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How do you deal with writer's block?

July 17, 2015

 

Goodreads asked me, "How do you deal with writer's block?" It's a good question, and I wanted to offer some tips in case they help anyone. Here's my response:

 

I trudge through it. Some days, that means slagging through a few hours of garbage before I feel like I've written anything worthwhile. 

I feel like it happens more when I'm going through the "blank canvas" syndrome—in other words, it's easier for me to freeze up at the beginning of a project, before I've defined the characters or the story. When this happens, I don't force myself to write prose, and instead work on the elements of the story or the people. That way, I can keep moving forward on a process that feels more mechanical and requires less creativity. 

For example, I can take a notebook and brainstorm interesting character names. Often, I'll fill out biographies for each of the main characters, where it's easier for me to plug in information about someone's life history. When I have all of that figured out, I'll play around with an outline for the book. So if I'm having problems writing a chapter, I can always go back to my outline, and figure out, with what I know about my characters and the situation, how I can move that scene forward.

Basically, if you find yourself having writer's block, I'd recommend stripping your book down to its smallest elements, and work on those, rather than overwhelming yourself with a blank page (or screen).

If that fails, read. Letting the creative part of your brain rest can be healthy, and sometimes reading a book can spark something interesting.

If that fails, get out and do something. That's not meant to be glib. Sometimes your brain is simply fried, and it might be time to stimulate it with something other than your laptop screen. Ultimately, life experiences are going to fuel your writing anyway.

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