How to Slay your Writer’s Block
Tackling that blank page on your computer screen, but not literally.
It’s undoubtedly one of the biggest problems of a writer to face in the wondrous yet traitorous world of novel-writing. Why traitorous, you ask? Well how else can you describe the feeling of doing a mundane task, striking upon a brilliant idea when you least expect it, make note of it and then firing up your computer and then…
…doing nothing. “Is there something wrong with me?” you ask yourself, “Do I not have enough of an idea to begin writing?”. After a while, you decide that must be the problem and in an attempt to make the firing up of you computer not feel like a waste of time, you watch cat videos or tweet something. Hey, maybe that’s why you’re here right now reading this post.
Most people who cover this subject would be telling you to “stop looking at Tumblr and get writing!” by this point but don’t worry, for I am a merciful teacher. I understand like you that this does not help you write because I have been there myself. It just irritates you more, right? Instead, I’m going to give you some straight-up constructive advice that I’ve accumulated from my own experiences on how to stop thinking about that book you’re going to write and to just write it!
1. Give yourself a Deadline. Now this sounds intimidating as all hell but don’t despair! You can’t fire yourself when you’re your own boss and it’s surprisingly fun to give yourself anything from ten minutes to half an hour to write whatever comes into your head. You find that as soon as you set that alarm on your phone that your “inner editor”, the culprit behind your self-doubtful writing all this time, has been erstwhile booted out the window to make space for the serious writing that’s about to go down! Just remember that the number of words you want to write need to be proportionate to the amount of time given - if you give yourself too long a deadline for a short story then the pressure simply will not be on. (Bonus: If you still have trouble with writing using a deadline, try using a writing prompt too!)
2. Your story is unique and the world needs it! This is the worst one for me personally to suffer, that moment when you’ve thought long and hard about a story idea only to realise it shares a lot of similarities with one of your favourite movies, TV shows or another book. Self-doubt creeps in or even worse, you see yourself as a rip-off. This is not true! It’s partially true when somebody says that there are no original story ideas anymore but then, how long has that been true for? The Hobbit and Star Wars: A New Hope share huge similarities in basic story and yet neither of them can be counted as stealing the other’s story. Don’t be dissuaded by somebody doing a better job, write it anyway and be damned! The world needs your book and it ain’t gonna write itself!
3. Imagine your story like a Cat. Legendary American writer Ray Bradbury once said that he treats his stories the same way he treats a cat. If he tries to pick it up, it’ll move away. So instead, he ignores it and does something else until the cat wonders why it’s being ignored, and goes over to him only to put itself in the position to be snatched up when it least expects it.
You are not a slave to your writing. Most of the time, if you find that you cannot force yourself to write that story then there’s a problem - you’re forcing yourself. The art of writing is enjoyable and incredibly satisfying and so it shouldn’t feel like slave labour. Get comfortable, grab yourself a coffee or any other drink you like, fire up your computer and just take it easy, acknowledge that you shouldn’t have to do a running jump into your blank page because anybody who does usually feels like they have something to make up for. This is not a contest, this is your art and good art cannot be rushed. If in doubt, let the cat come to you.
4. Don’t do it just for the money. It’s okay to love writing so much that you want to make it into your job but it’s not healthy to think about that until after you’ve released some material. When you’re working on finally writing that first story that you want to become a bestseller, money or fame is a poor motivation compared to the fire that is already burning in your soul.
This isn’t because it’s immoral to put money first, which is never necessarily true, but because when somebody is writing with money in mind, they’re so hung up on what people will pay money to read that it actually hampers their ability to write something they’re passionate about. It’s okay to follow the trend but it’s not healthy to simply be a slave to the trend. Some of the most classic books went against the grain and ended up creating their own trends altogether! Write what you want to write, not what the world wants you to write and usually, you find that this allows the floodgates of your imagination to run free again.
5. Kill Your Darling. Put the kitchen knife down, that’s not what I mean. The term “killing your darlings” is a writing slur that refers to a situation where you have to cut out a scene that you love but does not help the story in any way. We’re supersizing it for this one, though, as sometimes my mind has been so hung up on a single story idea that I love but never gets on the page. When you struggle, if all else fails, take a good, hard and unbiased look at your story idea. Can you really get a story out of this or is it just a cool idea that lacks substance?
If you find that the story is lacking, it most likely pays to discard the idea from the possibility of becoming it’s own story, no matter how much it hurts. Doing this frees up enough processing power to either make way for the next idea in the queue or to even simply take a much needed break from your writing. But it’s okay! The idea may be dead but it’s not forgotten. The old saying “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” serves you well for that idea may come back as a guest star in one of your later projects. The story I am writing right now is an amalgamation of at least three discarded ideas from my past coming together to become something far more likely to make it as a team!
Hopefully the pointers here have helped you to bring down your lack of motivation or self-esteem and if my specific methods didn’t work, it’s okay! You’ll work it out with or without anybody’s help, all I can hope to do is to speed up that process because quite frankly, your book sounds great and I need a new story to read! ^_^’ Happy writing!
(PS, I noticed looking through this that I mention cats a lot. I’m not a crazy cat person, just highly coincidental. Honest!) *Strokes a cat Bond-villain style”