It’s happened to the best of us. Sitting alone with just our thoughts and a keyboard, striking at the keys in a frenzy because the story is there, it’s flowing, and there is no stopping it. But then, out of the blue, it’s gone. You search for it in every corner of your brain to no avail. It just vanished. *POOF* But it was all going so well! I imagine it, in a totally unrelated way, to be similar to the sensation of losing an appendage. It was just there! If I close my eyes, I can feel it. I can almost grasp it, but when I try, it’s gone. So here we sit, still alone, still with a keyboard, only now we have no story, and we’ve added tissues and chocolate to the mix.
So, what do we do? How do we get back to the mind set we had when it was all going so well? The one thing we are not going to do is stop writing. I repeat, Do NOT stop writing. Too many writers think that writers block is something that just comes and goes, and if we wait long enough, the problem will fix itself. Wrong! We cannot wait for inspiration to come flying through the air to slap us in the back of the head. You lost it, now go and find it. The only way this can be done, is to carry on as if inspiration never left. Always, always, always, write. Can’t be stressed enough. Here are the steps I take to get me out from under the dreaded block.
Step 1. I know it seems counter intuitive, but put your story to the back burner. Temporarily of course. Sometimes we can become hyper focused on that one character and that one story to the point we lose it. So, take a break. Give yourself a week of guilt free writing. This is not a time for panic, but a chance to refocus your brain. Becoming obsessed with a project can tire your brain. Repetition creates boredom. When we’re bored, we lose a lot of that tenacious drive that got us writing in the first place.
Step 2. Free write. Our mind is full and tired. It’s time to de-clutter the garage as it were. Open up a fresh page and begin. No destination in mind, just write. Write about anything: frustrations, life, childhood, it doesn’t matter. The point is to write with no direction, no structure, no grammar, no punctuation, no editing, and no critiquing. Empty the brain. Get out all the clutter. Anger, fear, depression, just get it out. When we’re done, we have a cleaner, more organized space to work with.
Step 3. Read. Pick up a book that’s in line with our own writing genre. Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a short story. Our love of writing and storytelling began first with books. Books in a similar genre to our own, are often written by authors we can relate too. When we read a similar book, we tend to compare our own writings and ideas to that of the other author. It’s inevitable that as we read, little tidbits of information and inspiration are going to burrow their way into the mind. That’s great. But now is not the time for that. Make quick notes to refer to later. We’re on a break, remember? This is the time where we’re feeding our brains. Nothing gets the imagination flowing like a good book. We need that imaginative spark.
Step 4. Story prompts. In essence, our brain needs to stand up and stretch its legs after a long journey. Story prompts give us an opportunity to get back to basic writing. They are often fun, and a good way to wake up a tired brain. Why? Because it’s something new. Everyone remembers their first kiss. A new story is like a first kiss. It’s new. It’s magical. It excites us. We are giving our brains a first kiss. The brain will feed on the new, positive energy.
Step 5. Edit your first chapter. Now is the time we go back to our story. Only the first chapter. Normally I suggest never editing until the first draft is complete. However, in this instance we are not editing for mistakes, we’re editing for the purpose of rejuvenation. Getting into those first few pages reminds us why we began writing it in the first place. We’re reminding ourselves of the first kiss. After your chapter edit, go back to where you got stuck.