At one time or another, most of us who write have had something resembling the following happen to us: we sit down at the keyboard, and our minds go blank, or we’re working on something, and suddenly, notwithstanding that elaborate outline you sweated over, you just can’t think of what happens next. Writer’s block scares the heck out of most writers; because, they don’t know what to do about it.
Well, my cure for this dreaded malady is to keep it from happening in the first place. That’s right folks; writer’s block is a completely preventable condition.
Here are the ways I make sure the writing muscles stay limber and productive:
A ‘K’ Per Day Keeps Writer’s Block Away
Back in the 1970s, when I moonlighted from my army job as a reporter for some North Carolina newspapers, an old editor told me that writing is like any other art or skill; you can only get better with practice. He suggested that I set myself a daily quota of words, and then meet or exceed that quota every day. His quota was 1,000 words, so that’s the goal I set for myself. By writing a specified number of words before stopping, and that means writing about anything and everything, it’s amazing just how easy it becomes. I do character sketches, little bits of dialogue or description, or ideas for new stories, along with any works in progress.
When I’m traveling, I carry along a notebook or two, and jot things down as they come to me. I have yet to achieve the status of someone like L. Ron Hubbard, the prolific, multi-genre author who is rumored to have been able to bang out a novel in a couple of days of marathon writing, but I’m happy to note that I can get a 50,000-plus novel done in a month; and, that includes review and revisions. Of course, I can type 60 words per minute, so it’s easier to crank out words. And, that’s the objective of the exercise; get words on paper or screen; without regard to quality at first. You can always go back and edit; in fact, you should ALWAYS go back and edit. What you want to do, though, is develop the ability to write under any and all circumstances.
Flexibility and Diversity are Important in Beating Writer’s Block
Now, some of you are probably creative writers, or you’re in love with one genre, and that’s where you wish to comfortably remain. That’s okay; I applaud you. But, if you want to avoid those periods when the well seems dry, along with conditioning yourself to write something every day, it helps to have something to divert your attention. If you’re a mystery writer, and your character’s starting to get on your nerves, or you’re just stuck on how to make that locked-room crime credible, you might find doing a bit of copy writing or an opinion piece is just the rest your brain cells need to refresh themselves. I often find that when I’m working on one piece of writing, something about another project is quietly percolating there in the background, and when I go back to it, it’s crystal clear. For instance, as I was finishing up “She’s No Angel,” a fantasy novel I plan to enter in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, I found myself thinking about the old west and the cavalry soldiers from that era. That led to thinking about the Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American troops, and their role in settling the west, which led to the idea for a series for young adults giving a semi-fictionalized account of these gallant, but under-appreciated men. All of this was going on in the back of my mind as I worked to wrap up the story of a boring suburban couple who have an anything but boring child with special abilities.
That’s really all there is to it. If you want to avoid writer’s block, the only right thing to do is write. For an example of what I mean about diversity in writing, in style or subject, check my blog at http://charlesaray.blogspot.com and at bookscholarship.com. I’d also welcome any other hints readers have found helpful in keeping the creative juices flowing.