Wednesday, 2 February 2011

5 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

These techniques are good if you need a bit of a kick start to get going.

1. Write for ten minutes about anything. Use an egg timer to time yourself if you like, but you'll probably get more written if you don't - getting going is usually the problem, not keeping going.

2. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Brilliant writing in your head is worth less than the grottiest bit of writing on the page. Remember, you can always make it better later - that's what editing is for.

3. Don't write chronologically. If you're getting stuck on a particular scene then jump to a scene you do fancy writing. There are no extra points for writing in a particular order, all that matters is the finished product.

4. Close your eyes and visualise the scene. Think of the details - the location, the weather, the people. Then describe the scene, using the 5 senses. Hopefully you'll get started and then keep going. And if you can't keep going, then you've got some useful description that you'll probably be able to use anyway.

5. Team up with a friend and arrange to swap word counts on a daily or weekly basis. Even better, be part of a group where you have to announce your word count. It's amazing how the prospect of confessing to not having written will inspire you.

Most of the time getting over writer's block is a question of overcoming inertia; once you get going you can't stop writing. I'll look at more serious blocks tomorrow.


Jim Murdoch said...

Writing is like everything else in life, sometimes you simply don’t feel like doing it. You’ll have lunch today and you’ll eat what you fancy out of what is available in your larder. There’s no point is getting yourself all excited about a slice of chocolate cake if there’s no chocolate cake there and no cake mix either. So you’ll have something else. I think often we make too much about writer’s block, we turn it into a thing, a condition, a syndrome; next thing you know they’ll be writing papers on it. If you’re a professional then the bottom line is probably ignore it and get on with it but whether you’re a professional or not there are always ancillary things that need to be done like editing or submitting or research or catching up on some of those chores you’ve been neglecting while you’ve been busy writing. When I was stuck on my third novel I put it to the side and started churning out short stories. Two years later I picked up the book again and the solution of how to complete it was obvious. The important thing was that my time had not been wasted.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of suggestions for beating writer's block but,far from inspiring me, most of them just make me yawn. But I love these. Especially points 3 and 4.
I'm going right now to put them into action!
Thanks Sarah

Marisa Birns said...

Really like #4. Have an artist friend who does that every morning before she draws. She calls it 'imaging'.

Yes, it is inertia and it only takes a jump-start to overcome it.

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh Jim, I think they've already written papers on it, and got the PhDs to prove it. It's a tricky one, because while I agree with you that sometimes writing just isn't possible, I also know that you usually just need to get over the inertia moment and then you're away. I learned this when making the shift to full time writer - you simply HAVE to write sometimes, and then you just do it.

Glad they were useful Gail - your favourites are my favourites too.

And the great thing about 4 - I didn't know artists use it, or call it imaging, so thanks Marisa - is that even if it doesn't get you going, you always end up with something written down.