Oftentimes as writers we dread the thought of writer’s block. The mere mention of the word can cause an uneasy sense of dread growing at the base of our spines, with heart racing and clammy hands. The thought of sitting down to write and having our minds go blank is like attempting to chat with a friend and having them stare blankly into space. Scary to think that the very thing we feel compelled and driven to do would be locked away in the confines of our mind, unable to find its way onto the page.
Let’s be real though, it happens to everyone! One minute you can’t type fast enough to keep up with the characters in your head as they navigate conversations and events. Their feelings flow through you like water through a sieve, breaking your heart and making you laugh out loud…literally. In the next instant, they go silent. Like moody teenagers they slam the doors to the world you created and refuse to speak. You are left in the darkness. It can last a day, or it can last months.
The day is usually not too difficult to manage. You busy yourself with those household chores that are often neglected when you are in the throws of inspiration. Maybe you take a walk, have coffee with a friend, take a road trip or daydream about your next grand travel adventure (I’m guilty of this one a lot).
But what can you do when it lasts months?!? Does it mean that you aren’t a writer, or can’t write anymore? How do you get through the depression that can start to take hold?
I’ve struggled lately with acting on any meager shred of inspiration that might scratch its way to the surface. At first it wasn’t too bad to cope with. I chalked it up to stress, life just keeping me busy and stewed a little on a few ideas I had.
But then….it all just stopped.
Blank. Nothing. Every time I tried to gather the motivation to write, it just fizzled out. I couldn’t even get excited about writing.No matter how long the dry spell lasts, there are a few things you can do.
- Step away from writing – Sometimes you have to step back and take time away from the page. This doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. It doesn’t mean that the story you are trying to tell is never meant to be told. It simply means that it is time to step away from it, let it sleep for a bit and come back.
- Research – If the creative part of the process has you drawing a blank, taking time away from the actual writing can leave you feeling like no progress is being made at all. Instead, try researching aspects of the time, place and professions of your characters. Dig deep into these aspects of your writing, gather as much as you can and compile your facts. These can serve to trigger some inspiration for you later!
- Storyboard – Another writing related activity that you can do, without actually writing is working on the storyboard. Whether you outline or use a web, string and images, a la crime show perp board, working on your story format can allow you to make great progress without actually writing any content. It may even trigger a new idea.
- Workshop – When you find that the story you are working on isn’t progressing anymore, why not take what you already have and send it to your “tribe”. They can offer some valuable insight which will help you to rewrite, reformat and clarify what you already have. In turn, this often will inspire some new content.
- Read, Edit & Rewrite – Sometimes, the best thing to do is to take a short break (a day or up to a week) and then start at the beginning. Approach as a reader, not a creator of worlds. Following your characters through the events and conversations may help to break loose any ideas that may be lingering in the back of your mind. You will also find any areas where your story might not flow as easily or where things might be a little confusing for a reader.
It is normal to have a little dry spell now and then. Try not to focus on it too much when it happens as this tends to make it last longer. Writer’s block isn’t a death sentence for your story and it isn’t the end of your writing career. A hiccup, at most that may actually lead to an even greater direction than you planned for your story.
“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wander often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.” ~ Emylee