Breaking the Block
One of the most common questions I get is how to break writer’s block. I suppose I get this question a lot because I’m one of those writers who’s rather prolific. My other writer friends watch me produce book after book and wonder how the heck I do it. Truthfully, I wasn’t always this way. I labored over my first novel for fourteen years before I finally finished it and sold it. I actually re-wrote it three times during those fourteen years. It took me a few years to get to the point where I’m writing several books a year.
I think the keyword here is discipline. I’ve talked about writer’s block before on this blog, albeit not always in a PC way. You might look here, here, and here, too. Ultimately breaking the block is about discipline.
Whether you are blocked at the middle, beginning, or end – blocked means the writing isn’t getting done. It means you’re not producing, selling, or ultimately eating.
These are the tips I give to writers who want to produce more and avoid the block.
1. Set realistic goals. Try 500 to 1,000 words a day to start. Increase this as you feel more comfortable doing so. For those just starting out, word count marathons like NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo can be both inspiring and helpful.
2. Turn off your internet connection, television or radio. It’s easy to procrastinate or be “blocked” when you have other things to distract you. See – you’re procrastinating even now, reading this blog!
3. Schedule writing time. Yes, this may be difficult. Maybe you have several kids, a day job, and a husband who needs your attention, but if the writing is important to you – you will find the time for it. Even if it’s in stolen moments. All of the prolific writers I know schedule writing time. I know a mother of five, a bestselling romance author, who puts out four books a year because she is disciplined and she makes the time. Even if that time is during summer vacation poolside on the laptop while the kids are in the pool.
4. Have more than one project going at a time. I always have, simultaneously, at least one novel, a handful of short stuff whether articles or stories, and one NF book going at any given moment. That way if one project isn’t inspiring me, another one will. Just be careful to only start as many projects as you can realistically handle. The danger of this is some folks will end up with a lot of started projects and will never finish any of them. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Set deadlines. You have to finish the books you start. If you start them and never finish them, they’ll sit on your hard drive until the computer dies or you do. Whichever happens first. Again, meeting deadlines requires discipline. Finishing gets easier with time and practice. To practice finishing, start out writing articles or short stories, and work your way up to actual books. The difference being word counts. Sometimes breaking a longer project down into smaller bits will help with finishing, too. For example, looking at a whole book might be rather intimidating. But looking at each individual chapter as its own story, scene or part, will help make it manageable.
6. Turn off the internal editor for the first draft. Just write it. You can edit when you’re done. A lot of folks turn on the editor and the editor criticizes and browbeats them into laboring over every last sentence. It makes writing painful. Painful to the point that you will subconsciously avoid doing it and blame “writer’s block” for the lack of productivity. Just get the words out. Clean them up later.
7. Surround yourself with supportive people who will cheer you on and who you can bounce ideas off of. It helps make you accountable to yourself and someone else for your word count (or other) goals. Writing can be rather lonely and if you find yourself too isolated during the creation process (no one wants to give birth alone), you may find yourself avoiding it. This also means you need to kick the naysayers out of your life, or stop caring what others think. If your best friend thinks writing is a waste of time, do not seek support from that person and don’t talk to them about writing. In really bad cases you may have to remove the people who don’t support you from your life. All the time you spend worrying about what everyone else thinks — you’re not writing.
8. Compete against yourself. Once you are consistently meeting your goals, up the ante and try to break your record whether it be number of pages, word counts, or minutes writing. Make a bet with yourself. If you break your record, you get that new [insert reward here] that you’ve been wanting. If not – you have to clean your office top to bottom.
9. Post quotes that inspire and motivate you over your desk. My favorite is “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” I have a club. It’s spiked and inspiration can’t hide from it.
10. Find that one thing that motivates you and utilize it to your benefit. For example, I am at that point in my career where if I don’t write, I don’t eat, and I’ll have to go back to my horrific, stressful, boring 60+ hour a week day job. However, for some folks this won’t be a motivator. Maybe you love your day job and you write for fun or for extra income. Whatever the case may be, find that one thing that motivates you and harness its power. Use the force…
11. Sit your ass down in the chair and write. Yes, it’s harsh, I know. But sometimes it comes down to tough love. I have to do this every so often and it’s worth it to demand this from myself.
That’s enough from me about this subject. What blocks you and what do you do to break the block? Discuss in the comments below!
About The FM Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour
Today’s post was inspired by the topic Writer’s Block. This month’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read their thoughts on Writer’s Block, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. I blog with this tour the 25th of every month.
I don’t claim to be a writer by any shade of the imagination but when I was writing my university dissertation I found that writing sections on the writeordie computer programme helped me so much, as it gave me a short time frame ( set by me) to just write anything and everything related to the area I wanted to write about. If I was taking too long because I was thinking about things to much, it would play horrible noises and flash the screen to make me get back to work. And if I was being especially tough on myself I set it to the kamikaze mode where it would delete words all ready written if I’ve taken to long to write others.
Laura – very interesting! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this. It might help some folks out there.