Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Overcome Writer’s Block: 5 No-Bullshit Steps toward Writing Today

So yeah, first I need to share and celebrate: I’m published.

(Again)!

Day Is Done” has been selected for the Fall 2017 issue of the literary journal, The Gravity of the Thing. I am absolutely psyched. But of course I am! Please take a few moments to read it, and feel free to allot your thoughts here on my blog. That would be awesome. (Disclaimer: This story is dark. I mean midnight black. You’ve been warned.)



If you follow my blog, you know my greatest challenge is getting published. I celebrate my rejection letters despite the utterly horrible way they make me feel because it means I am writing. I’m following my creative dreams and putting myself out there for the world to devour. It’s frightening. It’s sometimes depressing. And it’s really fucking difficult.

To get published, a writer needs to create material, and that requires battling Writer’s Block. That’s what we’re talking about today, because I’ve suffered this frustrating ailment right along with you, and the pain is real. I don’t care what those extremely successful, rolling-in-dough, best-selling authors tell you about the “myth” of Writer’s Block. Nuh-uh. You and I both know that shit is legit.



What causes Writer’s Block? Well, it’s different for everyone, I think. For me, it’s fear. I don’t know what scares me so much, but the fear cripples my abilities, and I will do anything, literally anything, before sitting down to write. While eating and exercise are my go-to replacement activities, I’ll frequently read. I guess I’m OK with that, but only because it feels like a valid excuse. Which it’s not.

Most recently, I’ve been listening to podcasts. Have you downloaded S-Town? Now that jawn is worth your time.



Anyway, with NanoWriMo quickly approaching, I thought this might be a good time to share my thoughts on overcoming Writer’s Block. Hence, a listicle. I hope some of this helps.

1. Remind yourself that you’re a writer, and not someone who simply talks about being a writer. Imagine the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, and answer them, “I’m a writer.” They will ask you what you have written, and where they can find your work. You’ll need answers. This is urgent. So urgent. Emergency.

2. Force yourself to write 500 words, five days a week. I can’t tell you how few words this really is. Who cares if the verbiage is crap? This task is like lubricant for your mind. Once you sit down to complete this, the words start coming, and suddenly you’ve finished half of a short story, or a chapter of your novel, or an entire blog post. Just do it.

3. Change your environment. Yes, habits are good, but sometimes, they are bad. If you tell yourself you will write at your kitchen table five mornings a week, and you place your computer there, and set your coffee next to your computer, and eat a bowl of oatmeal, and stalk your favorite author on Instagram, or watch another You Tube video about outlining, you have created a bad habit. You are not writing. This lack of progress begets more lack of progress, and soon, it’s what you’re doing every single morning instead of writing, and then you become afraid to write, and oh come on! You feel me, people. I know you feel me. So today, go somewhere else to write. My favorite place is the library because it’s the least distracting. But coffee shops are good too, and on a beautiful afternoon, a shady spot beneath a tree is glorious.

4. Upgrade your squad. Plant yourself in the same environment with other writers. Join a critique group or a writing group. Attend readings and workshops. Make a small effort to talk with other writers, and hold yourself accountable to one another. Find groups on Meetup.com, and at your local bookstore or library. Writing is a solitary endeavor. The loneliness is sometimes the very quality that coaxes your most creative thoughts to the surface. Having said that, writers are human, and like all productive humans, we need a support system. To avoid Writer’s Block, embrace the community.

5. Create deadlines. Or set word goals. Join NanoWriMo. Etcetera. Just create a sense of time and urgency, and you will have no other choice than to get the work done. Think about this. If you commit yourself to writing 2,500 words per week, that’s 10,000 words a month, or a full-length novel in six months.

Now, I’m actually headed to a little writer’s workshop, and it’s 8:45 AM, and I’ve already written 850 words. See how easy that was? If you have other tips for avoiding or overcoming Writer’s Block, please share them in the comments here. I need help in this area as much as any writer, and I love hearing your advice. I’m not participating in NanoWriMo this year, but if you are, I’m rooting for you! I sincerely can’t wait to see all of the 2017 success stories.