It’s the subject at the center of all writing subjects, the unholy nucleus of storytelling: writer’s block. You see it come up in articles, blogs, books, conferences, and even in the occasional forward of a novel, and more often than not the question is some variation of “How to get over writer’s block?”
That’s backwards thinking.
Writer’s block is not this actual block that falls out of the sky, hits an author on the head, and leaves he or she unable to write for days or weeks at a time. It is not a germ that passes from writer to writer like some storyteller’s Flu. And it is not an unavoidable and malignant sentient force preying on the writing community.
What writer’s block actually is is mental constipation, and asking how to get over it, how to deal with it, how to get rid of it, etc. is the equivalent of searching the supermarket for a laxative once you’re already plugged up. If you have writer’s block, chances are you earned it by feeding your brain the wrong foods.
So, in the effort to create a healthy mental diet, let’s first build an unhealthy one with a Writer’s Block Recipe (measurements vary from teaspoons to heaping cups):
1) Dwell on negative reviews of your past works, because nothing feeds inspiration like feelings of inadequacy.
2) Dwell on positive reviews of your past works. You’re feeling confident? Awesome. Now make sure you live up to yourself. Is that sentence you’re writing right now up to the quality of the writing in your last book? Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive?
Which brings us to . . .
- Expect to write a certain amount each time you sit down. Hit that word count goal every day, or else. A day will come when you fall short, and you want to make sure you hold onto that feeling of failure the next time you sit down at the computer.
- Expect, or attempt, to write something brilliant or important. You either will or you won’t. Throwing your ego into the equation only makes putting words down more difficult, so do exactly that.
- Expect success. Success, in its most widespread definition, is out of your control. And things that are out of your control are what you want to be expending energy on when you try to connect with your story. (Taking a break from the sarcasm for a moment, JA Konrath has written several great posts on the difference between goals and dreams. You can read his latest HERE).
4) Set no schedule for writing. God forbid you have a well-ingrained habit to fall back on the day your motivation wanes.
5) Allow yourself no days off to recharge. Exhausted? Feeling like a black-and-white character from an old movie in a color film? Perfect. Now, stay in your room and ignore the outside world until the sun goes down.
6) Make no time to read, or refuse to out of the fear that other stories and styles will somehow interfere with “your voice.”
7) Live a physically unhealthy lifestyle. Run your body down. It’s the vehicle that drives your brain, so bog it up with booze, junk food, and make sure to never, ever exercise. You don’t want any extra energy.
8) Spend more time on the internet. As much time as possible.
9) Read about Writer’s Block, or think about Writer’s Block.
And finally, based on my own personal and constantly changing experience, my recipe for avoiding writer’s block in three simple ingredients:
1) Think about the story and only the story every time you sit down to write—let everything else go.
2) Forgive yourself for the slow days.
3) Read. We are all products of what we take in; it is what we take in and how we digest it, shape it, that makes us unique. There’s no point in trying to be an individual. You already are one, and your voice is already your own. How many authors out there ever wanted to write something without first reading something? Going on a book fast is the same as starving yourself of exactly what inspired you to tell stories in the first place. You are what you eat, so eat what you love. Devour it.
Feel free to comment on, add to, disagree with any of the above ingredients, and/or make a recipe of your own. How do YOU get writer’s block? And, more importantly, how do you prevent it?
Thank you, Sarah, for inviting me over and huge congratulations on your launch of The Tramp. My own first full-length release, The Safe, can be gandered at HERE, and anyone interested in reading more of my stories or getting in contact with me can visit me at danielbarnettfiction.com.
–Daniel Barnett, guest author
Great big thank you to Daniel for being my guest! Read my full review of The Safe HERE.
This beautifully horrific novel is set in an asylum for the criminally insane, the dirty secret of small-town New England where “the dark was greedier…than the city, more over bearing, fattening itself on every unguarded inch of mud and bark and stone.” You’ll find plenty more quotes from The Safe in my review, because Daniel Barnett weaves poetry through the darkness at every turn. Eloquent language is the only brightness at Harbrook Hill and the contrast makes the asylum seem even more bleak and tragic, suspense lurking in every chapter. The building is an ancient, stinking, live thing, an anteroom described as the passageway between the skin and the meat. Even the air around Harbrook Hill is menacing: “The morning wind had claws.” Continue reading...