Tips and Hints
How to Break Through Writer’s Block
by Cheryl Peyton
Has this ever happened to you? You reheat your coffee to just below boiling so it stays hot a long time, sit down at your computer, open your book file and click on “Where you left off yesterday” or, worse, “Where you left off three days ago,” and type in something like this:
Alex stood on the dock shading her eyes . . . No. Delete.
Alex sat in the atrium lounge nervously picking at her sweater . . . No. Delete.
Twenty minutes before the bus was due to depart . . . No. Delete.
You’ve been hit with writer’s block. You can’t find your way back into the story ─ where to set the scene and who should say what to whom to advance the plot. In my current book I’ve got thirteen speaking characters. Wait — I just killed one off so it’s twelve. But still. . . So I type and delete for a while and then notice a piece of lint on the floor and decide to vacuum the room.
There was a cartoon on Facebook that showed two women sitting at a kitchen table. Woman #1 says, “I like your curtains.” Woman #2 says, “Thanks. I made them yesterday.” Woman #1 says, “Writer’s block?” Woman #2, with her face in her hands with flop sweat flying off her answers, “It’s so bad!”
I think all of us facing writer’s block can find a million other things to do than bull our way through it. Let’s face it, EVERYTHING ELSE IS EASIER THAN WRITING. I’ve awakened the dog to take him for a walk; emptied a hot dishwasher; and put my spices in alphabetical order. I’ve viewed videos of kittens on Facebook and watched dysfunctional guests on Dr. Phil. If I do stay with my book, I often snack too much and drink too much to keep me sitting at the computer.
Through all this, I have learned a few truths and discovered a couple of tricks. One truth: crappy writing is better than no writing at all. Just write something. With the easy word processing available, you can go back and rewrite, move sentences, etc. The only way to get through writer’s block is to write. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not. When I do this, I usually find that the scene starts to develop on its own. I can see and hear my characters and just write it down.
One great trick I read some time ago is, when you feel a scene is incomplete and you can’t move on to another, type in something like this in uppercase: ADD MORE DESCRIPTION or ADD ANECDOTE or CHECK EARLIER REFERENCE TO THIS. The point is to get past the block and move forward.
Another trick is to read a few pages by an author whose writing you admire. This can be inspirational or fill you with guilt that you’re just being too lazy to get you back to your own work. Sometimes I set a goal for myself with a treat at the end. If I finish this chapter I can have a glass of wine and read.
Hope these ideas help you. If not, I’m sure your house is immaculate. I know you can eat off my floors ─ actually, you have to. The table is piled with research and notes. Write on!