Status: Catching up on all my writing today, with a night worth of good rest and delicious food.
Dear reader, if you have not guessed, we are a writing blog (Muse: No shit, Sherlock). Now, we’re all ardent lovers of NaNoWriMo, which had finally revamped its site and is now looking niftier than ever – it is finally sinking into most of our minds that there is less than 20 days to NaNo itself.
One of the biggest things that Wrimos face in our fight to claim the 50,000 word milestone in 30 days is the dreaded writers block. This comes when we sit at the table, and the words come out so slowly it feels like we’re going through a botched case of acupuncture and our fingers bleed tears and blood. Why does it bleed tears and blood? Don’t ask.
I’ve only been writing for about a year – when I signed up for NaNo. In fact, I only began writing a month before that on my own blog – which has finally passed the one year mark itself! In this year, I’ve made great progress in becoming a writer I wish I could be proud of, and in the process made many dear friends like the ones you see here. Most importantly, I myself have faced the writers block – and I found myself finding new ways to overcome it.
I’ll share my 10 favourite ways to get past that stage of the writers block.
1 – Always have a vague plan of what to do in the next few chapters.
When I write, I always start off the day by planning what I will be writing. I have a loose outline and direction to work with – so I know that my characters would be for example, staying in the shop today and working on collecting ingredients to have a secret party in the middle of the night. What goes on inside there, the interactions between the characters, details like what they will make – I will write as I go along.
When you have a loose idea of what is going to happen, it is far easier to write. I’m not suggesting writing an entire outline – though that helps. Just penning down a few pointers on what will probably happen in this chapter for today would be good enough.
2 – De-cluttering your mind.
Writing needs concentration – or at least a sort of determination to complete your task of getting words onto paper. One of the problems writers face is that they say that their minds cannot settle down on what to write when they finally find time to do so.
Writer, get out a piece of paper, and start writing whatever comes to mind. This helps pin down such thoughts on paper and slowly get rid of annoying pesky ideas that nag at you and wear away at your resolve. In fact, when you look back on the paper, you might find a task left undone – or a new plot idea that suddenly appeared amongst the morass of half-formed ideas.
3 – Setting aside a set period of time to write everyday.
When I’m not studying hard for my examinations nor am I gallivanting around the world (like I will be this December, the problems of a teenager traveller, I do suppose), I have a promise to myself to write everyday. I set aside time from 9-10:30pm every night to sit my ass on my chair and stare at the blank document, and eventually I come to write.
I have encountered people who said that this writing technique is counter-intuitive, but I do beg to disagree. My family is exceedingly clear on my commitment to writing when I am in the room with the door closed and sign flipped. Though the first few days of writing were tough – I found the words beginning to slip out of me with greater ease as time passed by.
My writing time is sacred, and when I treated it seriously, my brain shifted to accomodate. I can easily get up to 3k in words in a hour in that time if I am up for the fight.
4 – Having an blank canvas.
Most of my best ideas or craziest ideas come to me when I’m not doing anything but simply sitting down and being introspective.
This happens to me most when I’m on the bus heading home, while rain patters on the windshield. When I’m not aimlessly surfing the 20+ blogs I follow, I find eventually I slipping into what I call my empty space.
My mind essentially stops worrying about anything and simply begins to churn out ideas and piece together plot pieces together. My other problems take a backstage, and when I finally break out of this mood which I call my ‘blank canvas’ to head off to what I need to do, I take out my iPod or a sheet of paper to jot down what I have learnt.
Sometimes, the best ideas shouldn’t be chased after. Making space for them – letting them appear like timid animals to be nurtured – is the best idea.
5 – Performing a change of scenery.
When I had a laptop of my own (before I traded it in for my current desktop), I found it fantastic to simply slip my notes and laptop into a bag and take a bus out to another spot. In fact, when I was still (and still am) a cafe-hopper, I loved to pop into a cafe, plug in a charger, connect to the internet, get a glass heaped with cream and dredged in chocolate flakes, and settle down to write.
Sometimes, the same walls, environment and setting will simply make you feel uninspired and stale. To shake up your creativity, pop outdoors or to another place, bring a notebook or your laptop. Settle down to write and you might be surprised by how much you can get done.
6 – Have a idea partner.
During my first NaNo – which was last year – I was extremely lucky to meet great people who could work beside me. Indeed, they were a fantastic help – but most of my help came from a close friend of mine, who listened to what I was writing and helped give me ideas on what to do.
Sometimes, a fresh perspective on what could be done to improve or get a story moving again would be a fantastic way to break the writer’s block. I meet up with a friend to trade story ideas and run past him possible plot holes that he could help me fill. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your friend – so it’s fantastic if you can find a good working relationship.
7 – Working from a position of rest.
When I thought of adding this in – I wasn’t absolutely sure if it would be well received. My NaNo was filled with last-minute craziness mixed with absolutely irrational nights fueled on caffeine and chocolate. I lost a lot of weight and fell sick by the end of the month – which is of course something you should try to avoid! One should always take care of their body.
I have heard that a lot of writers are night bugs – and can only work at night. I myself have that inclination – because I work with a lot of my fellow writers who live all the way on the other side of the world.
When I speak of writing from a position of rest, I really just mean that you shouldn’t be stressed out over anything else – and feeling at least somewhat energized to take on a long block of writing.
I personally, love working late at night and when I’m awake. My quality of writing decreases significantly when I am exhausted. My writers block is a fear of writing bad work, and also a feeling that I have no clue what I’m writing. When I have the energy and vigor to write, I am able to overcome this.
8 – Never be afraid to write whatever you want.
When I wrote my first novel, ‘The Futurist’ (which is truly a godawful novel in itself), I struggled a lot with being perfect, and trying to make the perfect first draft. Now that I’m a touch older with experience under the metaphorical belt, I can see the folly in my own thinking. Like Raven, Lauri and many of my fellow bloggers have mentioned – you have to accept that there will never be the perfect first draft.
In fact, write what you wish to write. If your writing is compelling enough, there is no reason for it to be rejected or unloved. I write all manner of things – sex, gay characters, magic, gruesome killings, cheating spouses, and love triangles – just to name a few. Never be afraid to write what you think should be written – it can always be edited out later on.
A self-imposed or self-inflicted writer’s block should always be dismantled.
9 – Keep an Idea Book.
I have a little notebook that I keep on my person almost all the time. When I get a new idea for a character such as a small piece of their history or a beautiful piece of their dialogue, I quickly get it written down.
Such small idea booklets are bursting with various ideas for stories, characters and side-plots that I would either never have time to ever get to, or would be always multiplying too fast for me to catch up with. When I get into a writers block, I would pick up this notebook and slowly flip through it – seeing ideas that I could incorporate or adapt for my latest work. When I’m done – I also cross out these ideas with a black tip marker for the sense of accomplishment.
When one hits a writers block, it is exceedingly helpful to have a plethora of ideas kept hidden away to combat it.
10 – Word Wars.
There are many things you can do in the process of writing, but I love word wars with others because personally, I find that high-intensity and focused writing in short bursts of time bring about great productivity and of course – a greater word count. I find that writing communities like NaNo and the Absolute Write Writer Cooler forums have their sub-forums for writing sprints, and even smaller and closer-knit communities on various chatrooms do exist if you can search them out. Even hashtags on Twitter are useful for such runs!
When forced into a false do-or-die friendly competition, your mind just might let up and let you break through your writers block.
And so wraps up my long, long rambly post.
Till another time,