This week has been one where I spent a lot of time thinking about my WIP and where the story and characters are going. A walk-on/walk-off character has more potential and is important than I suspected, I’m about to write a major magical battle and really need to pin down the old “how magic works” stuff, and I’ve been struggling a bit with some of my protag’s reactions to events (really, how do you react when someone shoots your best friend in front of you?).
…as a side-note: guns and magic. Does it get any better?
Anyway, I’ve spent more time “thinking” than “writing” this week. (I don’t know why those words are in quotes. Don’t judge me.) And everywhere I looked in the blogosphere, someone was posting about “How to overcome Writer’s Block”. Is this the universe’s way of telling me something? Or just a coincidence? Should I be reading these blogs and making notes?
Because it’s NOT writer’s block, that’s why.
Back before my boys were born, I had a paying job as a travel agent. Now, being a travel agent is not easy. Sure, you get to sit on a chair typing stuff into a computer and talking on the phone for most of the day. But it’s a very competitive, commission-based industry where the largest barrier to success is often yourself.
I was good at my job. I loved talking to people, recommending holiday destinations, finding the best deals/packages, and making suggestions. I had an incredibly loyal client base, heaps of contacts in the industry, and all the Keys to Success.
But sometimes… sometimes I’d have a bad day. Or a bad week. Or, on occasion, a bad month. I’d work for hours finding a good deal, but the client would book it on the internet. (Aaargh! Curse you, interwebz!) Or I just couldn’t find the right flight/hotel/deal. Or I struggled to build rapport with people. Or my mind was elsewhere.
And not once — not once! — did I jump up and down and scream, “It’s not my fault! I’ve just got trave agent’s block!”
Instead, I did something useful.
I figured out where I was going wrong, and I fixed it.
Writer’s Block is just a fancy, self-absorbed way for writers to say: “I’m not writing. Something’s wrong and I don’t know what it is.”
So here’s my tips for overcoming the mythical beast Writer’s Block in 3 easy steps:
1. Identify the problem.
- Is it a lack of skill or knowledge of the craft? Are you not sure how to write what you want to write?
- Have you lost sight of where your story is going? Or what your character’s goals are?
- Is your mind/focus elsewhere?
2. Identify the solution.
- There’s heaps of information online about just about every facet of writing. Figure out what’s giving you trouble (eg. structure, plot, realistic characters, dialogue, conflict, POV (point of view), etc.) and do some web searches. Buy some books.
- It’s time to step back and do some planning or outlining.
- Work out what it is you’re focusing on, and whether it’s more or less important than your writing. A cluttered desk, new hobby, or the new season of Glee probably qualifies as “less important”. A new baby, impending marriage or sick relative probably qualifies as “more important”.
3. Use solution (b) to overcome problem (a).
- Read. Research. Make notes. Practice. Then go back to your WIP feeling more equipped.
- If you haven’t written an outline, write one. Interview your characters. Make notes. Design the history of the world. Whatever you need to get you back on track.
- If your focus is consistently on something in the “more important” category, give yourself permission to either take a break from your writing or significantly reduce your writing output without penalty. If your focus is on something in the “less important” category, you need to sit down and consider your priorities. If you want to write, write. If not, don’t. Realise this is a conscious choice you’re making, not the byproduct of a mythical malady.