by Kat Zhang
Today, folks, we’re going to talk about this.
Yes, that’s right, the dreaded Writer’s Block (yes, it’s important enough to be capitalized). I always thought its name didn’t accurate describe its…well, blockishness. Blocks are cute. They remind me of the primary colored wooden building blocks I had as a kid (no legos for me!). Instead of Writer’s Block, it should be…oh, I don’t know. Writer’s Great Wall of China. Except, you know, less culturally significant.
Some days, you just sit down and nothing happens. You write a sentence or two. You stop. You read over those sentences again. You sigh. You write another word. You pause. Hm…I think I’m hungry. Oh, look, a dust bunny. Have I gotten to the mail yet today?
No, no, focus. Okay. Let’s try again. You write another sentence. Oh, man, this sucks!
You erase everything.
Writer’s block can hit at the beginning of a project, in the middle, or at the very end. All are equally frustrating. So what do you do? First, let’s see what some more famous writers have to say on the subject…
Mark Twain: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Okay, so my takeaway from this is: focus on what you’re doing right this moment. You’re writing. You’re not querying (this project). You’re not selling, and you’re certainly not editing. I know marketability is important, but if worrying about whether or not this project will ever sell or get you an agent or reach the best sellers list is preventing you from even writing the piece in the first place…Well, then don’t think about any of those things. Remember, you can’t fix something that hasn’t been written yet.
Jeffery Deaver: “I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen–whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book–it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.”
Are you stuck on a certain scene? Or maybe your characters need to overcome/get around a certain obstacle, and you just can’t figure out how they’re going to do it. Maybe you’re thinking about it the wrong way. I once spent days re-writing a certain passage, never quite getting it right. Finally, I realized I was doing the literary equivalent of forcing my characters over a mountain when there was a clear path going around it. I’d simply been too bent on doing it this way to see the other possibilities. So if one particular part is giving you trouble, try rethinking it entirely. Talk with your CP. Brainstorm.
J.G. Ballard: “All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day–even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.”
Nicholas Sparks: “I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five.”
Set yourself a word count goal for each day–a reasonable one. Then MEET it! No matter what. Once you miss one day, it’s so much easier to miss another, and then another, and another… So try not to break your streak at all. Brag to your friends (the writer ones. the other ones might not care…) about how you’re gone a whole month now with 2000 or 1000 or 500 words a day.
And finally, my own advice? What helps me the most when absolutely nothing wants to stick to the paper? Here it is in list form (because you guys know I love lists).
1. Read an awesome book, preferably in the genre you’re trying to write. This works for me every time. Unfortunately, I’ve been on a YA literary contemp. kick lately, and my WIP is fantasy, but hey, it just means I’m racking up a whole lot of YA literary contemp. short stories…
2. Refocus on why you’re writing. Hopefully, you’re writing because you love to write. Forget about the whole darn publishing business for a while. Reclaim your happy place 😉 Just write. Write whatever you love. Write for yourself. Something is better than nothing. And something, unlike nothing, can edited later.
3. Surround yourself with other writers. If you don’t know many in real life, meet some online! This is yet another reason why critique partners are awesome. Hearing about other people’s writing successes–especially those of people I know personally–always inspires me.
Now get writing!
…you can start by telling us in the comments how YOU overcome Writer’s Block 😀
Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.