Thursday, October 6, 2011

Battling Writer's Block

If there’s one disease, one sickness, one plague (if you will) that haunts every writer at some point or another it’s definitely writer’s block.  Sure you’ve got thousands of great ideas swimming in your head.  The plot is being molded nicely and characters are coming to life in the very facets of your imagination.  Yet, as soon as your fingers hit the keys (or pencil if that stuff is still going on), instantly you freeze.  Not a single word comes out.  You begin to doubt yourself soon after.  “Maybe the story isn’t good enough” or “It sounds way better in my head”.  Fear not friends.  I will share with you my tips and tricks that will help you get over your writer’s block dilemma.

To say that I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with writer’s block would be a bit of an understatement.  The 8 years it took me to bring Agent M: Project Mabus to life is a testament to that.  Like many of the problems we deal with everyday we have to start at the source.

1)                  What causes writer’s block?
-          The answer to this one is tricky because everyone will have a different response.  One of my biggest issues is scope.  The initial idea of the Agent M series was going to be short and sweet.  No more than 2-3 books in total but as I started developing ideas I began shaping and inevitably changing the world I’ve created before I ever started writing it.  As these ideas kept flowing, I put the writing the book on the backburner while the story developed a life of its own.

Some of you may be like me and find yourselves lost in the world.  Others might be still trying to figure out what to do with that badass antagonist they just created.  The sad thing is, there is no veritable solution I can give you to explain the cause of your writer’s block.  There could be a number of reasons (as I’ve explained above) that is stopping you from putting words on the page.  Your first goal is to pinpoint the source.  Once you’ve done that, it’s time to move on.

2)                  Set goals for yourself
-          This is something that is easy to do but hard to maintain.  Your main goal is simple; finish your work (whatever it may be). But that shouldn’t be your FIRST goal to attain.  Start slow.  This is a process after all.  Try and set small and easily attainable goals as you work your way towards the main one.  For the first week, why not start by writing detailed character biographies.  Then move on to a chapter synopsis.  Then a full novel synopsis.  Think of things that you can do to help motivate yourself to continue writing.

The methodology with this exercise is to get you excited about what you want to write.  If you get ten lines into the main character’s biography and start to hate what you see this is a perfect chance for you to revise and flesh out any and all details.

3)                  Stick to your goals, Get rid of bad habits
-          I know this should go without saying but in all actuality, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something then to actually go out and do it. You need to focus not only your time but your life into completing your goals.  Some of the very things you love could be causing a distraction that deprives the world of your work.

Allow me to regale you with a tale.  Before I buckled down and started writing, I was consumed by the furious grasp known as World of Warcraft.  I joined the online sensation in 2008 at the behest of some friends and was glued to it for the following 2 years.  Late in 2010, I decided that this is not something I wished to continue and made a precedence to give up this hobby in order to pursue my dreams of publishing this story.

I’m not going to say that was easy.  It took a great level of sacrifice to leave all of the great friends I’ve met online and the wonderful world I’ve been following since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans first graced store shelves.   But that’s the kind of commitment it takes.

One last major tip to help you achieve your goals is simple: MOTIVATION.  Give yourself a reason to want to complete your goals.  Have a friend help you out if need be.  Let’s say there’s a really big movie premiering this weekend that you’ve been dying to see.  Instead of venturing to the theatre outright, make that your next reward for completing a goal.  The key here is honor.  Of course you could just say “screw it” and see the film without doing anything.  Instead of shrugging off your goals look at it in a different way.  Ask yourself “How am I ever going to trust myself to do anything if I can’t even keep my own promises?”

4)      Never give up
-          This last one seems kind of preachy and in a way it is.  The difference between writer’s block and quitting is whether or not you choose to continue.  Believe me, in the 8 years between conceptualization and actualization, I never thought of myself as having writer’s block.  I quit.  Plain and simple.  I put the idea away and tried to pretend it never existed because I believed my writing skills couldn’t do this story justice.  And I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way about your own work.  But the difference between me then and me now is the determination I have, the sacrifices I made, and the goals I set for myself to see this project through to the very end.

It’s never too late to start but it’s always too early to throw in the towel.  If one idea you have didn’t pan through then take what you’ve learned from that concept and move it on to a new one.  A forgotten story is only a true failure if you didn’t learn from your previous mistakes.  Writing is an organic and growing process.  Even some of the greats today wish they could rewrite some of their more favored books.  They didn’t give up either.  The ball’s in your court.

Well, I hope this was an insightful and inspiring read.  If you’re still stuck after reading all of this don’t fret.  Writer’s block isn’t a rare disease.  We all get hit with it at one point or another.  In all truthfulness, it’s not really the writing part that gets most people stumped, it’s the motivation.  Achieving your goals is a great feeling but may not be as rewarding as some other activities that offer immediate pleasure.  No one is going to stand over you 24/7 and force you to write.  That’s a decision you have to make on your own and see to it until the very end.

Most importantly, remember to have fun while you’re doing it.  If it feels like work, then it probably is and no one is going to want to read a story that has the flavor text of a math book.  In the end, if you put the same passion in developing your ideas as you do writing them then I’m sure you’ll do just fine.  All of us hit speed bumps once and a while but still keep moving forward.  Pass the bumps, avoid the walls and cruise along with the rest of us.  It’s a truly magnificent ride.


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