Overcoming Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I believe that writers can get stuck, frustrated with, disillusioned by, and tired of their writing projects. I believe this because I’ve experienced all of these things.

However, “writer’s block” to me sounds permanent and insurmountable. And it is most certainly neither of these. So whether you’re experiencing writer’s block, writer’s pause, frustration with your characters, or uninspired by your plot, there is a way out. Here are three tips that I use when I get stuck.

Go for a walk.

Or a run, or a swim, or vacuum your house. In other words, do something besides sitting there staring at the blank page. Physical movement helps—it gets blood flowing, and distracts you. And if you haven’t cleaned in a while, well, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Double your productivity! But seriously, I do some of my best thinking while I’m doing physical tasks that require very little conscious thought, such as vacuuming or talking a long walk.

Recently I’ve been stuck on my current WIP (work in progress). Not blocked, just not sure how to proceed. I know the ending of the story, and a few key events that I want to have happen—I just didn’t know what the next few scenes needed to be. Going for several longs walks helped me to sort out ideas; sometimes I purposefully brainstormed, other times I just let my mind wander.  But it helped, and I now have a clearer picture of where I need to go.

Write a future scene, or one that won’t be in the book.

If you’re stuck like I was, knowing some of the future of the book but just not where to go next, then write a scene out of order. I do this periodically, whether I’m stuck or not, usually if I’m hit with an idea for scene or event.

But it’s also a good exercise to try to keep your mind on your characters and your WIP, while letting your mind get away from that part that’s got you stuck. Whether the scene is a complete scene or not, or ends up in the final draft of the book or not, doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it’s the very act of writing that will loosen things up and get your creative juices going again.

Read a book or watch a movie.

Sometimes I read a favorite scene from a book or watch a favorite movie to get myself inspired, and sometimes just for a plain distraction. This is not to say that you should just spend all of your allotted writing time reading or vegging in front of the TV, but viewing someone else’s creativity can help you with your own.

For me, my go-to things to watch when I get stuck or am feeling particularly uninspired are the Lord of the Rings movies or The Chronicles of Narnia. These are my favorites in both the book and the movie realms, and—especially with Narnia—some of my greatest sources of inspiration ever since childhood.

I don’t take ideas right out of these works, but to me, Tolkien and Lewis were some of the greatest fantasy storytellers ever, and simply witnessing their genius gets me excited. I do have to exercise some discipline, though. I don’t want to spend three nights watching movies I’ve seen before, and feeling very inspired, only to realize that I’m way behind on my writing goals because I’ve been watching movies instead of writing.

Discipline and temperance are key, but don’t be afraid to use someone else’s ideas to break loose that block in your own mind.

Does anyone else have any tried and true techniques for getting past those blocks, getting unstuck, or getting re-inspired? Please share!


My Bookshelf

They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the books that they read. If this is true (which I fully believe it is), then I’m about to reveal a large part of myself that my readers and friends may or may not already know.

Here are two pictures of my bookshelf (well, one of my bookshelves). I have several shelves full of books, and several more boxes in the attic of books that I don’t have room for right now. One day I want to display them all in my own library. Anyone remember Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and that enormous library that stretched to the heavens? Yeah, that’s my dream library.

But I digress. Until I’m able to have the Beast’s awesome library and show it off to my friends and readers, then we’ll all have to be content with the skinny shelf that’s next to my closet door.

The top two shelves:

Bibles go on the top shelf. It’s something that’s important to me, so I want them displayed for prominent visibility and easy access, because I use them a lot. And no, I do not equate The Chronicles of Narnia with the Holy Bible (despite its Christian message). There just wasn’t room on any of the other shelves for it. Lame reason, yes, but that’s what I did.

The next shelf down features some books that I deeply enjoyed reading and have gotten a lot of meaning from, and some of them I’ve read many times. It’s a random assortment of books, the arrangement based on a combination of importance in my life and space on the shelf.

The next three shelves:

The first shelf has a lot of my favorite fantasy books on it (Lord of the Rings and Narnia encyclopedias, the Bone series). Other assorted cool books fill up the rest of the space, like the Norwegian collection of  Beatrix Potter’s stories and the picture encyclopedia of musical instruments. This is also the tallest shelf, so again, it’s mostly about space issues.

The next shelf has all the littlest books on it, which conveniently are mostly foreign language dictionaries and other non-English books (some of which I can sort of read, others I’m clueless). Sadly, the tall Norwegian Peter Rabbit book wouldn’t fit on this shelf.

Then there’s the shelf of total randomness. Again, some of my favorite books, and ones that I enjoy looking at or re-reading. It’s everything from a collection of stories about Inuit women to 17th century religious poetry to historical fiction about ancient Egypt. And, of course, another Narnia book.

Not pictured is the very bottom shelf, which houses my atlas, some photo albums, other assorted oddities, and is shielded by a cardboard box to keep my rabbits from chewing on the books.

So there you have it—one of my bookshelves. Interpret this how you like, but it’s me, for better or worse. Hopefully I didn’t hit a TMI level with this.

And what about you—what does your bookshelf say about you?