Staring at the blank page (...or screen...) we've all been there.
You need to write the thing - but the thing just doesn't seem to want to be written.
You have the Dreaded Writer's Block.
But Writer's Block ain't welcome around here!
I don't put up with Writer's Block (that pushy little so-and-so) - and neither should you!
As you probably know, but... internet..., these tips etc. are just what works for me.
People are individuals, and what works for me might not work for you!
This post is inspired by the awesome Emily @ The Paperback Princess.
She said I could metaphorically piggy-back on her Writer's Block post - thanks Em!
This also kind of fits in to last week's Nerd Church post on creativity taking time and all that jazz.
1. Let it be cr*p.
Get a piece of scrap paper, or a word document if you prefer typing, and try to write your story or blogpost or poem or whatever it is you want to write.
Let it be cr*p if that's the way it's going.
If it's cr*p, it's cr*p.
The great thing is that no-one has to see it!
(You have NO IDEA how often I delete blog drafts and write about a different topic entirely! And thank God for that. Some of those posts are just bad!)
Sometimes you just gotta write and let it suck, just to give it a shot.
You can't win if you ain't in the game, y'know?
And you might find that just writing with no qualms about anything helps you come up with an idea that you actually wanna write about!
And you'll find that removing the pressure of it having to be 'good' (or perfect, let's face it, a lot of us are trying to be perfect,) you'll find it's weirdly more likely to actually be good.
2. 'Fess up
Write the words 'I'm having trouble writing this post,' or, 'I'm not sure how to start this,' or 'I'm not sure I know what I just said.'
Put the truth out there into the universe. Because there's a weird power in letting yourself be vulnerable.
If I didn't do this, I don't think I'd actually get anything written what with the Anxiety and everything.
This is something I found while dealing with my Anxiety in general: admitting something, putting it out in the air, removes the power from Anxiety and gives it back to you.
Admitting things gives you the control.
You're not wasting energy trying to hide what you feel, or thinking about what it means, or what other people might think.
YOU are the one in charge here!
You can delete your admissions later if they don't fit in.
Sometimes I leave mine in - I'm sure you've seen them if you read this blog a lot.
And certainly, for something like a blog, they give your posts a level of authenticity that readers appreciate (imho.)
Obv., if you're doing a college essay or a work report or whatever, that's not necessarily appropriate!
So delete as needed for the tone of whatever you're writing.
Again, this fits in with the whole 'relieve the pressure' deal-y I was talking about earlier!
3. Procrastinate your a** off
Procrastination is actually good for you if you wanna get sh** done. True story.
Turns out our subconscious is really fairly damned
It can do all sorts of sh** without our conscious brain being involved. Just tell it what you want it to do and then go watch YouTube for a li'l bit!
So, yes, it's possible to procrastinate your way to productivity.
PLEASE be careful with this if you're on a deadline though!
4. Write in patchwork
OK, I have a limited attention span.
Some days it is downright non-existent.
It's uber-frustrating because as a kid, I used to be able to concentrate for hours on end, but since all of my mental health problems, my thoughts bounce around like a caffeine-fuelled kangaroo.
(Which, ironically, is worse if I don't drink coffee.)
You know Dug, the dog from Up? And how he's constantly talking and stopping cos he gets distracted by squirrels?
That is the current state of my brain.
Only there's about 50 Dugs in there, who all want me to see their particular squirrel.
So I write in patchwork.
I'm hoping that I can explain this adequately*, cos if it works for you, it'll REALLY work for you.
(And if it doesn't you don't have to use it!)
*Example of tip #2. Right there.
I work with my limited attention span by writing the sections that I can concentrate on, when I can concentrate on them.
So if I know that I need to write about A, B, and C, but I haven't written about A yet, I might write about B first if that's where my mind's at.
Or I might write about C, then A, then B. Or A, then C, then B. Or whatever!
And as I go along I add bits, take away bits, expand on some things, delete some things...
Basically what I write ends up looking completely different by the time I've finished.
I think of it like threading the writing together, or making a patchwork blanket.
But how do I remember to include everything I wanted to?
Well, I use markers, notes, placeholders, whatever you wanna call them.
Just a li'l something like: 'write about X here,' or 'say something about X's effects' and then I move on to the thing that I actually currently know how to write about.
I wouldn't call it planning my writing, so much as I would call it 'capturing one of the buzzing thoughts roaming around my head before it's gone forever.'
Cos I know that I need to write about X.
And I know that I don't have the time/concentration/whatever to write about X right now.
But if I don't make a note of it? I'm totally gonna forget that I needed to write about X!
It's also a good note to your subconscious (#3 again,) that you want it to think about X for you while you skip off merrily* to write about Y.
Productive procrastinating for the win!
*The skipping is optional.
If you use this method, though, I'd advise using a different colour, like red or whatever, to write your placeholders in - at least to start with.
Because you don't want to forget where you left the placeholders, and then forget to delete them.
Unlike 'fessing up (point #2,) there's pretty much no appropriate piece of writing to leave your placeholders in after you've finished.
(Especially if you're like me and write things like, 'say something about the weird chick,' or 'write about the sh** in chapter 7' - because that's gonna get embarrassing.
