Writing is so easy. And fun. It’s not? Ok it’s hard and challenging. Either way is ok as long as you are writing. Right? It’s all fine. Good days, bad days. Until you have writer’s bloc. Being stuck isn’t a bad day of writing. It’s the difference between moving slowing in traffic and being in a stand still.
Writer’s bloc is so infuriating. Not only are you stuck but you usually you are beating yourself up for being stuck. The writing isn’t happening and then suddenly your whole life is a sham.
The only way out is to write. Or not write. And give it up. No? You don’t want to give up? Then here are some things you can do when writing your way our of writer’s bloc is the only answer.
- Writing BadlySometimes the reason we get stuck is that we’re trying to write the perfect thing. Free yourself to write badly. Remember you are writing a first draft. As my friend Alan Zweibel calls it, a vomit draft. Just get it out. Then look for the peas and carrots. Make something you can put a coffee ring on. Get out of editor head. You can fix it later. Get into flow. Let it come. Don’t be so controlling. Be a conduit. Sometimes if you open yourself up and are willing to write badly, without judgement the most brilliant things come out.
If you are having trouble with writing the second draft…
- Clean Before Writing
Cleaning is good when you are stuck in the editing part. Throwing things away unneeded things. Making literal space. Doing with weeds in the garden or clothes in your drawer what you need to do with your words on the paper.Also then you have a clean house you are writing from a place of contentment.
- Go to StarbucksOr anywhere. But find your place. Some cafes/libraries/friends’ houses work and some don’t. The way they play music. The light. The parking. Find a place that works for you.
Because sometimes it’s amazing to work at your own desk. The comfort of writing when you have all your favorite things around you. No distraction. But sometimes writing at your place is impossible. It’s like everything is screaming at you. The bills that need paying. The closets that needs cleaning. The food that needs eating. The other projects that are so much more promising.
Sometimes being in public helps me remember the part of writing that is readers. It excites me that this writing is going to connect with people and writing in public puts me in mind of that. Also I find that if I buy a coffee I can make myself write fast, for as long, or just a little bit longer than that coffee will last. And speed writing doesn’t leave room for doubt.
- Talk about the Writing
There’s a great sequence of scenes in Infamous, the Truman Capote movie, where he’s figuring out In Cold Blood in a series of conversations with the New York ladies. At dinners and lunches and while dancing. It’s one of the great movies about writing. Go watch it if you are really stuck. Or watch something else inspiring. That’s a bonus tip:)Talking about what you are writing about takes physical energy. Saying the words lets your body tell you what your mind might not. Your body will edit and suggest because it has intelligence. It knows what is worth saying. That’s why my Infinite Writing workshop is great even for those writers who don’t want to perform ultimately. Breathing into your writing, hearing your own rhythm can unstuck you in a big way.
Do be careful about who you talk to though. Don’t talk to that one toxic person who always makes you feel badly about what you are writing. Talk to the safe people. Who hear the seed and encourage you to plant it. If you don’t have that person, I am a good writing coach, e me firstname.lastname@example.org. There are others too. Find your people.
- Write about the Writing
Writing about the thing you’re stuck on can help. Ask yourself questions. Sometimes just articulating the question can give you the answer. When we are stuck we just ‘feel stuck’. But if you sit down and start to ask for answers you have to get specific. What would be a great opening scene for these two particular characters? How does the book want to be structured? Etc etc. As you formulate the question you often come up with answers. Or at least possible answers. A beginning. That’s all you need to feel unstuck. You have reactivated your curiosity. That’s the key here.Plus you are using a different part of your brain when you write long handed. Or with your other hand. Try that. Or doodle the question. Or if you have been on paper go to the computer. Change it up. Think differently to unstuck your writing.
- Go to sleep
My friend Merrill Markoe, who was the original headwriter for Letterman, and has written countless books, articles, screenplays and more, suggests going to sleep. She says think about it, then let your brain continue working while you rest. In the morning it has the answer for you. The worst that happens is you get some sleep.
- Consider a different writing project for now
Sometimes we are stuck because we are writing the wrong thing. I wouldn’t suggest this as a first thought. But if you have tried lots of the other things and you are still stuck and it’s a spec project, consider that this might be the wrong project for right now.Maybe it’s the right project but you aren’t ready. It needs to steep. Maybe it’s the germ for the right project. One of the characters is right but the time line is off. Or the focus isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s an idea better suited to stand up than a script. Maybe it was something you needed to write a year ago but you didn’t and it doesn’t need writing now.
Consider putting it away and coming back to it later. Unless of course you are getting paid. And its due. Then..
There’s something magical about movement. Soothing. It lets your subconscious work. I’m convinced this is why all those ideas in the shower. You don’t even have to do the movement yourself. You just stand there and let the water move around you. The movement plus the white noise. It’s the easiest possible way.But also take a walk. Or go do the driving errand you need to do. You are literally getting unstuck. And getting unstuck physically can get you unstuck in the writing.
Have faith. You’ve written before and soon, maybe right now, you will be writing again.
You can do it. Go do it. Don’t get on social media. Write.