For Writers

Sitting Down to Write: How to Start When You’re Stuck

We all know the feeling. You’ve got a scene in your head you want to write, but your brain isn’t working. Your fingers won’t cooperate. Maybe it’s your keyboard that has it out for you. Whatever the case, you can’t think. You want to start, but you’re stuck.

Here are a couple of tricks I find really handy for that first half-hour when you’ve sat at your desk, opened your laptop or your notebook, and gone “… oh no.”

1. Make a list of sensory words to put you in the mindset of your scene.

What’s your character seeing? Hearing? Smelling? Touching? Say I’m writing a scene where my main character is running from a monster in a rainstorm. I might make a list like this:

mud, muck, slippery, splatter, pouring, shoes squelching, shivering, sheets of rain, buckets, splashed, slipped; snarling, slobbering, growling, thundering paws; spikes of lightning, blinding, flash, silver; panting, whimpering, skidding, falling, crashing

This’ll help you visualize the scene and get into the headspace.

Continue reading “Sitting Down to Write: How to Start When You’re Stuck”

Motivation

The Plight of the Creative In Times of Struggle

For many of us, this past November was a month of emotional strain. I’ll admit, all fantasies of blowing my NaNoWriMo goals out of the water fell apart after the sucker punch that was November 8th. For days, I could hardly concentrate on eating or sleeping, let alone writing. I struggled to find any motivation to work on my WIP.

Now, for some people, the darkest hours, the moments of struggle and adversity, are the times they find most creatively stimulating. “Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty,” said Sartre. It is through struggle and pain, they say, that they find the inspiration and motivation to pursue their art.

That’s great for them. Really.

Writing can be a lifeline, a rope to cling to and claw at while everything else is in free-fall, and if you can find solace and stimulation within the coarse fabric of your rough patches, all the better for you.

But, if you’re the kind of writer who can’t write when you’re upset, who needs to fundamentally feel safe and happy and comfortable and encouraged to pick up the pen; if you write from a place of confidence and joy, please, please, please don’t think less of yourself for feeling creatively dried up right now.

 

Try not to internalize too much shame or guilt or hatred at yourself. Humans have limits, even you.

You are allowed to have dry spells. You are allowed to be uninspired, to be blocked. Peaks and troughs, people, it’s okay.

One of the worst things you can do during writer’s block is strain and strain and strain. Don’t beat up or berate yourself. Don’t get angry that you, for whatever reason, can’t write right now. Be kind to yourself.

Your creative urge will come back to you, often at an unexpected time or in a surprising way. If you’re going through hell, by all means, keep going, but let yourself take the time that you need to fight through it.

You’re a writer regardless of whether you put down a word every day. So take time off if you need it. Let your story be a source of comfort, not one more thing to feel stressed about.

~

For Writers

3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block (And How To Beat Them)

It doesn’t exist.”

“It’s laziness.”

“It’s in your head.”

“What you need to do, is just start typing.”

The internet has a lot of opinions on writer’s block, from dismissing its existence entirely to ineffectively proscribing blind clacks at a keyboard as its remedy. For someone in the thick of the brain fog and creative stall that is writer’s block, I don’t think either of these mentalities — that what we’re going through isn’t real, or that all we need to do is just write something down — is really going to help, because I don’t think writer’s block is simply a matter of  mental fog or stubborn procrastination.

I think it comes from something far worse — and far easier to fix.

Continue reading “3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block (And How To Beat Them)”

Blog · On Writing

Sitting Down to Write: How to Start When You’re Stuck

We all know the feeling. You’ve got a scene in your head you want to write, but your brain isn’t working. Your fingers won’t cooperate. Maybe it’s your keyboard that has it out for you. Whatever the case, you can’t think. You want to start, but you’re stuck.

 

(I have gotten so much traction out of this gifset. I could use this in every post.)

Here are a couple of tricks I find really handy for that first half-hour when you’ve sat at your desk, opened your laptop or your notebook, and gone “… oh no.”

1. Make a list of sensory words to put you in the mindset of your scene.

What’s your character seeing? Hearing? Smelling? Touching? Say I’m writing a scene where my main character is running from a monster in a rainstorm. I might make a list like this:

mud, muck, slippery, splatter, pouring, shoes squelching, shivering, sheets of rain, buckets, splashed, slipped; snarling, slobbering, growling, thundering paws; spikes of lightning, blinding, flash, silver; panting, whimpering, skidding, falling, crashing

This’ll help you visualize the scene and get into the headspace.

Continue reading “Sitting Down to Write: How to Start When You’re Stuck”

Blog · On Writing

3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them

It doesn’t exist.”

“It’s laziness.”

“It’s in your head.”

“What you need to do, is just start typing.”

The internet has a lot of opinions on writer’s block, from dismissing its existence entirely to ineffectively proscribing blind clacks at a keyboard as its remedy. For someone in the thick of the brain fog and creative stall that is writer’s block, I don’t think either of these mentalities — that what they’re going through isn’t real, or that all they need to do is just write something down — is really going to help, because I don’t think writer’s block is simply a matter of  mental fog or stubborn procrastination.

I think it comes from something far worse — and far easier to fix.

First off, what kind of writer’s block am I talking about? I don’t mean the beginning writer staring at a blank computer screen unable to think of anything to write a story about. That’s not really a writer’s block, that’s just a writer’s beginning. Writer’s block, to me, is when you’re entrenched deep in the middle of a manuscript, you were writing with great speed and excitement and quality, and then suddenly — you’re not. You can’t explain it, but you’re knee-deep in mud and either unable or unwilling to try and pull your feet out. You unconsciously avoid writing, you edit the same few paragraphs over and over, you look at the scenes you’ve yet to write and have no idea how to put them down in words. Your brain is mentally stalled, and you’re terrified, because you have no idea what you did wrong. To me, that’s writer’s block as I’ve experienced it, and, luckily, I’ve picked up a couple ways on how to break through it.

Every instance of writer’s block I’ve ever suffered through as stemmed from legitimate sources of concern, as far as novel-writing goes. Either:

  • I’ve gotten overwhelmed with what I’m doing
  • I didn’t plan well enough ahead, or
  • I’m not acknowledging that I’ve done something wrong

These realizations — that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, that you’ve written yourself into a fog you can’t see out of, or that something has gone amiss in your writing and you didn’t accomplish what you were trying to do — can stall a writer for weeks, or even months. Because these things feed on our insecurities as writers; they poke you in the ribs and whisper you weren’t ready anyway; you’re not good enough; you should give up. Ignore that little voice. Everyone gets overwhelmed, everyone could’ve planned better, and everyone makes mistakes.

So let’s look at each of these problems and how to fix them.

Continue reading “3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them”