Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Breaking Through Writer’s Block... Is Easier Than You Think

A few blogs ago, I wrote about where writers get their ideas and discussed how to take everyday occurrences and transform them into a story. Ideas are everywhere and story ideas often come from observing something or by playing the “what if” game.

But ideas are like butterflies…the more you chase after them, the faster they seem to flutter away from you. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to find a good story idea or the plot twist you’ve been searching for. This is what most people call “writers block” or getting “stuck” on a story. It’s a common ailment that happens to (almost) every writer, no matter what his or her experience or career level. So, how do you fight this blockage and move on with your story? That’s easy! You don’t.

Although this may sound contrary to getting your writing completed, every once in a while you have to let ideas come to you. Trying to “force” a story idea or plot element is counterproductive to the creative process. In most cases it will leave you frustrated and banging your head against your desk. So instead of trying to hunt down the creative muse and wrestle with it until it gives you what you’re looking for, let go and let the muse come to you.

How? Stop writing and do something else. Go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, take a nap, or listen to soothing music. (If you’re very motivated, you can do housework.) Basically, you want to stop thinking about your writing. By giving your brain a rest and doing something else, you’re allowing your subconscious to mull over the problem. Usually within a few hours (or sometimes overnight) the creative side of your mind will come up with the solution to your writing issue. Sometimes your answer will come to you in a dream. (If it does, be sure to write it down right away!)

Giving yourself a break allows your “writing mind” to relax. Once the pressure’s off and you’ve had some down time, you’ll feel more energized, motivated, and inspired. Yes, I speak from experience! The Pauper Prince was a book that I got stuck on. It had no subplot and needed one. When I let go of trying to force ideas to come to me, I got inspired by a comment someone made that had nothing to do with writing and the whole thing clicked into place.

A great way to bring ideas to you is to practice free writing. Get a piece of paper (or open a blank computer document) and just start writing whatever pops into your head. It can be groups of words, your stream of consciousness, or random thoughts. (You can even write a letter to your muse explaining the writing problem and ask for results.)

Practice free writing for five minutes at a time (or longer, if you enjoy it). Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything to write—you’re not trying to be creative or coherent, you’re just trying to let your mind relax. (Yes, you can spend the five minutes writing “nothing, nothing, nothing” on the paper until something else comes along. I’ve done it, and it works!) If you get stuck, try these prompts:

“Today is… (day of the week) and I am… (wherever you are) free writing.”

“Yesterday I… (fill in with what you did, where you went, or what you ate).”

“I really like…(let your mind wander and write whatever you feel like).”

Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to let ideas come to you. No matter what you’re writing, or how you go about finding ideas for your stories, you can’t force inspiration to appear—you have to allow it to gently flow to you.

Until next time!