How to Get Through the Dreaded Block

I’m writing now about trying to get through writer’s block because I’m currently in a writer’s block, but I don’t even really have any business writing about getting over writer’s block because I’m not very good at it myself.

So let’s dive right in!

-Write Something Else-

First off, even when I’m in a writer’s block, I still try and exercise my ability to write – like doing this blog!  I journal daily and can easily punch out 3-5k words per day just talking about what I did the day before.  It’s probably needlessly detailed so that if I ever re-read my journal when I’m 60 I’m going to wonder why I thought it was important to mention how I bought this brand of milk at this specific store after work that one day 40 years ago to make this certain kind of dessert. 

So if something can be learned from that – even if you have no creative spark to write a story, try and write something that you can word vomit.  If not journaling your own life, write about what you thought about the latest episode of that Netflix series you’ve been binging.  Make up a review of a product you used recently.  Recap a novel you just finished as if you were going to try to explain it to someone.  It helps to find something you’re opinionated about and can rant about for ages.  Maybe even try to write your dump in a certain way, if you feel up to that much creativity – such as writing it in the way you think a character would.  Use slang, be super proper about it, write it from the perspective of a kid, anything.  And it’s perfectly fine to not share your word vomit or even save it – it’s all for helping you, no one else.  Unless you want to share!

If you’re only stuck on one story, try to work on a different one.  See if it’s your entire creative system clogged up or just a certain story that’s causing you trouble.  Exercise those creative muscles and make a dent in another work.  Maybe even start a new one, if you can.  When you’re feeling a little more confident, try and read and edit the one that you’re stuck on (assuming you’ve already started it); maybe you’ll notice something you wrote that could be returned to later in the story.  Maybe you learned something from your other works and can apply it to the one you’re stuck on. 

-Utilize Your Writing Community-

When I’m struggling to get through a part of a story, a lot of times I like to reach out to other people to see what they would do next to try and spark off ideas.  Start a brainstorm session.  I recommend finding a fellow author, or someone that loves binge watching dramatic TV shows.  Even if all the ideas flop, at least it got your juices flowing.  I went into a brainstorming session without even having writer’s block and came out of it with enough ideas for content for like, two sequels to a novel I was writing, without even actually discussing the story in question.  Just getting all the creativeness hyped up was enough to start the storm in my own brain. 

-Switch From Writing to Reading-

And this one is more of an opinion than anything, because I have a hard time finding the time to pick up a book much anymore to test this theory – if you can’t write, try reading.  Perhaps the words will be as inspirational to your creativity as a brainstorming session with another person.  The book is your person.  Metaphors, yeah.  

I also like to think that reading serves as a good way to study writing.  A lot of the finesse of English language can be picked up and understood just by experiencing it.  And sometimes that’s the only way to learn certain aspects of it.  Sometimes English makes no damn sense outside of practice.  If you’re still having trouble, I’d almost even recommend looking for something bad to read – find a free smut story on Amazon, and after a few pages of illogical characters and improbable situations and glaringly obvious grammatical errors, your confidence in writing will boost, and hopefully with it, your creativity.  Nothing quite strokes your ego and your inspiration like thinking you can do better than that. 

-Try Listening to Music or Making a Playlist-

Music could maybe even do the trick.  It certainly motivates me to clean house a lot better than if there was just a silent void.  Try listening to music that sets the mood for what you’re trying to write (I really like to customize themed Pandora stations), or when in doubt, try listening to something that lifts your mood and gives you confidence.  I don’t ever not suddenly feel like hot stuff when I am jamming to “Uptown Funk.”  Maybe you’ll even find inspiration by listening to a song; “99 Red Balloons” really makes me want to write a world falling to pieces because of some kind of misunderstanding.  Really listen to it, man; it’s a goddamned beautiful masterpiece of science fiction as well as something really sweet to dance to. 

Something that I've found very good to listen to while writing is "video game music compilations" on Youtube.  Fruddle and SuperRedGames have some really good playlists anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours long.  I found one Final Fantasy compilation that's 9 hours long!  NINE HOURS.  And every second if it is beautiful.  Video game music is perfect for writing because it's background music for games and is meant to be beautiful, subtle, and empowering to help you get through the game.  So why can't it be the background music for your life?

And if you still can't get the words out, try and make a playlist for your book/short story/whatever it is you are writing.  Find songs that fit the mood, theme, or story of your work and assemble them into a playlist.  Listen to it, share it, have fun with it.  Just get excited about your writing.

-Work on Your Own Story-

And then, maybe, if you still can’t get going on your story, just try working on your own story – you!  Get out, have an adventure, get some experience.  Observe, listen, absorb.  In the very least, maybe going out and having a little fun was just the kind of break you needed.  If you look hard enough, you’ll find a charismatic, weird, or funny character in a real person that could serve as a basis for a written one.  Maybe you’ll stumble upon a scenic spot that looks like a setting you could write about.  By chance something could happen to you that would be a good scene or premise for a story.  

In my writing, I find so many fine details of a story end up being plucked from my own life – like a character loving sausage and onion on their pizza because I know someone that always orders it like that.  Something as simple as a detail like that can turn into your characters going to get pizza and then shenanigans happen.  Maybe their order was wrong, maybe they had to go back, and one character wants to be bad cop and the other wants to be good cop in efforts to get a refund.  You can just go on and on until you hit your next block. 

Rinse and repeat. 

-Dana Lockhart


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