Author Q & A: What Do You Do When Writer's Block Comes Around?
August 30, 2018
I think the first thing my professors in college told me was that writer's block was a myth. In my opinion, unenthusiasm, lack of creativity, and antsy-ness can all block the success of writing, so I consider myself plagued by it now and again (along with painter's block and exerciser's block).
Here's what I'm learning to do:
Stick to a schedule.
When I wrote for a travel agency, I didn't have time for writer's block. People were waiting on me. I was given an assignment, a deadline, and a computer. Sometimes I had an hour. Sometimes I had a few hours. Sometimes I had a week. Most things were done closer to the first deadline once I committed to the work--proof that a strict schedule keeps the words flowing.
When you work for yourself (or write on your own time) it can be difficult to produce the same quality and quantity of work. I force myself to sit down for at least three hours every day during the week that I don't work my part-time job. Then when I work, I'm working without distraction.
Set a timer.
For days that I'm feeling antsy and unenthused, this really helps me. I set a timer for twenty minutes. I work hard the entire time. When the timer goes off, I take a short break. Other days I go thirty minutes before a break, although I never go longer, and I always take a break.
Consider it a first draft.
Don't get caught up in perfectionism. You showed up. You're creating stuff. Don't get caught up in backspaces. Step one is writing (or outlining, or storyboarding). Take one at a time (and try not to think about the next step to avoid being overwhelmed.)
Go to the woods.
When I'm short on ideas, I go to the woods. I sit. I listen. I daydream. I always leave with fresh ideas. Discover your muse and write your ideas down--then don't let them die on paper.
When do you want to be finished? Work backward from that date and set monthly, weekly, and daily goals--and start small since habits take a while to form. Give yourself flux for the unexpected in life, but not so much leniency to offer distraction. A little pressure works great for production.
I haven't done this in a while, and I don't know why. It worked great when my first book was published and I felt pulled in every direction. Create a traction board! I wrote down all my accomplishments of the month, no matter how small, so I could celebrate my hard work every day. It also helped me spot trends. For example, I would notice a lot of marketing tasks completed when I should have had more writing tasks completed. Not all work is equal.
Tell people NO.
Why are you writing? Remember this when people ask for your time that you've already scheduled out for your creative projects. Don't feel guilty. People give their time to other people's dreams and automatically say, "I can't, I have to work" when someone asks for a favor or availability. And you know what, nobody bats an eye. Use the same response if you have write or paint written in your to-dos. You can't, because you have work to do. Don't let your guilt in saying no to others block your success. Respect your schedule so others will learn to too.
Turn off your phone and notifications.
Imagine you're working for someone else (you probably do already). If someone's calling or texting you, are you pausing to respond? (You probably shouldn't be if you are.) Hide your phone and put it on silent. These types of distractions seem to only momentarily pull you from a task, but it can take so much more energy to get back to where you were.