Novel Share Saturday is the newest in weekly segments on What A Nerd Girl Says. Saturdays are a day to take a break from talking about all the books I’ve read and focus on my other hobby – writing! In this segment, I’ll post excerpts and passages from past, present and future projects, I’ll share short stories and poems, I’ll give advice and answer any questions and so forth. I hope you enjoy!
This week I’m talking about writer’s block. Its one of the biggest problems you face as a writer, whether you’re published or not and I’ve noticed over my years and years of attending various author events and panels that its one of the number one questions that authors get asked about.
Here’s my hot (or not so hot) take on writer’s block – I don’t believe in it.
I know, I know. Hear me out.
A lot of people blame writer’s block for the reason that they can’t write or are stuck or whatnot. But I genuinely don’t think that its an actual thing and I know that sounds crazy. I just have this theory that writer’s block is an excuse to not write. Its what we use when there are other things going on and I think its often used as an excuse when the words stop coming easily and you have to work a little harder on it. Writing is incredibly hard and there are times, especially in the beginning, when the words just seem to pour out of you. Then there are times when you’ve hit a rough patch and its hard to figure out what to do next.
I don’t think that you can call that a block. I think you’re probably doing things to keep yourself from progressing. I don’t think its some mystical force keeping you from writing. I think there are ways to tackle the roadblocks in your writing.
First…You’re Thinking Too Much.
I believe a lot of what people THINK is writer’s block is just you not giving yourself permission to write badly. You’re thinking way too much about what is going on the page, concerned that its not good enough. You forget that the first draft of anything you write is usually absolute crap. Jessica Brody, author of books like the Unremembered trilogy, In Some Other Life and others, once told me “Don’t be afraid to write crap. Crap makes great fertilizer.”
You have to just sit down and write. Shut off the internal critics, shut off the comparisons you’re making between yourself and every other writer on the planet and just write. Writing multiple drafts and editing…that’s what we see on the page when we read a book. We don’t see the first draft, ever, but that draft has to exist. Nora Roberts’ has been quoted as saying “You can’t fix a blank page.” I 100% believe that’s true. You are so worried about writing a great book but in perfect honesty, you have to write a crap one first.
So many writers that I’ve met over the past year have told me the same thing over and over again: Just write. Just write, and don’t be afraid to write really badly.
I am so guilty of this one and I know its exactly why I don’t get as much writing done as I really could. Its the reason I even blog at work sometimes – my desk environment is created for work. At home? I’m surrounded by my cats, my books, my phone, Netflix, video games…anything and everything to keep me from working.
I usually work better when I’m not at home. The problem is, I love being at home, its where I’m comfortable. I don’t particularly like going…well, anywhere. But I always tend to be more productive when I make myself go to the library or Starbucks for even just an hour. It gets me away from the things that I’d rather be doing – like watching abduction documentaries on Netflix – and focusing on my actual novel.
Third…You Need to Work On Something Else/Take a Break
Now this can mean a bunch of things. It could mean another piece of writing, but I don’t tend to recommend writing more than one novel at a time. Props to authors who can do that but I definitely cannot. But it could mean, work on a poem, a screenplay, write in a diary or work on a blog. When I’m struggling with a novel, I take a break and come here and that’s usually when I tend to be the most productive on this blog. I can still write and get words out but not those.
You could also just get the heck away from writing in general. Go do a puzzle, watch Netflix (I know, I just told you not to but sometimes its okay!), knit, read, go for a walk. Do something else to get your mind off of it for a bit and then come back to it when your mind is relaxed and fresh!
Fourth…You Need a Goal
I think this is one of the things that works the best for me. I set myself an achievable goal. I will write for 30 minutes. I will write at least 200 words. 200 words isn’t a lot but its 200 more than what you had at the start. If I make a goal of 200 words and I achieve it, I’ll challenge myself to write 200 more and so forth. Sometimes I’ll set goals of finishing a full chapter and it can feel overwhelming, like I can’t get to that. Sometimes that feels easily achievable but for the times that its not, I just set myself up for a smaller goal and if I achieve that and want to keep going? I keep going.
Five…You’re Not Treating Writing Like a Job
Years and years ago, in the beginnings of this blog and my writing career, Shannon Messenger gave advice at one of her signings that I attended and it has stuck with me ever since – you have to start treating writing like a job. Because, let’s be frank, that’s what it is, especially if you want to get published one day. Right now, you can flit around and write when you feel like it but the second you have a contract or a deadline, that’s not how it works. Writing can’t be based on the muses that come to you and so forth. You literally can’t sit and wait for inspiration when that happens so get in that groove now.
Create a schedule for yourself and commit to that schedule. Tell yourself that you cannot make plans during certain hours, because you are working. You wouldn’t skip out on your job for things (for the most part), so don’t skip out on writing either.
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