How to Tackle Writer’s Block (By Indirection!)

posted by Noor

We have all encountered this beast at some point in our writing careers. Sometimes you can fight it head-on; other times you have to cheat it, find a way around it, and give it a surprise defeat.
These techniques may work for you!

1. Start with Chapter Two. Pretend that you have already given all the background information about your characters. Start writing the second chapter.

2. Dessert First. When you’re just writing, write the delicious parts, write the parts that you like.

3. Resist the rapture of research. Stay away from Google, the library, reference books. Look up information later. Write now.

4. A good idea that doesn’t happen is no idea at all.

5. XX factor. When you don’t know a fact about your story, don’t stall to ponder it. Put XX there and move on. When you are ready, go back and fill the gaps later.

6. Listen to your characters. How do you know who they are?

7. Interview your characters.

8. Take a shoebox and put physical things in it that remind you of your character. For example, you see an easy chair in a catalog and your character should be sitting in that chair or you can imagine him/her sitting in it, cut it out and put it in the box.

9. What if? Ask creative what if questions that might just jump start your story.

10. Even if you feel like life is interfering with your writing, remember that you need that life and its activities in order to write.

11. Banish the devil on your shoulder – the critical voice. You need a critical voice at some point, but certainly not when you’re blocked.

12. Write letters. Besides being an emotional catharsis, it also leaves you with a bank of emotions that you can withdraw from later.

13. Responsive writing. Keep asking yourself questions, they can be random questions, and keep answering them. Question-answer loop on a page to break out of the block answer by answer.

14. The Hemingway Technique. Hemingway often stopped writing at a high point, frequently even in the middle of a sentence. Instead of writing and writing until you get stuck so that the next day you’re dreading the point where you left of, you should perhaps stop when you are in the zone and you’re loving to write, so that you will be looking forward to the writing the next day.

15. Sometimes writer’s block is a message to you that you have picked something inherently wrong to write about – emotions, material, characters, voice, it can be anything. Once you have recognized and acknowledged this message, the writer’s block becomes a building block.

16. Sometimes the silence of the black screen is really a shout – it’s the silence of incubation.

Useful Resources, Good Books, Websites:
Publisher’s marketplace
Halldor Laxness – Independent People
Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
Enzo – book written from the perspective of a dog – Garth Stein
What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers – Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
The Paris Review Interviews (3 volumes)
Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott