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Monday, September 21, 2009
Breaking Free of Writer's Block
What is Writer's Block?
Oh, the horror of the blank page! All writers can relate—that empty paper or screen can be both tantalizing and terrifying. Not only are writers supposed to put loads and loads of words on that empty expanse, but they're supposed to make them string together in a coherent and hopefully entertaining way. No wonder most writers have experienced writer's block, the inability to begin or continue a piece of wordsmithing.
There comes a time when the writing muse takes a hike, the brakes engage, and the words come to a screeching halt on the page. Why, oh, why? There are as many reasons as there are writers—each writer has a unique set of environmental, mental, and emotional stressors that can cause hiccups in their creativity. But the following are some generalized causes.
1. Life stress—when life's inevitable ups and downs interfere with the work
2. Wrong turn—when the piece goes in a direction that wasn't intended
3. Loss of interest—when the writer falls out of love with the subject
4. Technical difficulties—when the words aren't lining up right
5. Lack of material—when there isn't enough material to continue with the article/story
Alas, there is no such thing as a cure for writer's block! There is no magic pill that will make it all better. But there are work-arounds that can get a wordsmith past the bumps in the writing road.
Life stress is probably the worst offender for creating writer's block, with time constraints and crises with family, friends, work, home, etc. There is no cure for life's interference, only ways to balance writing with the rest of your life. Find your writing nirvana—the conditions that are most conducive for you to write—and then recreate them as often as you can within your life's schedule. For example, if a certain kind of music turns on your muse, carry that music with you and crank it when you have a few free minutes to dive into the writing zone.
For wrong turns, loss of interest, and technical difficulties, the following are a few work-arounds that might make a difference:
1. Rereading from the beginning—sometimes this can clarify the root of the problem
2. Read out loud—hearing how the words come together can give a whole new perspective
3. Second opinion—having someone else read it often offers priceless objectivity
4. Stepping back—work on something else for a while, and then hopefully go back to the original piece with a refreshed attitude
5. Hack and slash—if a word/sentence/paragraph/scene is giving you loads of trouble, often it's because it needs to go
When there's a lack of material, if it is an article, perhaps the subject is too specific and needs to be more generalized. For a story, it's possible that the sequence of events needs tightening, or that the whole thing needs to be in a much shorter form.
Don't Give Up
There is nothing worse for a writer than that stuck feeling, splatting against a creative wall in the brain. But there's hope! For every brick wall, there's a way around, over, or under. The key is to believe in yourself as a writer—if you were excited enough about a project to begin it, than there's good reason to finish it. You might have to do some creative finagling to get it flowing again, but it is possible. Writer's block isn't a dead end, but only a detour, and sometimes detours can lead to fantastic places.