19 September 2007
Overcoming Writer's Block
Our constantly evolving language, that transcontinental pipeline of countless ideas, words, phrases, and comparisons seem to flow in endless supply to those who tap into it for a livelihood. Yet, all aspiring and established writers get our writing pipes clogged up from time to time. The worst thing that can happen to a writer is to find themselves at a complete loss for words. Searching for the cerebral Drāno to clear that mental blockage is a challenging feat that can send one into the darkest underbelly of self-loathing, but once that pipe clears up, it is pure ecstasy just to get those words flowing once again.

There are thousands of websites out there that give you tips like "Set a schedule and stick to it", or "Examine the psychological reasons that you feel like you can't write", blah blah blah. Most of those sites tell you that you have issues. In most cases, that just isn't true. Yes, maybe you're stressed, but that doesn't mean you have "issues" that you need to line out. Sometimes you just can't think of anything to write about. Sometimes you're just "stuck". It doesn't make writer's block this big bad boogeyman or gremlin that sleeps under your desk, screwing up your life, scattering your pens all willy nilly and causing "issues". Yes, sometimes it might feel that way, but I can't handle the seriousness of that advice. It is just so...depressing.

I have found several ways to combat my own bouts of writer's block, some sources coming from other individuals, and most coming from my own trial and error to find what works. The basic tenet that I have learned is that on-topic distractions can make a world of difference. You can distract yourself, but do it constructively with the goal of breaking that block in mind.

Writing for Writing's Sake
Sometimes writing for the writing's sake can be just what one needs to get those ideas and words flowing again. I find that sometimes just plopping down in front of the monitor or on the bed with a notebook and writing about how I am feeling, or what I did when I woke up (in excruciating detail) can help. You would be surprised how much detail you can get into when you're just describing making a pot of coffee. Don't stop. Don't look back to edit, just keep writing. We're not looking for print quality, here.

If you are still at a loss, write about how much you hate writer's block. Go ahead, imagine it is a tangible creature, that little gremlin that is screwing your desk up and causing you to have "issues". Detail all the things you would like to do to the little monster and write until he has suffered an agonizing and blood curdling death. That should do it.

Setting the Tune: or, Rock Out With Your Block Out
Staring at a blank sheet of paper can only make things worse when you're trying to think. You focus more on the lack of words on that sheet than the potential that the sheet has. Break up that monotony and pent up tension with a jam break.

We all have certain songs that trigger an "abnormal" response in our normally stoic selves. You know you have a few. For instance, if you're driving in the car, and a certain song comes on the radio and it makes you feel so great that the next thing you know, you're lip syncing and dancing like a fool. You have become the guy at the stoplight who forgot his car had transparent windows.

The making of a mixtape may be considered an ancient practice from the era of the cassette, but with the availability of cd burners today, there is absolutely no reason against your making a mixDISC of those few songs to rock out to. Break that tension! You're most likely in the privacy of your own home, so nobody is there to judge you, so get your funk on or do your best air guitar rendition, you know it feels good. The point is to get moving, and have a little fun doing it.

When you're done dancing around the house, sit back down. You've been liberated and can start writing again.

Post-Its are a Girl's Best Friend
I'm infamous for my love of the Post-It note. I have a stack in the purse (when I carry one), in the car, and in every room of my home. You don't have to use Post-Its, any notebook will do (smaller sizes work best for portability). But a simple sentence written down about a particular line or idea to jog your memory can work wonders when you are strapped for ideas to write about later on.

You never know when an idea will hit you, and when it does, get it down before you lose it. If you ever want to win the battle against the 'Block, this should do it.

A Quote of the Day Keeps the Clogging Away

I find that sometimes looking for inspiration in the words of others can get your wheels of thought turning.

Bartlett's, BrainyQuote, and ThinkExist are three really good quote sites on the internet.

Take a Ride on the Memory Machine
If you're finding trouble trying to flesh out a character's personality, go back to a real person that reminds you of what you want your character to represent. Write a few paragraphs about that person. What did you like about them? What did you loathe about them? Did they have any habits that annoyed you or amused you? Any characteristics about their appearance that stood out to you? You could have seen this person in passing on the street, or they could be a close acquaintance, it doesn't matter. The point is that once you focus and get a train of thought moving, you find it easier to develop your character.

I have also found that if you're strapped for ideas, looking back into your memory of distinguishing geographic or landscape features can help. Think about that scene from your memory. What could have happened there? Why? Who was involved? Feel free to utilize the 5W+H formula here: (Who, What Where, When, Why, & How) I've had a few interesting vignettes occur from out of nowhere simply by remembering a particular setting from my own life.

Using Google image search can also be helpful when trying to visualize a scene. Writing about some place in Atlanta? Writing about an old farm house? Google it in an image search and use characteristics in the photos that show up as a springboard.

Converse With Your Muse
You know that friend or acquaintance you have that just being around them makes things spring into your head like a preteen on a trampoline? We all have one. Call them up, tell them what you're working on, that you're stuck, and the short conversation alone will help you decompress and free up your mind. Get back to work.

Find What Works for You
Clichéd but true. Find what inspires you and aids your focus. Everything I have told you above works for me, but it may not work for you. Take from them what you will and redefine them into your own style. OR...you can go to another site and try to figure out why you have "issues" and see where it goes from there.

Happy writing,

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Famous Appalachian Quote of the Day
I believe that every human being is potentially capable within his 'limits' of fully 'realizing' his potentialities; that this, his being cheated and choked of it, is infinitely the ghastliest, commonest, and most inclusive of all the crimes of which the human world can assure itself."
- James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

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