Overcoming The Block By Deniz Bevan

We’ve all got our own methods for barrelling through the day. Some of us make lists, some of us have reminder apps, some of us keep all our errands and tasks in our heads. When you’re writing, some days the words flow and sing, and when you’re editing, some days you’re so excited that you can feel the s***ty first draft words turning to smooth, well placed sentences under your fingers.

At other times, between real life and lack of confidence, every word sounds stupid and clichéd and nothing your characters say seems plausible or remotely exciting. The best cure for that, of course, is to go out and live life for a while. Step away from the page and interact with others. Do something fun and unexpected!

For those times when you can’t do that – faced with a deadline or the need to by-gum-get-things-done – I’ve got a few tips and tricks that have helped me

Read poetry, especially something that’s written in a style completely unlike what you’re used to reading or writing. Penning a dark urban mystery? Read some Gerard Manley Hopkins. Creating a lyrical literary masterpiece? Browse some Bukowski. The contrast, and the 360 way of looking at the same old world, tends to jump start your creativity.

Research. Not in a long-term, leading to procrastination way, but in fits and starts. What’s the view from the castle at Naples? A two second Google image search. Can you use coltsfoot in stew? Another split second search. Don‎’t get distracted by photos of the Italian countryside or delicious recipes. Search, find the answer, return to the manuscript. Done! Hopefully, that’ll satisfy any urge you might have had to click over to Facebook…

Plan for writing time. “Today I will write from 1 to 3 pm.” Watch your writing time get eaten up by family demands, freelancing, household tasks, what have you. Get mad. Write anyway, even if you lose an hour’s sleep.

Go out of your comfort zone. I love writing at home, listening to my own music, accompanied by cats. Yet I get a lot more work done when I wake early and head to the coffee shop, where they play music that I can’t stand and where there’s always the possibility of overhearing ridiculous conversations (“So, like, I told him not to do that, but then he did, and I was all, how could you, and you know what my therapist says…”).

Last but not least…

Read. Write. Don’tStop. Don’tcompareyourselftoothers. There’snohurry. ChangePOVs. Writeinstreamofconsciousnesstoexploreacharacter . DrinkcoffeeStopreadingalltheso-calledrulesaboutwriting. Idleawaybythinkingofchaptertitlesorcharacternamesorbynamingashipcardoggoldfish. Siptea. Thinkaboutyourstorywhilewalkingshoweringbicycling. Re-readafavouritebookorlistentoafavouritealbum. Playagame. Daleks! Tellittosomeoneelse. Ignoreitandgowatchamovie. Eat. Blog. Exercise. Putyourantagoniststogether. Stopfocusingonbooksales-yourownorothers’. Have fun!

 ~*~

Deniz Bevan

6 comments

  1. Great advice, Deniz. I especially like the idea of reading a contrasting style of poetry or writing to your piece’s tone/voice to get the creativity ‘flowing’ and add fresh perspective!

    I’m glad to read your sound advice about not comparing yourself to others. In all areas of life, not just writing, this one activity steals more confidence, stifles the inner, creative voice, and seduces the focus away from the successes that we ARE experiencing. It’s a bad habit to allow.

    ~ Nadja

  2. Thanks Lauralynn and Nadja! I found the poetry helped me quite a bit – originally, I started reading a lot of medieval poetry (in the past couple of months) for research, but then it turned out to be exciting in its own way. I ended up writing a poem from my hero to my heroine…

  3. Thank you so much for this post!

    I just started this ROW80 challenge, erm, yesterday, and set a goal of 500 words of narrative a day. And got 287 down – the rest was planning out which scenes I wanted to write, and what background material I still have to work out (alternate universe, new rules, etc.). So planning to make up for the narrative today – I can spend FOREVER in climatic scenes in my story, but want to know every detail of how the characters got to those scenes before I write them.

    It really isn’t easy for me to sit down and write a super interesting scene unless I’ve dreamed about it and know exactly what the dramatic part is – sometimes the words flow, like twice a year, but every other time I’m awkwardly getting a character through a school day or other memories that are *cough! surprise!* a lot like mine, with little subtlety or creativity involved – it’s just getting characters and events from A to B to where I want them to go. I feel like the fear of cliches has tempered my creativity on paper (maybe not in my head…) somewhat. No character can be too extreme, nothing can be too coincidental… too much school turns a fantasy story into Harry Potter… everything has to be interesting…

    Well, this challenge and your encouragement will keep me sitting down, continuing to fill the gaps that I visualize now only vaguely, but that I know make my characters develop to be A, B, or Z in the scenes that I already have more of a grasp on – while focusing on the scenes in the gaps rather than just moving from A to B…

    Apologies for the vagueness of this comment!

  4. Welcome to ROW80!
    I sort of do the same as you – I can’t start a story until I’ve ‘seen’ a few of the inciting scenes and events that happen to the characters. But every interesting scene sparks the question “and then what happened?” and other scenes flow on from there.
    Good luck with your goals!

  5. Lots of good ideas here. Thanks. And you just might have prevented me from popping over to fb. Now, let’s see what I can do to avoid Linked In and G+.

    Have the Write Kind of Day…S

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