Check things like that BEFORE you hand your writing in to wherever the eff it's going!)
5. Break it down
This is a 2-for-1 tip, cos I mean it in two ways:
Break down what you wanna do
Break down emotional barriers between you and your reader/s.
Breaking down what you wanna do can help you if you don't have an effing clue where to start.
If you're just like, 'I'm gonna write a novel!' or just 'I'm gonna write a blogpost!' it can seem like a massive task and just kind of turn into white noise.
So you need to break it down into smaller parts.
Figure out what you wanna achieve, to start with.
Are there things you need to cover in this essay?
Is there something you wanna write a blogpost about?
Is there a genre of novel you've always wanted to try?
Then make notes and/or mind-map - depending on what you feel like doing.
Strip it back: list the things you need to cover, then break that down into ways you could cover them.
Keep breaking down the various aspects of what you wanna do until you feel like you can start actually writing it.
Oh, and your notes?
Write down whatever comes into your head.
Even the silly stuff. Even the ridiculous stuff. Even the cr*p stuff.
Let it be cr*p (tip #1!) - cos there's no need for anyone to ever see it.
You can delete your computer files or recycle your paper notes afterwards.
They're just scrap.
You can f**k up scrap as much as you want.
You can doodle genitalia or translate obscenities into different languages for all I care.
In fact, just writing down anything and everything - including the childish and/or obscene stuff - can be a good way of getting your brain in gear, or just procrastinating (tip #3!)
Once you've figured out what you wanna do, pick one or two of those smaller tasks, and focus on those.
Smaller, manageable, tasks usually freak people out less than ONE GINORMOUS TASK. Lol.
Breaking down emotional barriers is trickier.
This is one that's context-dependent, cos pouring your heart out in an essay on mitochondria for your Biology class isn't really appropriate!
But if you're writing a more intimate form of writing - anything from a blogpost to a novel - you need to break down some of those barriers.
I don't mean that you have to tell your readers every single little intimate detail about either yourself or your character - f**k no! - but if you emotionally cut yourself off from the reader, you also cut off both the heart and the authenticity of the writing.
I'm not a fan of Lena Dunham, but this gif was just too appropriate!
Sometimes we use an excess of words, or a certain tone, as a sort of emotional shield.
For example, if I was writing about a (in this case, fictional) bad day I had, and I wanted to emotionally distance myself (consciously or subconsciously,) I might write something like this:
The day had been really bad to a level I couldn't explain to even those who had known me all of my life, like Jodie had. Everything about it, from start to finish, had been really bad.
Lots of words there, but not a lot of info. I'm talking without saying much beyond 'it was bad,' - which in some cases is fine, but... there's that distance, y'know?
If I want my words to actually matter to someone, if I wanted to actually convey the levels of 'badness' to our fictional day, I might say something like:
I got home, and all I wanted was to go straight to sleep. This day. Oh God, this day! Jodie asked me what was wrong. I couldn't even start to explain.
Which has more impact? Which version let's you know more about what the person's feeling?
Maybe you think it's the first one - let me know if so, cos I'd honestly be interested!
I know a lot of people would say, 'but Cee, surely you're talking about show don't tell...?'
And I kind of am. But I'm also kind of not.
It's kind of hard to explain the difference (Tip #2!) as I see it, but I could 'show don't tell' like this:
After today, I just wanted to go to bed. Jodie asked me what was wrong, and I couldn't even start to explain.
See? That's also 'show don't tell,' but it hasn't broken down the emotional barriers as much as the second version.
Unless you don't agree!
In which case, lemme know!
It might even help me explain what I mean better.
I guess what I'm saying here is you need to let yourself be vulnerable.
Because your readers will be able to tell if you're being emotionally honest or not, even in fiction.
But don't go thinking you have to share things you're not comfortable with sharing - because this works EVEN WHEN YOU DELETE THE RAW STUFF.
I have written numerous blogposts that were are actually way more frank than what they end up being published as.
Yes, even yours truly, the Queen of brutally honest, cuts stuff out that she doesn't feel comfortable with.
And because your writing maintains that tone of intimacy, openness, and authenticity even after you take out the too-personal stuff, your reader will still feel emotionally close to you/your characters.
Just give it a shot, cos you don't have to show anyone if it doesn't turn out right!
6. Listen to heavy metal
(...or the music genre of your choice.)
When I want to Get Sh** Done™ I listen to metal.
Stone Sour, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, Billy Talent, The Disturbed, Serj Tankien... they're all on my list of productivity boosting music.
Of course, I also listen to other music to be creative - mainly emo and punk, because yours truly is a rock nerd, but also rap and random other stuff.
Music can be uber-inspirational and you might even wanna make a creative playlist, or a productivity playlist, or whatever effing playlist you feel like making.
(This is a useful way to procrastinate! Lol, point #3.)
Of course, many people don't like music when they write and stuff - and that's totally cool too! 😄
7. Don't be hard on yourself
I know, I know, easier said than done.
But there's a whole lot of people who like nothing better than to rain on the parades of others. There's no need to be hard on yourself - other people will do that for you.
So remember: you're awesome.
It's rarely as bad as you think it is, and creativity takes time.
Please share and comment! 😊