There’s a bit less than two weeks left before the final day of NaNoWriMo, the day you enter your final word count, and take a well-deserved break…but right now, you’re probably still doing what I’m doing if you too have taken on the challenge: alternating between maniacally typing out pages of work, then desperately preventing myself from deleting more than 2/3’s of them, only to once again believe that maybe I do have talent for this writing thing, and return again to banging my head against the keyboard begging the words to come out, or essentially, this feeling:
Now that we’re nearing the home stretch, one of two possibilities usually arises: a mad dash to finish off those last 10,000 in a night because you downed all the peppermint flavoring mixed with all coffee you could find and now feel colors through your ears as you pound out one word after another…..or you meet that boogeyman of every writer’s nightmares, writer’s block.
Every writer knows it, fears it, and has or will experience it in their lives, though that is of little comfort when within its clutches. Knowing that you will eventually be able to put words to page again doesn’t help when it’s hours or days since the last time you typed out a paltry “the” or have yet to do even that, and that’s not including dealing with a deadline. Sometimes it’s hard not to pout in your pajamas before your computer screen wishing your imaginary friends would come back.
You could Google all day till your finger’s fall off and you would still see new articles and ideas for how to beat writer’s block…and this post shall be added among them. Perhaps you currently do or have used some of these before, but hopefully at least one will be something new to try for when the words just aren’t meeting paper the way you hoped or intended. Some are best used to keep the spectre at bay, while others when navigating the murky depths, but here are 10 things you can do to move past your writer’s block:
- Take a walk – A change of scenery (and hopefully you get a chance to enjoy some nice weather), a chance to find a new place to read or picnic, the chance to breathe some fresh air. get your body moving, and your idea generator generating. Truly the wonders a simple walk can do cannot be expounded upon enough. I must admit I, personally, have trouble with this one, not having the energy I used to and needing to avoid the Sun, but on an overcast day, or if the weather is right and the area is shaded, I too can stretch my legs and enjoy a walk outside. There are really no downsides here, and if you’re an artist too, use the chance to soak up some more inspiration, or bring your art supplies and enjoy!
- Exercise– Yes, technically you could put these two together, but I see them as separate things. When I’m going for a walk, it’s to enjoy a walk, not generally to exercise. For exercise, I do things like yoga, hula-hooping, or 4-minute workouts. I choose these, a) because my body is less likely to throw a royal hissy fit, b) they’re simple to do just about anywhere (…okay maybe not hula-hooping, but it’s still worth it!) and c) they all get your blood pumping and your body moving, not only in some way, but each in different ways. Ideas can only be generated to a brain that’s effectively functioning, and there is tons of research reporting the benefits of exercise on the brain, including creativity stimulation! You don’t need to commit 30 minutes to a treadmill or gym, just take 10 minutes and do a few stretches, jumping jacks, or pushups, dance around to a fun song, let your cat control the red dot for once…whatever your choose, let it be what works best for YOU!
- Coloring books– You read that right. Coloring books. Load yourself up with them, grab some color pencils, markers, or crayons and let yourself loose! All of those that proclaim lack of artistic talent can still enjoy adding tint to some of the fantastical coloring books out there, and some even specifically for adults. You would be amazed at what 20 minutes of coloring can do for your creativity, not to mention your stress…plus…it’s fun! Also, it gives you a solid reason to build a blanket fort to color in. I don’t care how I old I get, blanket forts are cool, but I digress. Anyway! Coloring books! Who says no to an excuse to color? A few minutes of color a day can boost your creativity, and if I am able to find the article I read supporting this, I will be sure to include it.
- Change of scenery– Take your laptop, notebook, sketchbook, whatever have you, and go somewhere different to write. Try some new outdoor scenery (I like to sit on my balcony), or go to the cliché coffee shop (just because it’s cliché doesn’t mean it doesn’t work), or a bookstore, anywhere that you don’t see every day, or haven’t been sitting in the last 10 hours straight. Even if it’s a room in your house you never use, give it a try, sometimes the shift in scenery in your peripheral can start generating some new ideas.
- Watch where you stop for the night– You’re trying furiously to make word count, and you tell yourself you can be done for the night if you just finish this chapter…which you do, because you’re awesome, and you pack up for the night and head to bed. This is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing, or at least some people shouldn’t. Nothing is harder than diving back into a novel when you’ve rounded off whatever you were in the middle of. Essentially, it can feel like starting on the first word of the first page again when returning to a project only to need to start off the next chapter. If you stop, however, when you’re excited about a scene and have ideas of what to do next (by all means jot them down, I keep a running notes document for mine, personally…until I utilize Scrivener properly, but that’s another story), so that when you wake up, your mind has been marinating in your ideas all night; sometimes you wake up with the exact line of dialogue or a great segue to the next plot point delivery; the point is, you aren’t cutting your legs off the night before every time you stop, you’re giving yourself a spring board to dive back in.
- Different project- It seems counterintuitive to put time and effort into a different project than the one you’ve been working on that has a deadline, but if you’re in the midst of writer’s block, sometimes redirecting your focus on something else (oh, say a blog entry *cough cough*, or an article, an email asking for an interview, etc.) can do wonders. If you happen to have a mind like mine, just because you’re working actively on another project doesn’t mean ideas for your main project aren’t just soaking until your return to them…because that’s definitely what happens with me, I just sometimes forget this works. So switch gears and try getting some other work done, still being productive, and it may help more than you think.
- Try a different scene- Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner and just don’t know how to get out of this particular situation. You have ideas for the next scene, next chapter, the ending, whatever have you, just not the scene you’ve been staring at the last 45 minutes. Now, doing things out of order may naturally work for some people, but it can seriously mess with the wiring in my brain pan, however, I cannot deny the fact that sometimes, if you’re feeling a different scene, you should just go ahead and write it down, it’s still progress, and if you’re inspired to write, then do it! Who knows, maybe while you’re finishing off that resolution, the dialogue you’ve been practically weeping in frustration over may suddenly come to you. Just have to try.
- Take a break- It’s a duh, but it needs to be said to stubborn you refusing to take a break when you HAVE to get at least another *insert word count* done. Maybe you’ll feel like this is a horrible idea since you might as well have been on a break all day since you got nothing done. That is not a break, that is hours of you berating yourself for not magically finding the words today. A break involves being away from your writing, perhaps your computer, maybe even your home, but you need to get away from your project. When you fight, sometimes you need space to breathe, it’s no less true of a writer and their craft.
- Movie homework- If you really feel weird about taking a break, tell yourself its movie homework instead. How many times have you had an amazing idea while watching a movie? Not to mention, if you’re just finding yourself in a bit of a bog with your setting, characters, or story, find some movies that make you think of a character or a feel you’re trying to present in your book. What things do or don’t work for the movie, what elements may be used in application to your novel? Possibilities abound!
- Read-I saved the best for last because it’s my favorite pastime and go-to suggestion to most of life’s issues…regardless of the fact that it rarely helps solve them, reading makes me incredibly happy and puts my anxiety at ease. Reading is inspiring, thrilling, and it can teach you a lot about your own writing voice; questioning something you may have done differently, or if you would had a character behave differently than the author. Do I really need to go further? You can never go wrong with reading.
Hopefully you’ve taken yourself a breather and are ready to jump back into the fray! One of the hardest things to remember when you’re frustrated with writer’s block is that you will eventually be able to move past it, even if you don’t believe it right now. Now get to work (or take a break), you can do it!!!! (And here is a compilation of some other NaNoWriMo resources and help from Kat McCormick! Thank you Kat!)