Friday, January 11, 2013

Curing Writer's Block

I’m fortunate to have started my writing career as a news reporter, so writer’s block was never an option. I sat at my manual typewriter and pounded out articles in a very noisy press room with one eye on the television set—at one of my first jobs—to make sure that there were no breaking news stories on any of my beats.

I don’t recommend the experience as a way to prevent writer’s block, but persistence (determination) is the best way to counteract the old writing bugaboo. When I'm writing fiction, I find that reading the chapter I wrote the day before is a good way to carry the plot forward as well as making any changes that my subconscious comes up with overnight. Like most novelists, I live with my characters 24/7 and they sometimes talk to me in my sleep.

If editing a previous chapter doesn’t break the proverbial log jam, get something down, even if you have to completely rewrite it the following day (or next writing session). It’s important that you write something every day, even if it’s only a scribbled note on a napkin or notepad that you carry with you at all times. That, in itself, can give you the confidence to write something worthwhile. It also helps to erase the fear that you’re permanently blocked.

Another good way to prevent writer's block is to work on several projects simultaneously. I’m currently working on several and when I tire of one, I go to another.

Blogging is also a great way to keep the writing juices flowing. Writing for one or more blogs not only builds your confidence, it acquaints you with potential readers and gives you valuable feedback. I realize that those who hold down full-time jobs have little time for writing, let alone blogging, and more than one writer has been fired for writing during working hours. But lunch time and breaks are a good time to make notes about your weekly blog, and giving up some TV watching will also help to solve the problem.

Believe in your ability to create. I came across some old writers’ magazines while packing for a  move. In one of them Lawrence Block had this to say on the subject of talent: “A feel for language, an intuitive understanding of how to arrange words in their best order, a sense of what is and is not dramatically effective—all of the elements that make up what we call talent are enormously important. But a great many writers with a generous supply of genuine talent never get any place in this business, while other writers who haven’t been so abundantly supplied with talent become astonishingly successful. So talent helps, but its presence is no guarantee that it’s absence [will bar you from success].”

Persistence is the most important characteristic in a successful writer’s makeup. If you’re not willing to hang in there for the long haul, don’t even attempt to begin the journey.


Morgan Mandel said...

Very true. Persistence pays in this business and just about any business.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

How true'

Lynn Cahoon said...

I don't plot, so when I'm blocked, I'll bullet point out the next few chapters to find my road map to the end.

Nice post.