Stumped, Crazy and Blue – Battling Writer’s Block
Thanks to Scott Biram for the title…
As the poet, novelist and short story writer Charles Bukowski said, “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”. I know what he means. For the first time in years I am uncertain what to write. I’m stumped, stuck in the mud, and blue. I only have about 50 more pages to go in a novella about German POWs, but I’m procrastinating beautifully. Why? After I finish, I’ll have to confront a black hole in my universe.
I thought I wanted to write a caper book with 2 women, a happy globe-trotting Thelma and Louise adventure, next. It is actually the sequel to a short story I wrote called Capital Partners. But I’m not feeling passionate about it. So, how do I create the passion? Or do I go back to Georgia Davis and write another PI novel? Or another Ellie Foreman? Help. Im feeling like my feet are stuck in concrete.
So… because Bukowski said it was okay, I thought I’d take a leaf out of his book and explore the causes of and solutions to writer’s block.
What are the causes behind writer’s block?
According to the Goinswriter website, one of the best known causes of writers block is timing, where it simply isn’t the right time to write. In which case the ideas in your head might have to mature for a while longer before they’re ripe enough to bloom. I don’t buy that, however. I am in the school of plant-butt-in-chair-and-write, whether you feel like it or not. Usually.
Sometimes it’s fear, the thought that you’re putting your ideas – which are extensions of yourself – out there for criticism. And perfectionism is the bane of some writers’ lives, a hard taskmaster, impossible to please. That I understand… I feel inadequate most of the time I write.
How to break free
So, how does one break free? An internet search reveals no easy answers, but it also shows that writer’s block is common, which is good to know when it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s “just me.”
Some say free write, the quirkier, the better. Anne Lamott agrees.
“I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that… Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. You’ll sit there going, ‘Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?’ But it is trying to tell you nicely, ‘Shut up and go away.’”
Others say go for a walk, or a run, or play a game, or listen to music, something to get your blood running and eliminate distractions. A change of environment scores high, as does calling a friend or spending time with people who make you feel good. Brainstorming ideas gets some credit, where the very act of jotting down ideas in bullet points can unblock the writer’s brain.
Reading is another solution. In fact, that used to be my go-to favorite. Often I’ll crack open a book in the middle of writing a manuscript. Any book. Usually by the time I’ve read a few pages, I’m ready to go back to my own work. Maybe it will work now.
So that’s my plan – at least this week. I’ve decided I’m going to read, and maybe that will clear my foggy brain. I’m looking for new-to-me authors. Any recommendations?