Dealing with Writer's Block
How I Deal with Writer’s Block
Writer’s block has many forms. Staring at a blank page with no clue what to say. Writing half a sentence, deciding you hate the word in the middle, stopping to do twelve minutes of googling for a synonym.
For me? The most common type of writer’s block is the inability to FOCUS. I’ve had days where I’ve written nearly ten thousand words. I’ve had days where I scrolled Pinterest to find the exact shade of blue eyes for the love interest in a book six down in the series. Most days, I’m right in the middle.
Like most self-published authors, I had the dreaded day job when I first started out. That meant I wrote in the evenings, sometimes late into the night, and most often on my breaks. Back then, I set myself a modest goal of writing a thousand words a day.
Some may think that sounds scary, others might laugh. For me, it was a target I knew I could hit, every day. I timed myself a few times and found out I can type a thousand words in about forty-five minutes. This is an average ranging from typing like a demon to the stop-and-google. It was an average that I felt comfortable with achieving every day.
That’s one of the first keys of getting over writer’s block. Set yourself an attainable goal to hit every day. Maybe you start with fifty words. Maybe you knock out three thousand. Whatever you can do, make it your goal.
Side note, some days I wrote less than a thousand words, and there were days I didn’t write at all. Both are okay. Forgive yourself. Just don’t let it become a habit.
Now that I write full time, things have changed. There’s not so much pressure to write RIGHT NOW because there won’t be any time later. I spend more time marketing and networking. I get distracted.
Though it seems like an adverse effect, now that I have more time to write, I seem to write less.
What do I blame? Writer’s block, of the NO FOCUS kind.
So, what do I do?
First option: write anything.
And I mean ANYTHING. As fast as you can. Don’t reread, don’t correct, don’t google. Just let it flow. I do this in a journal-style word document that I just keep adding to whenever I feel the need. This is most effective when I’ve got something on my mind, and I need to clear my head.
Journaling is fantastic, and I highly recommend giving it a try. Having said that, as an adult, I only do it once in a while. I WRITE FOR A LIVING. That’s like a mechanic coming home and spending the evening working on their own car. Even if they love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with their lives, it doesn’t usually happen.
But man, sometimes you just need to let it all out. Most recently, I did this when the protests and riots had taken over every news and media outlet. I felt enraged and helpless and ill-equipped to do anything positive. Whenever someone asked me my opinion, I either wouldn’t give it, or I would get so riled up I’d start to yell.
I found during those first few days that my attention severely lacked. I was disenchanted with the world. It can be very difficult to write romance while you’re feeling like the world is full of hate.
So I let it all out. Several pages worth. I turned the TV off, and I could focus again.
Second option: get up and do something physical.
I have a punching bag in my work area. When I find myself lacking focus, I get up and do a round (or ten). It clears the cobwebs and wakes me up. If I’m not feeling that, I’ll take a stroll around my yard. I’m spoiled and have ten acres of woods to explore, so I do this daily anyway. But before that, I would take a walk around the block, or even a few laps around the house.
Stretching, or yoga, is also excellent for this. I highly recommend doing one or the other each day, especially if you’re sitting at a desk for most of it! Your back will thank you.
Third option: music.
I listen to music while I write. But it has to be specific music. Some tunes distract me. Some make me want to get up and move around. I don’t listen to those. I have a small and very select playlist that is for writing only. Some of it is instrumental, most of it is not. All of it will go into the background and occupy that part of my brain that is a bad influence so that the rest of my brain can focus on the page. Find your music.
Try putting on headphones. When my normal music isn’t working, I’ll put on a good pair of headphones. This blocks out all other ambient noise and also makes me feel like a hacker in a movie who’s typing furiously to unlock pentagon firewalls. Super focused, man.
Fourth option: cleaning.
Nine months ago, I moved into my beautiful first home with my now-fiancé. The entire thing happened in a whirlwind. In three days, we went from applying for a loan to putting in an offer. Forty-five days later, we closed and moved on the same day.
For the next three months, I didn't spend one full day at home. Between working, selling at craft fairs, and a couple of family events thrown in (not to mention quitting my day job and immediately going on a two week roadtrip for a bookfair--thanks sis for coming with!), my house was in shambles. Boxes still hadn't been touched, piles of crap blocked me from any of my work stations. I was home for the first time in months, gung-ho to write my heart out, and I couldn't. I struggled for days, constantly distracted by all the little (and big) projects that I'd been ignoring.
So, even with a (albeit self-imposed) deadline looming, I spent a full day in my loft, which had been designated as a library/music room, unpacking books and alphabetizing and bringing in more shelving. The next day I cleared off my desk and moved the piles of junk to the other side of the room before putting it all away (even though most of it wasn't organized). On the third day, I cleared all the counters in the kitchen.
And finally, I could focus.
Working at home can be tough. I never truly had trouble with it until this move, because I'd always been organized until then. Some of you might think you work better in disarray, but I challenge you--clear off your desk. I mean everything except computer and maybe your cup of coffee. See what happens.
When my first three tricks don't work, it's usually because I have an undone chore looming in the back of my mind. Floors that need vacuuming. Dishes that need washing. Crafts that need to be put away. Trust me. Your brain will thank you, and so will your psyche when, at the end of the day, you can truly relax with that glass of wine and guilty-pleasure TV show.
Option five: change of scenery.
Last but not least. When nothing else has worked, I take my laptop and find somewhere new to sit. Outside, weather permitting, is my favorite. In my loft library is my second favorite. Where I don't sit? In the living room or in bed.
The living room is for gathering with family and friends, or to watch TV. Bringing work into that space is a big no-no for me.
The bedroom is for sleeping. I won't allow a TV in there (sorry fiancé) and rarely use any electronics--yes, that includes TV and phone--two hours before bed. There have been many studies on this, but I'll spare you the boring reading. No distractions=good night's sleep. No distractions=good writing. See what I did there?
What tricks have you tried? What’s worked? Let me know in the comments 😉
What are you in the mood for?