Saturday, March 3, 2012

Breaking out of the prison of writer's block, pt 1

Last week I discussed ways that a lot of writers run into trouble getting words on the screen or page. There are so many common reasons why we get stuck, and there are some common ways that can help us be productive again.

I'm going to spend a couple or three posts on this. Getting unstuck is rough. Different things work for different writers, and even the same writer needs different solutions at various times, like having to find a new medicine that works every time you get a cold.

The list I have from the Stanford University Faculty and Staff Help Center, "Issues Associated with Writing Blocks and Decresed Productivity", was compiled by David Rasch Ph.D. It includes a whole page (front-n-back) of ideas to get writing again. Of course you can tweak these ideas to fit your own situation. I paraphrase to fit the blog better.

* Time
- Schedule time for writing; daily is best.
- Short, regular sessions are recommended after a writing drought.
- Protect your writing time against interruptions.
- Be realistic with expectations. Start with goals you know you can reach.
- Balance writing and other responsibilities/ activities (easier said than done, I know, but how serious are you about writing?)
- When you have deadlines, schedules and routines become necessary, so it helps to get comfortable with them right away.

I have to credit Art Edwards with telling me something that echoes in my head strongly more than a year later. "Write every day. That's what I do, and what my writer friends do." For first drafts, I date each section as I start it. A week later, I can see that 2 paragraphs a day has added up to maybe a whole page. I smile. I feel like I'm making progress.

Also - I give myself permission to miss a day here and there. If I feel guilty, I'll start to resent writing, and it's very easy from there to toss it all out the window. I fall off the writing wagon once in a while then get right back on.

* Space
- Have a place to write that's comfortable, easy to get to and functional.
- Arrange your place to minimize distractions. Really, you don't need a TV in your writing room.
- Don't start a session by cleaning and organizing your space. Do it after writing, or on scheduled "off time".

This isn't on the list, but I'll add Leave your cell phone in another room. Let your friends know that there are times when you do not answer the phone and tell them to leave a message. That's what the message option is for. Make sure you cannot hear the phone from your writing place. Put the phone somewhere else, then put it out of your mind.

Also, if you live with anybody, explain to them that stuff in your writing place cannot be borrowed without asking permission first. You're allowed to have one spot that's truly yours.

* Getting started
- Stock your writing place with necessaries and keep it ready to go (the aim of necessaries is to keep the flow moving, like in hockey!)
- Recall times when you got a lot of writing done. What can you apply from then to today?
- If you're just staring at blankness, try stream-of-consciousness.

I used to be unable to write stream-of-consciousness as a way of warming up. It seemed to be totally unrelated to what I wanted to write and nothing would come out. Then I realized that since I had clear ideas on the exercise, I'd might as well write those. Writing that way has been easier ever since. It really doesn't matter what comes out, as long as it's something.

To be continued next week. If you have any suggestions, do feel free to share!

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