By Anne A. Wilson
Writer’s block happens, and the vast majority of writers have had to face it at some point. So first, know that you’re not alone. It’s one of those things that comes part and parcel with the whole author gig.
Now, how to move past it. Lots of advice out there on the topic, so I’ll just add my two cents–what’s worked for me. Perhaps one of these ideas will resonate, because as a fellow writer, I want you to move beyond this moment. To get your mind clicking and your fingers tapping.
1. Approach it like Ernest Hemingway. End your writing session in the middle of a chapter or scene. Here’s a direct quote from Hemingway on how he tackled writer’s block:
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day . . . you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
2. Walk away from your computer. That is, don’t stare at a blank screen. You’re stuck. You’re sitting there with a deer-in-the-headlights-oh-my-god-this-is-it-my-writing-career-is-over look on your face, willing yourself to have a breakthrough. Yoda’s voice burns steady in your ears. “Use the force, Luke. Let it flow through you.” And what happens? Probably nothing. So, push away from the desk, stand and stretch, fold the laundry. Just do something other than staring. If you don’t, the smoke coming out of your ears is going to set off the fire alarms.
3. Exercise. I know, I know. Eat your vegetables, take your vitamins, exercise. But the thing is, increased blood flow to the brain does wonders. Walking around the block counts. So does gardening, doing sit-ups, yoga, cleaning out the garage . . . You get the idea. Even if you’re chair-bound, try little hand-held weights for bicep curls or lateral raises. Anything to get the heart rate up and the blood moving.
4. Music. A good movie score works wonders. It sets the mood and helps you tap in to that needed emotional place. Often, once you’re there, the scene that’s eluded you plays out just like you’re watching a movie. A song with lyrics can be just as inspiring. It might be the title, it could be a single turn of phrase. Even the smallest thing could tip the scales and set the ideas flowing.
5. Exercise-music combo. Throw on some ear buds and go for a walk or a jog or a hike. Without question, this is where most of my writing gets done. The music takes me to the correct emotional place, the blood and oxygen are flowing, and the scenes start clicking. If you’re a swimmer, I highly recommend a SwiMP3 player. Doing laps while listening to music can transport you to that magical place where stories unfold before your goggled eyes.
6. Exercise, but hold the music. Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth? Well, sort of. Just like it’s nice to “go away” when walking and listening to music, so is it helpful to take that walk earphone-free, and take a moment to dial in to the world around you. The breeze on your face, the scuttle of a paper cup lifted and tossed across the street, the crooked gait of an old man ambling down his driveway to pick up the newspaper in the morning, the muted roar of the plane overhead. Those little details that will help you establish a genuine sense of place for your reader. Given a choice, I usually listen to music when I exercise, but I find that I still need–and take–those quieter moments, and they’re just as valuable.
7. Read a book. Regardless of genre, you will almost always come away with fresh inspiration after reading. Your mind is free to drift and float, so let it. The bonus here, of course, is that you’re also going to “author school.” It’s oft said that to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. I know I learn something every single time I open a book.
Okay, off you go now. Time to get back on track!
P. S. If, for some reason, you’re still floundering, try these other valuable writing tips from Ernest: http://thewritepractice.com/hemingway-quotes/. Enjoy!
Anne A. Wilson – Anne served nine years active duty as a navy helicopter pilot, never dreaming she would one day write a novel. She writes in women’s fiction, where you’ll always find love stories, action and adventure, and happily ever afters. She lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona, with her husband and twin boys. Her debut novel, HOVER, can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Macmillan Publishers.