Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Overcoming The Dreaded Writer's Block

I have been sporadically reading a book called Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips For Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty. It is a treasure cove of writing tips made easy! Whether you struggle with grammar, punctuation, capitalization, or pronouns, this book is for you. The author gives great examples in a fun, easy to read way.

Mignon includes a section toward the back called Work It and I loved this chapter! One of the topics she expounds on is Writer's Block and how to deal with it. She wrote,
"Anything you do to overcome writer's block is just a mind game, but I don't mean that in a bad way because sometimes you have to play mind games to get your work done. Writing is a solitary experience; it's really all about you and your mind."
Here are some of the things that worked for the author:

  • Don't play. Don't do something fun if you are going to procrastinate, because that ensures your continued playing. "Sometimes overcoming writer's block means forcing yourself to put in the time."
  • Skip around. You don't have to start at the beginning of a paragraph or chapter. If you are stuck, then write a different scene. Or better yet, start a new story or work on one you have already started.
  • Change location. Pack up your laptop and head to the library, coffeehouse, back porch, or pool. Sometimes the change of scenery will inspire you.
  • Try free writing. Set a timer and write continuously for 15, 20, or 30 minutes. Sometimes this will unstop the dam and let the creativity flow, and sometimes this can be a good way of coming up with story ideas.
  • Get real deadlines. If you are disciplined enough, set your own deadline and meet it. Plan a date, but don't go unless you finish your deadline. Meet with other writers and exchange chapters. Having to meet in person will spur you on to meet your deadline. Enter contests that have deadlines. (Writer's Digest has writing contests throughout the year. 100-Word Stories is a blog that gives writing prompts and chooses a winner from the submissions. NaNoWriMo is a month long marathon of writing where thousands participate to finish a 50,000 word novel in a month.)
Mignon Fogarty has a great blog/website HERE.

Question for the day: What do you do to combat writer's block? What tricks can you share?



Meg said...

Odd enough for me, telling myself if I don't figure it out, I have to clean the toilet works. When that doesn't work, brainstorming in the shower/bath generally does the trick.


Sarah Forgrave said...

I'm all about giving myself deadlines. I figure whenever I get published, I'll have real deadlines, so why not start practicing now?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Meg, I hadn't thought of punishment as a motivator! lol But cleaning the toilets would certainly do it for me! GREAT idea!

Sarah, you must be one of those disciplined ones who can actually motivate yourself with a deadline. If I am the only one who cares about the deadline, then I don't follow through. I need accountability.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

My family is awesome. If I tell them I have a deadline, (even self-imposed) they help me meet it by cleaning the house (in their ummm shall I say liveable way), making meals, etc. Our house looks loved and lived in during this season, but my writing gets done.
Also, when I get stuck with a word or some silly component I go to them ("I need a word...."). they may not have the answer that works for me, but they jumpstart my thinking.
My conviction comes from my wonderful teen daughter who prays every night for me at our family prayer time that God will bless my writing (talk about incentive!!)

Casey said...

Mary that is so neat that you have such a strong support system, I am extremely grateful for mine as well. :)

Ummm, I would go with a self imposed deadline. My goal for my last novel was to get it done by my birthday and I blew that goal away by at least a month. What an awesome feeling.

And prayer, pray for the words you will write and God will give you the inspiration. I think the best way to avoid writer's block is to just simply write.

Great post. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

I am the world's biggest writing procrastinator, I feel like! But this site has really helped me. It's a timer...if you stop typing for too long, it starts turning red... I set it for 30 minutes usually and can get in 1000-1200 words in that time:


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mary, I love that your family is so supportive! How wonderful for you! I especially love that your daughter prays for your writing. That is the ultimate motivator, I'm sure!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey, congratulations on finishing your novel well before your deadline! I am soooo impressed! Kudos to you, girl!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Stephanie, 1000-2000 words in 30 minutes???? You are my hero! I think I must "overthink" my writing and am too worried about the rules to write that fast. You are an inspiration!

Jody Hedlund said...

Great ideas, Sherrinda! I really like giving myself those short term deadlines, like writing a certain number of words in an hour, or trying to finish a book by a certain month. Those deadlines help keep me on track.

patti said...

LOVE these ideas. Hmmm, what do I do? Glue my rear to the computer chair and just do it.
Amazingly the stuff is sometimes okay. Just moving forward seems to work for me.
I too like the very short-term goals. Like, "If you write a page, you can check a blog." Yes, I'm a lab rat.