The Myth of Writer’s Block
I have taught AP Composition for over 10 years. One of the things that students always complain about is what they call “writer’s block”. I am convinced, after years of writing, that writer’s block does not exist, and is a concept created by a media culture to explain a simple phenomenon of laziness.
A great man once said: “The only thing that will get your book written is bum glue and fingers moving.” This is the absolute truth. The only reason writers have writers block is because they don’t want to admit that they are a lazy writer. For you lazy writers out there who seem to be suffering from “writer’s block”, I have several things you can do to break the lazy habit of not writing:
I try to write 1000 words a day even if I know the writing I am producing is absolute garbage. At least I got something done. I can always go back and edit the thing later.
Write an outline of the plot of your piece. This will help you organize your thoughts into a workable frame. It will also give you something to do that will make you feel productive.
Create a blog like this one. Even if no one reads it you will still get the creative juices flowing. Write some poetry on it, post your “in the moment” thoughts. You never know what writing you do on a blog will inspire you to write that 1000 words you need for your daily goal.
Get a program like Mindnode Pro for either the Mac or a version of it for the PC. I use this program for creating complex character maps, plot hooks, tying in symbolic elements, etc. Below is an example of this program in action. It is a design for a character I have created for a side novel I work on when I’m not working on the main one.
If you are stuck on your present writing project, create another one that you can work on in the meantime. When you feel like you can’t create anything for the main project, sometimes the other project will come calling, and sometimes the secondary project will turn out to be your best writing.
Develop a writing schedule. Write on a regular basis. If you cannot find time to write, you are not really a writer. I have many distractions that can keep me from doing what i’m supposed to be doing (i.e. television, blu ray, dorking around on my iPhone). I have to schedule time to write. I usually do it after the kids go to bed and I’ve had the quality quiet time with my wife. Kristie (my wife) likes to go to bed before me because I sometimes snore and she likes to get to sleep before I eventually climb into bed. I spend that hour or so writing in the silence of the living room where we do not have a television or any other electronic devices except for my Macbook. It is a comfortable place, there is a coffee table for a glass of milk or water, and I am not disturbed while I create. The point is, find a place to write and then write. You will never get anything done if your life is too busy.
Read books. I may alternate my evening writing time every other day with this exercise. How else are you going to hone your skills as a writer unless you read what others are writing. I read all types of books, from Charles Portis to Robert Ludlum to J.R.R. Tolkien. I read authors that I would like to emulate, not in subject matter but in writing style. I am finding my own style, and that takes reading other authors. If you are having “writer’s block” spend an evening reading a good book, but don’t pick someone because they are “literary”, pick an author that has an interesting writing style. Every time I read Charles Portis I am inspired. I love the way he crafted sentences. They are quirky and humorous and full of southern charm. The man only wrote 5 books in his lifetime, and was only famous for one: True Grit. If my writing career can emulate good old Charles, I suppose I have done what I set out to do. Hopefully at least one of the books I write in my lifetime will sell better than the others. That is worth hoping for.
Get a good writing program. I use Scrivener. There are versions for both the Mac and the PC. This program is probably one of the best writing programs out there. It allows me to keep all my research, photos, character bios, outlines and other material all in one place without having to go outside the program to get it. It allows me to put each chapter or scene within a chapter into an individual file. These files can then be moved around on a cork board (it literally looks like one) in any order I choose. It will automatically export my books to a .mobi format for Kindle or a “paperback novel” format for a Createspace .pdf to be used by that website to self publish. It also has a manuscript format that automatically prepares my documents for submission to literary agents. Most importantly, I have found that it drives me to write. I open the program, set it to full screen mode and it removes all the clutter so I can focus only on the words I am writing.
I hope that this article helps you lazy writers out there. I say that with the utmost care and do not mean any malice by it. I will have to admit that the Christmas season has made me kind of lazy. I haven’t written anything but this blog for a week, but at least I’m writing something.
I hope you break the “writer’s block” curse and I hope that the above suggestions will aid you on your quest to finishing that Great American or British Novel you know you have in you…if only you could get to work.
Now stop reading this and WRITE!