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Friday, April 8, 2011

"Writers Block 101: Three Ways to Get Over It" by Haley Stokes

This guest post was originally published at Triumphal Writing

Okay, maybe that's false advertising and this isn't the one and only cure. There are as many reasons for writer's block as there are genres. But out of everything I've ever tried, this seems to be the key.

Relax
Or as Don Draper once told Peggy Olsen: Just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.

Often what we call writer's block isn't anything of the sort. Your brain needs a chance to process what it knows, to build a network of connections, to consider problems from multiple angles. Sometimes that means that everything stalls, and you can't think of the next word. Or you don't have an "in" for an analysis you need to write. Or you've got a story on the tips of your fingers, waiting to pour out of you, but you don't quite have the beginning.

Thinking about what you need to write, what you plan to commit to paper, and where you want to start is a good thing. Stressing, obsessing, dreading, and finally working yourself into a frenzy of anxiety and disappointment is a bad thing.

So think about it. And then do something else for awhile--an hour, a day, maybe a week. All of the procrastination tactics you love so much, as every writer does? Now is the perfect chance to indulge.

Don't Stop Writing
Don't break your writing routine. If you write for an hour every night, still use that hour, even if you have to trash everything you produce. One day the writer's block will be gone, and when it finally lifts, you want to be there and ready to work. Write something outside of your typical genre or purpose. This past month, I couldn't find a story anywhere. I couldn't hear my characters, I couldn't think of a plot. I focused on writing non-fiction and blogging, so every day I could tell myself "It's fine, you're still writing. Don't worry about the other stuff."

Introduce Something New to Your Life
In the past two days, I found my voice and my characters again, and I already have 7000 words on a new project. In the past three days, I've introduced new music into my life, using Pandora and last.fm to find artists I either didn't know or didn't know well enough. Now I've acquired albums by Radiohead, Florence and the Machine, Interpol, and Arcade Fire. I know, I know, hardly new acts, but theses albums are new to me. This isn't a coincidence. Finding new books, new music, and new movies always helps me. Sometimes just varying my shopping routine or introducing new food into my diet will help push me out of a rut.

Haley Stokes is the author of Put the Body on the Slab: The Anatomy of College Writing. She edits at Arch Editing Services.

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