Banishing Writer’s Block

The following post was published on my now-defunct first blog, Loose Leaf Writing, on June 3, 2010:

Feeling very full of myself for having spent 10 uninterrupted minutes on task.

This morning, I’ve already gone to the bathroom, bought a coffee, eaten a bagel, gone to the bathroom again, gone to the vending machine, decided against the vending machine, and returned to the vending machine to buy the Swedish Fish after all. I’m about to make my third trip to the bathroom to clean the Fish residue out of my teeth.

I’ve set myself the arbitrary goal of finishing my current chapter today. So far I’ve written a page and a half, but that doesn’t even count because I started the morning by deleting a page and a half. So after two hours of “writing,” all I’ve managed to do is spend money, consume calories, and end up back where I started this morning.

No writer I’ve ever known can claim to have a 100% foolproof method of warding off writer’s block, but, this morning aside, I have developed a few strategies over the years that do actually work. At least some of the time:

 1. Change your medium.
If you’ve been typing at your desk, write in a notebook. If you’ve been writing in a notebook, try typing at your desk. Better yet, instead of using either of these practical methods, grab a bunch of scrap paper out of your recycling bin (envelopes work great) and write on it. The smaller and more easily lost the piece of scrap paper, the more likely you’ll write eloquent sentences that you’ll never be able to reproduce after said paper is, in fact, lost.

 2. Change your location.
Move from your desk to the sofa. Or better yet, to your bed. If you are lucky, you’ll fall asleep while writing. This can result in one of two happy outcomes: You might keep writing as you fall asleep. There’s no telling what genius is hiding in your subconscious that might spill out on paper as you drift off. Or, you might have a lovely dream about your current writing project. Or, even better, a whole new project might come to you. This leads directly into:

 3. Change your project.
You know how you always have the most momentum and inspiration when you first begin a new story? This is the reason I have the first ten pages of at least 20 novels saved on my hard drive. It’s also a great solution to writer’s block. Sure, you’re not going to end up with a publishable piece if you keep it up, but on the other hand, it can help you avoid all those exhausting trips to the bathroom.

And finally:

4. Go for a walk.
Don’t take a pen or paper with you. Don’t take a phone. Don’t take a camera. Walk away from any and all possible writing implements or recording devices. I guarantee that the second you do, inspiration will strike. At this point, you may pick up a stick and write in the mud, or charge into the nearest store and demand a pen. Or build a fire and send smoke signals home. If you’re lucky, the person transcribing your message will write it in crayon on an old credit card bill which they will then throw away. That’s how you’ll know for sure that what you’ve written is brilliant.

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