“Finish what you’re writing,” famed author Neil Gaiman once said. “Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”
Easier said than done, Neil.
Sometimes, we start something and then tire of it. Sometimes, our lives go in a direction that is different from the mood of the story we are working on, and this can be a problem. Sometimes, we get busy and fall out of the habit.
In strolls the dreaded writer’s block.
As an author, I’m no stranger to writer’s block. Each of the situations listed above has happened to me at one point or another in my writing journey. At those times, I needed to stop and renew my passion for words in order to move forward with a project. Now, I’m no expert, but I’ve written a few books, and I’m happy to share these strategies that have worked for me to dig me out of the dreaded pit of writer’s block.
When I am feeling uninspired, sometimes all it takes is a good book to get me back in the mood to write. It helps to pick up a book that’s in the same genre as whatever you’re writing. Different voices and styles sometimes grab me and give me ideas on a direction I might not have considered going in my own story.
Watch a movie
Same story as above. Stay in your genre. And, when I say movie, I mean movie, NOT SERIES. I’ve been drawn into Netflix or Amazon series in the past, and they are such time suckers. Not that there aren’t times for watching series, but don’t start one when you’re trying to finish writing a book.
Set a writing schedule for yourself and stick to it.
When I was writing Wake, book two of my Whisper Trilogy, I discovered that if I just put myself in a place to write for two hours a day, I got a lot done.
Now, at the time, I had two daughters in elementary school full-day and one at half-day preschool four days a week. I was responsible for my kids’ schedules and for running the household so that it was conducive to our family’s needs (clean laundry for people to wear, food in the fridge for people to eat, etc…) When I dropped my daughter at preschool, it was tempting to head back home or on a solo trip to the grocery store, to cross all of the mom/wife things off of my list.
But for three solid months, I didn’t. do that I dropped my daughter off then drove straight to the coffee shop where I wrote most of Wake.
These next two might seem like they aren’t a solution to writer’s block. They are actually more preventative in nature, because if you stay in the habit, you’re less likely to get writer’s block.
Take whatever you write on with you everywhere so that you have it “in the meantime.”
I write on a laptop computer. It is with me when I take my daughters to their activities. Many times, when I’ve dropped them off at play rehearsals or guitar lessons, I’ve sat in my car or in the darkened theatre and written. I actually wrote the very end of War and Wonder while my oldest daughter was at church band practice. She’s the lead vocalist, and they were singing the song – “Rooftops.”
I could hear the beautiful worship song rising through the building to my ears. That’s why there’s a quote from “Rooftops” at the end of War and Wonder. I might seem antisocial when I sit at practices and write instead of talk to other moms. This brings me to my next point.
Don’t feel bad about not socializing.
Writing is lonely work. But – if you’re like me – you can handle the solitude, because the stories you create really gratify something deep within you. Your need to get the words of your heart on paper are greater than your need for constant companionship. We writers have detailed worlds with thick dramas playing out in our heads. Sometimes, we seem weird to non-writers. Sometimes we might even seem aloof.
So, to the mom I didn’t gab with at the rehearsal – I wasn’t trying to snub you. I probably really like you (I like almost everyone!) I’m actually quite extroverted most of the time, but I was just trying to meet a deadline and finish a chapter or two while I had the time. I’d love to talk when my book is done!
Set your current project aside, and work on something else.
This is a last resort for me, although I know writers who work on three or four books at once. I’m pretty monogamous when it comes to writing books, but when I’m blocked I do find inspiration in branching into a poem or some articles, even a short story. I like to dabble in flash fiction and often enter weekly contests to rejuvenate my spirit.
I’ll confess that when I started writing book three of my Whisper Trilogy, I got majorly blocked. Some weird stuff was happening at home. It was a scary and sort of depressing time, and I just wasn’t into writing the whimsical fantasy that was the mood of Whisper. I put War and Wonder down and dove into writing Beautiful Secret, a much more serious, more emotion-driven novel.
Later, I came back to War and Wonder and finished off my trilogy with a bang – literally. (You have to read the end to understand the pun.)
I hope some of these strategies help you renew your spirit and find your voice again. Below I’ll post my favorite flash fiction contest for you. Maybe you need a little diversification is all.
Microcosms is a weekly flash fiction contest in which the moderator provides a prompt. You enter on Friday and the results are posted on the following Monday. It’s fun and gets your creative juices flowing!
Until next time – Death to writer’s block!