I’m just beginning work on a novel I’ve been thinking about for a very long time, but I’m having a lot of trouble making myself do the work. This has happened before, and usually it comes right around the beginning of a new project. I thought tonight I would talk a little about how I push through these blocks and get to work (and I’m hoping in the process I’ll inspire myself to action on my own work!)
5 Ways to Beat the Block and Get to Work
- Shitty First Drafts – I first read Anne Lammott’s article Shitty First Drafts in a writing class I took several years ago. The idea is basically to just accept that you are going to write something fairly terrible on your first try, so go ahead and get it over with. Don’t worry about making it perfect or even good.
- More Planning This is a dangerous one for me (and I think most people), but there are times when I’m having serious block because I have not planned my story out enough. Planning can be a form of procrastination, but if you’re feeling stuck, try freewriting through the trouble. Write about the scene, the character, the overall plot. Whatever comes. Usually the block will disappear as you explore the problem in more detail and find the next piece to your manuscript puzzle.
- Break Projects Down – If you’re thinking about all those thousands of words you have to write, you are going to feel overwhelmed. Breaking something like a novel into small chunks, chapters or scenes, and focusing on that one small thing will help you get past the overwhelm. Remember to come up for air every now and then and look at your project as a whole to make sure you’re staying on target. I like to jot down a few words and the page numbers for each scene and chapter on a notepad as I write. Then every few days I look at my overall plan and adjust as I need to.
- Daily Goals – I got this idea from Stephen King. His book, On Writing, is one of my favorite writing books of all time. It always helps me to know that I need to get a certain word count done every day. I personally can’t use a time goal because I’ll spend the whole chunk of it looking out the window, but whatever works for you is great. When I’m working on a novel or story I try to get at least 1000 words a day completed. It doesn’t always happen, but there are also a lot of days that I push way past this. And at 1000 words a day, it’s possible to finish a rough draft of a novel in something like three months. Pretty cool.
- Morning Writing – My favorite weapon against writer’s block is to get out of bed as early as I can manage, get my notebook and a cup of tea and just start writing. No time for brushing my teeth or getting dressed or breakfast. More importantly, no time for thinking about the writing. If I can keep myself in that almost dream-like state of just waking, I feel like I have better access to my creativity and the editor voice in my head tends to stay asleep.
Are there any methods you like to use to deal with writers’ block or the fear of the blank page? Please share in the comments below!