25 minutes, I do nothing but write. No Internet. No instant message or phone. Nothing but writing. In-between those 25 minute sessions, I take breaks. I ended up writing over 2700 words in just three sessions when I was averaging that about a day or less for over two weeks. Discovering this was a miracle for me and helped overcome the dreaded writer’s block.
What have you’ve done to overcome it?