Spoiler alert: I hate the term "writer's block." It implies that you are unable to write, but that's not entirely accurate, is it? Instead, I like to use the term "creative block." While you're probably able to write, you're not always able to write creatively.
I struggled with creative blocks severely when I was writing my second novel, That Was the Year. Just call me the Queen of Procrastination. And because of the procrastination, I lost my way in the story, causing major rework on my part.
But the good news is that it all came together in the end. If you're someone who's familiar with creative blocks, then allow me to provide you with some personal strategies to overcome them:
Know when to take a break
Sometimes, it's just not working. In my writing life, I've started to experience different seasons of writing time, now that I've got a couple books under my belt. It looks a bit like this:
- Starting a new book. I take my time in the beginning, letting my imagination run around on its busy little hamster wheel.
- Hammering it out. As my deadline approaches, I take full weekends to work and rework the story.
- Edit like crazy. Sometimes, I dread this part. For That Was the Year, I had a ton of reworking to do. (#SecondNovelStatus. More on that over here.)
- Finish the book, take a break. Once I'm done with the publishing part, it's time for me to take a break. Get out in the real world for a while. See the sun and all that jazz.
It doesn't always go this way. Sometimes, I need to take a break. Even if it's smack dab in the middle of warning, deadline approaching! There's something to be said for closing the book and getting outside. For more advice on creativity, head over this way.
Questions to ask yourself if you're thinking of taking a break:
- Do I need a break because I'm procrastinating? Think hard on this one!
- Do I need a break because I've been working too hard?
- Do I need a break because I'm overwhelmed?
- How long of a break will it take me to feel more in control?
Know when to work harder
Alright, time to get into a recently learned lesson for me. When I was writing my first novel, These are the Moments, I had very few creative blocks. There were days when I didn't feel like writing, but as far as the story went, I felt solid and assured.
With my second book? It felt like I was pulling playing tug-of-war with the story, and I was not winning. My problem was that I had too many ideas. Too many avenues to take. But, I've also had days where I have no ideas at all.
So what do we do?
I've come to believe that, a lot of the time, writing isn't about being inspired. It's about buckling down and getting the work done. The trick is to figure out how to do that. Here's how I've managed to make it work:
Write everything that I know
Aka writing a complete mess. No matter where I am in the writing process, sometimes it helps me to just stop and write down everything I know about the story. Think of this as a thought inventory. It looks a little bit like this:
THAT WAS THE YEAR:
- Reese Weller loves her birthdays
- Reese Weller doesn't know who her father is
- Reese Weller is not great in the love department
And so on, and so forth. This can help spark new ideas and remind you to circle back to old ones.
Change my setting
No, I don't mean my novel setting. I mean my personal setting. Every now and then, I have to move from the couch to the coffee shop, to standing at the kitchen table to working outside. A change in scenery can help kick your brain into gear.
Phone a friend
Being an author is not a one woman show, I've discovered. It takes a team of people to make a book work. And when you get stuck, it's completely okay to ask for help.
Here are a few times to ask for help:
- When you're struggling with character motivation
- When you're struggling with story set-up (*raises hand*)
- When you're struggling with, well, anything
Know when to call it a day
If it's not working. And I mean, really not working, then maybe it's time to switch projects. If you're a serial project-switcher, I don't suggest this method. It's important to learn how to start a finish a story as a writer.
But if you genuinely gave it your best go, and you genuinely aren't interested in your story anymore, then don't be afraid to move onto your next book.
Discussion Time: What do you do when you get writer's block and/or creative blocks? Share all your secrets in the comments!