MEGAN WRITES: writer's block

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I've been having a really lovely conversation with a gal named Melissa who emailed me with loads of wonderful writing questions. I feel like a joke sometimes when I answer writing questions...because a lot of times I'm the one who needs them answered! hah. So I'll try my best.
QUESTION: "I'm at a dead moment, and writers block is beating at my head and haunting each of my thoughts. What do you do for writers block?"
Meh. Writer's block. Such a frustrating thing. One of the causes of writer's block is fear. Fear that goes as far as "what if this gets published and everybody hates it and I'm never a successful writer and all my dreams are crushed because I didn't write this scene perfectly??"
"I'm convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing." -Stephen King
Stephen King, sir, you have said it right. The truth is that rough drafts aren't going to be good. They aren't supposed to be good. (the sooner you understand this, the better.) You just need to get through that draft. Rewriting and revising and editing is for later. This is one of the reasons why NaNoWriMo is such a wonderful thing -- the only way you can survive the daily 1667 is to focus purely on getting the words out there. You don't have time to worry about anything. You just have to keep writing until you type 'the end.' If you're suffering from writer's block because you're afraid of it not being good enough, turn the music up louder so you can't hear that voice in your head telling you you're going to be a failure, and write write write until you've reached the end. Then you can go back and smooth it all out. I find that keeping it in the front of my mind that drafting is a form of planning helps. Your draft isn't set in stone. If things aren't turning out right, keep going! Fix it later. Don't let fear stall you. One of my #1 rules is "don't judge your draft." It's completely unfair if you do.

Another time you might run into writer's block is when you just can't think of anything to write. Whoa there! Somebody needs a break. When I can't find the ideas that I need for a chapter, I just need to take a break and get my mind off it. Usually, exactly what I'm looking for will come when I'm not focused on finding the answer. (sometimes it comes way later than I want it to, though.) If you're stuck, shut the document your characters live in, and just give your creative mind a little break. You have to be really careful that you don't get lazy, though. If the idea you're looking for just doesn't come, put [FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED HERE] onto the page and skip over it. Continue writing. Breaks are good, but you have to remember to keep going. The ideas will come eventually, if you want it bad enough, so you can go back a write it later.

Other cures for writer's block:
  • free write
  • write by hand if you usually type / type if you usually write by hand
  • talk to a writing friend about your writing trouble (deciphering the problems you're having in writing is the first step to fixing them. Talking it out is very good.)
  • make a playlist that goes along with your story
  • read a favorite writer's tips on writing
  • sit down and actually write
  • watch your favorite movie
  • go for a walk
  • read some good books
  • set some daily/weekly/monthly writing goals and meet them
Here is one of my favorite writing quotes (that I have definitely shared here more than once) that might give you a little help:
“NOBODY TELLS THIS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE BEGINNERS, I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME. ALL OF US WHO DO CREATIVE WORK, WE GET INTO IT BECAUSE WE HAVE GOOD TASTE. BUT THERE IS THIS GAP. FOR THE FIRST COUPLE YEARS YOU MAKE STUFF, IT’S JUST NOT THAT GOOD. IT’S TRYING TO BE GOOD, IT HAS POTENTIAL, BUT IT’S NOT. BUT YOUR TASTE, THE THING THAT GOT YOU INTO THE GAME, IS STILL KILLER. AND YOUR TASTE IS WHY YOUR WORK DISAPPOINTS YOU. A LOT OF PEOPLE NEVER GET PAST THIS PHASE, THEY QUIT. MOST PEOPLE I KNOW WHO DO INTERESTING, CREATIVE WORK WENT THROUGH YEARS OF THIS. WE KNOW OUR WORK DOESN’T HAVE THIS SPECIAL THING THAT WE WANT IT TO HAVE. WE ALL GO THROUGH THIS. AND IF YOU ARE GOING THROUGH IT NOW OR YOU'RE JUST GETTING OUT OF THAT PHASE, YOU GOTTA KNOW IT'S NORMAL AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS DO A LOT OF WORK. PUT YOURSELF ON A DEADLINE SO THAT EVERY WEEK YOU WILL FINISH ONE STORY. IT IS ONLY BY GOING THROUGH A VOLUME OF WORK THAT YOU WILL CLOSE THAT GAP, AND YOUR WORK WILL BE AS GOOD AS YOUR AMBITIONS. AND I TOOK LONGER TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS THAN ANYONE I’VE EVER MET. IT’S GONNA TAKE AWHILE. IT’S NORMAL TO TAKE AWHILE. YOU’VE JUST GOTTA FIGHT YOUR WAY THROUGH.” -IRA GLASS

If you're stuck, take a break and remind yourself that this is your writing and it doesn't have to measure up to any standards. (at least not yet.) So write freely. And remember that drafts are supposed to be bad.

good luck,
Megan

+ here is a nice post by carlotta, a reminder not to wait and just get it done.
+ maureen johnson says is well.

p.s. oh look, Nevermind got a facelift! Like it? It's still not completely done because of reasons....look out for exciting things this weekend! :)

8 comments:

  1. great answer, megan. these are my thoughts exactly. xx

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  2. FEELS. I KIND OF REALLY NEEDED THIS FOR WHERE I'M AT WITH MY NOVEL RIGHT NOW (WHICH IS NOWHERE, SO, YEAH.) YOU'RE SUPER COOL.

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  3. Ooh, I love what you said about fear. Well, love/hate it. Thanks for this!

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  4. ooooh love your answer, meg. this rocks.

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  5. Yes, good job, you've given me the answer, now I just have to actually do it. A lot of times I'll just say I have writer's block so I can be lazy. UGH. Not good. Ha.
    Also, if you got my letter, the chapter I sent you is the VERY FIRST DRAFT. And first drafts aren't supposed to be good. Just keep that in mind while reading. ;-)

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  6. I've never thought about writer's block quite like that, for me it is usually laziness or I just get distracted:P I'll have to try some of these!

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  7. Writer's block is beyond awful and annoying! One way that I've found helpful to get past it is if you're writing fiction, try looking into the future and write a particularly interesting part as it comes. Then set it aside to use when the proper time in the story comes up or not at all. You just have to keep writing til you get to the good ideas.

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  8. thanks for this, Megan! I think the reason my novel hasn't been written in for awhile is because of all the busyness in my life, but I'm sure I should be able to find some time. thank you again for writing this post!

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