Five Ways I Combat Writer’s Block

1. I start my story with the Write Or Die App.

If you’re like me, you’d rather face a zombie apocalypse than a blank screen.  This app, which I learned about when writer Rachel Firasek mentioned it on Twitter, is amazingly simple.  You set it up with a time limit and a word count.  If you don’t make the word count in the allotted time, you begin to suffer “consequences.”  You can choose the consequences–mild, normal or “kamikaze.”

I picked normal, which plays a very unpleasant sound if you’re not making your goal.  I used the “dying violins.”  The sound drove me nuts. I kept writing to avoid hearing it.

Mild is a gentle reminder with a pop-up box.  Choose kamikaze and your work begins to erase if you take too long.

After I pounded out the first few pages of my story, I stopped using the app and continued writing it in a regular Word document.  This is a great way to combat “blank page fright.”  I will definitely be using it at the start of each new project.  You can use the app on your computer or mobile device.

2.  I give myself a reward for hitting my word count.

This was a suggestion on another blog post.  I wish I could remember which one, but I didn’t save the link.  (Sorry, anonymous writer I’m grateful to.)  The article suggested a glass of good wine or some kind of food treat as a reward after hitting your daily word count.  At the time, I was on a very strict diet.  The last thing I needed was a daily excuse to put more calories in my body.

I found a perfect, calorie-free solution.  There’s a sugar-free pink grapefruit soda I adore.  I only allow myself one if I hit my word count.  Works like a dream.

3. I don’t talk about my work in progress.  To anyone.

I used to do this a lot, and have unfinished projects to show for it.  The reasoning behind this is the same as that of expectant parents who refuse to reveal the name they’ve chosen for their baby until after he or she is born.  If they say they’re naming the kid Jake, someone will point out that Jake Drake doesn’t really go together.  Or how they know twelve other little kids named Jake.  Or they’ll recount the story of their ex-boyfriend Jake, the one who keyed their car and left all those nasty messages on their voicemail.  Then the parents don’t want to name the kid Jake anymore, and Grandpa Jake ends up very disappointed.

Even well-intentioned people can unwittingly make you second-guess yourself.  At least, that has happened to me, and I know other writers who have had the same experience.

I finish, then I talk about it.  If it turns out to be a bad idea, at least it’s a finished bad idea.

4. I don’t stop to edit while I’m pounding out the first draft. 

This is advice I’ve heard from several sources, and it’s good advice.  I used to write a few pages and edit.  Write a few pages and edit.  I would sit down to write and instead again edit what I’d already written.  Then I would get hung up at about the mid-point of the story.  There are projects I put away for a long, long time, took out again, edited some more, then put away again.  It really hampered productivity.

Charging ahead and not stopping to edit is one of the best habits I’ve adopted.  When I begin a writing session, I read the previous scene so I can orient myself and that’s it.  I hardly notice when I’m at that terrifying mid-point anymore.  I just keep writing.

5.  I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day writing or don’t meet the exact word count.

Life has a way of intruding.  Migraines, children becoming ill, the internet inexplicably being down, tsunami warnings, Luke’s latest return on General Hospital.

I skipped writing one day last week because WordPress added color palettes to their custom design features.  I HAD to try every color combination.  I promised myself I would only do it for ten minutes.  I was still fiddling with the colors two hours later.

There are days when it’s just not going to happen.  Hopefully, for better reasons than soap operas or color palettes.  Punishing myself for it used to make me feel like a failure–and if I was a failure, what was the point of writing tomorrow?

Missing a day or two isn’t the end of the world.  I tell myself I’ll soon be back in the chair producing again.  If it’s a short word count, at least I wrote more than a day when I didn’t write anything.

Small goals are better than no goals.  And step away from the color palettes.

14 thoughts on “Five Ways I Combat Writer’s Block

  1. Man oh man am I with you on #3. I keep telling my mother about my works in progress, and every time it bites me in the a**. Her response to any idea I present is inevitably “That sounds … fine …” or, “I don’t know, that doesn’t really interest me”. Every time. It’s a major buzz kill. So I just have to learn to restrain my impulses and not say a word until the manuscript is complete 🙂

    1. I was working on one project where I thought the concept was so completely fabulous that I couldn’t stop myself from telling people about it. They were mostly underwhelmed, and it turned me off of the story. I still think it’s a great concept and am going to return to it soon. But this time I won’t talk about it until it’s done!

  2. “If you’re like me, you’d rather face a zombie apocalypse than a blank screen.” This made me laugh! Story of my life. Not the zombie part but the dread/fear/anxiety/frustration, etc. that fills me as I sit down to write something new often stops me from writing altogether. Some things that help me are candles, a fan to block out excess noise (roommates, cars, etc), sitting by an open window, and music (usually opera, or classical. Lately my writing-to music of choice has been the great pianist, Branka Parlic.) Also, the Write or Die App sounds fun! I’ll have to try this. Thanks for the tip!

    1. You’re welcome! I also like to listen to music while I write, usually folk rock is my choice. Candles are an interesting thought, I’ll have to try that sometime. I used to wear noise cancelling headphones when I lived in a noisy apartment. I’m currently in a much quieter environment, thank goodness!

  3. Fascinating. Nothing like my approach. I love how different approaches work for different people. As a teacher, that’s at the soul of student-centered learning.

    1. That’s so interesting. What are your ways of battling writer’s block?

      The five ways I outlined work for me, but I’m up for trying other methods, too.

      1. Truth, I don’t get writer’s block. I always have a couple of projects going so maybe they balance each other, keeping me creative. Dunno. Sometimes, I search for a solution to a problem my protagonist is facing–then I research. That always gets the creativity pumping.

        If I ever get it, though, you have some great ideas.

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