Filed under: Guest Author, Writing Tips | Tags: David B. Seaburn, David Seaburn, guest blog post, writer's block, writing, writing tips
As someone who has been writing stories since the innocent age of five, I’ve experienced writer’s block. That would be an understatement. Truthfully, it’s more like I’m in a constant state of writer’s block, with spurts of “Holy crap, I can write!”
So, you can imagine my excitement when one of my favorite people, author David Seaburn, said he wanted to write an article about the subject.
Dave, take it away!
Sometimes when I look at a blank page on my computer screen, I can tell it’s making fun of me or daring me to put even one tiny mark on its unsullied surface. No, I’m not kidding. This is for real. Sometimes it even looks, well, hostile, like it’s giving me the finger; and personal, like it’s saying “What in the world made you think you could write?” Lucky for me, I have other things to do when that happens. I stay away, not because I really want to, but because I have other stuff in my life. Who’s going to change the litter? Or binge-watch The Americans? I can’t just drop everything and sit down in front of a mind-numbingly blank page and, like, write. Who does that?
Okay, so, it’s hard being a writer because sometimes writing is the last thing you want to do or feel you can do. It’s anxiety-provoking when you don’t have anything in the tank. I mean, what does that say about you? That you’re a loser or something? I hate being in that position, so I’ve found some tricks that help me avoid the dreaded Block of the Writer.
Make Writing Habitual
First, I find that it helps if I write routinely, no matter what I write. You can define “routinely” for yourself, but generally speaking, that’s several times weekly. Sometimes I don’t work on fiction. Instead, I may write in my journal or edit what I’ve already written or work on a short blog post. But whatever I do, it helps if I put my butt in the chair routinely (there’s that word again) and practice, as if I were learning to play the piano.
Shut Up Your Inner Critic
I also try to keep the self-loathing at bay. Getting way up in your own grill when you’re trying to be creative, well, it doesn’t help. I work at being gentle with myself or reminding myself that I have done some good writing in the past, that my writing skills haven’t dribbled out of my ear while I was asleep, that this will pass. Be patient.
…But Don’t Be Too Patient
Before I forget, don’t wait for inspiration. You may never sit down at the computer again if you wait to be inspired. Sometimes inspiration never shows up, but your writing may still be very good. And if it does show up, it probably sneaks in while you’re plodding along, just trying to put words and sentences together.
Stop Yourself While You’re on a Roll
Here’s a good trick. Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way [to avoid getting blocked] is always stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you’ll never be stuck.” I like this one a lot. I’ve stopped mid-sentence when I was on a roll, because when I sat down the next day, it was so easy to get started again. (Please overlook the fact that Hemingway eventually committed suicide. I don’t think that detracts at all from his sage advice. Mostly, anyway.)
Take a Break
I find that sometimes the best thing I can do is get up and walk away for a little while. Go to the bathroom. That’s where the best ideas are hiding. Or get the mail. Or make a cup of coffee or tea. Somehow this rearranges my brain cells, making it just a little easier to go forward.
Don’t Give Up Just Because You’re Lost
The best protection against getting blocked is to keep going even if you don’t know where you’re headed. I learned this the hard way. I carried notes around for my first novel for ten (count ‘em – ten) years before I wrote the first sentence. I did this because I didn’t know how the book would end. Actually, I didn’t know how the first chapter would end.
Now I struggle less with this, because I understand that the “not knowing” part of writing is pretty common and that writing into a story is the best way to keep going, the best way to discover what’s ahead. Reminds me of E.L. Doctorow’s famous response to people who asked him about the uncertainty of the writing process: “I tell them it’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I wish I had written that. I probably had writer’s block at the time.
David B. Seaburn lives near Rochester NY. He has written five novels, two of which were expertly edited by Katrina Robinson. His latest novel is More More Time (2015, Savant Books). Also, visit his Psychology Today blog here.
Dave, you da man.
And just because it’s that kind of day, I’ll let Ryan Gosling wrap things up.
Hell yes, you will, Ryan Gosling. Yes you will.
How do you deal with writer’s block? Do you huddle in the corner and cry, or do you take it on like a man?!
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