Monday, November 21, 2011

Amanda Forester - Have you seen my muse? Top ten ways to overcome writer's block

On the good days everything is easy.  Words flow, plots lines come together, my characters act out the scene in my head and I feel like I'm a mere observer frantically writing down the scene before me as it plays before my eyes.  Those days I can sit at my computer for hours and it seems like minutes.  My writing goals are exceeded with ease, and my husband has to drag me to bed to get me to stop.  Yes, those are the good days.

And then there are the rest of the 363 days of the year.

Writer's block.  It happens to everyone (I need to believe this so if it doesn't happen to you please don't let me know!).  I firmly believe the difference between a writer who actually finishes a manuscript and a writer who doesn't, is not in any natural talent or ability, it is found in persistence.  Writers who succeed are those who are willing to get down to work.  That might sound harsh, but actually I take great comfort in this thought.  I can't do anything to make myself naturally talented, but I can control my effort.

So I make myself sit down at the computer.  I stare at the blank page, the blinking cursor mocking me.  Now what?  Unlike household chores, which I can do whether I want to or not, writing isn't something I can physically force myself to do.  How do I find my muse when she seems to have left on extended vacation?  Here are my ways to break through writer's block and get back to that writing nirvana.

Top ten things to overcome writers block:

1.     Free associate - when I'm stuck I often need to turn off my internal editor and just start typing whatever comes to mind.  Sure it will be a lot of nonsense (edit it out later) but often I'll type something that jump starts the process.
2.    Write a different scene - sometimes I just don't know what happens next.  Transitions are often hard for me, so if I come to a block in the road I simply jump ahead to a scene I know is coming.  Sometimes my muse is linear, sometimes not.  Often if I bookend the trouble spot I can more easily figure it out when I come back later. 
3.    Change your location - sometimes my office is not the best place for me to find my muse.  If I'm stuck I've found getting some exercise, taking a walk, even taking a hot shower can be helpful.  Anything that improves the circulation and gets the blood flowing back to my brain can help me.
4.    Talk it through - sometimes I use my husband as a sounding board.  He is really no help at all, and will inevitably suggest alien abduction as a solution to my plot dilemma.  While this is not helpful in the least, sometimes in arguing with I can come up with my own solution.  Critique partners are probably more help in this regard!
5.    Plot it out visually - if the written word has your brain in knots, try a different modality.  Get a large whiteboard and draw out the plot lines.  Get different colored sticky notes and cover your wall.  I've done both and it can really help to see it visually.
6.    Take a break - I need to be careful with this one, because it is easy to have a break become longer than I intended (months instead of a day).  Sometimes though, I need to take a break, re-connect with my family, re-introduce myself to my spouse, and get re-inspired.
7.    Deal with a situation - sometimes my muse abandons me because I am avoiding something I need to do.  Maybe there is a call I need to make, an apology I need to make or accept, a bill I need to pay, or something that must be done.  If there is something you are avoiding, sometimes just doing it can get you past that stuck point so you can move on with your writing.
8.     Get some sleep - remember the old adage, "sleep on it"?  It does really work. My brain works better when I get adequate sleep.  Creativity requires at least a few working brain cells.
9.    Set small goals - the thought of writing a 90,000 word manuscript is so overwhelming it is paralyzing.  So I try to never look at the big picture.  I try to chunk it down into manageable goals.  Can I write 100 words?  500 words?  Sure, I can do that.  Keep it manageable and let go of the times you didn't reach that goal.  Each day is new.
10.  Embrace your inner tortoise - slow and steady wins the race.  This means sitting down at the computer regularly.  For me it means giving up some of my relaxing time, my "me" time with the TV or computer game, so I can work toward a larger goal.  I often don't "feel" like writing, so it I wait for those elusive days, I couldn't call myself a writer.  I need to be a writer even when I don't feel like it.  And in the end, I am always glad I did.

Do you have any great ways to overcome writer's block?  Please let me know - I can use all the help I can get!  Post a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of my latest book, THE HIGHLANDER'S HEART!

Lady Isabelle escapes her murderous English husband only to be abducted by a Highland warrior and held for ransom.  Her determination to break free from captivity is exceeded only by the passion growing between her and the Highland Laird.  David Campbell plans to hold Isabelle for ransom as an easy way to line his pockets and return her back where she belongs, but he is unprepared for a feisty English lass with a penchant for finding trouble.  Caught between rival clans bent on claiming the throne of Scotland, Campbell must choose a side, and a bride.  Standing on the brink of war, Isabelle may be his only hope to save his clan, and his heart.

Visit Amanda:  website, facebook, or twitter.


marybelle said...

As a reader, I take my hat off to all writer's. I would find it daunting. Not very helpful to you I know.

Laurie G said...

When I get stuck on a problem I need to go outside and get some fresh air. I love taking walks in the woods. So many beautiful things to see. It puts my little life in perspective to the world's many wonders. It helps me let off steam and let my brain relax.
A little snack of chocolate also gives me a much needed boost both emotionally and energywise.

Amanda Forester said...

Marybelle - I find it daunting too! Small steps are key!

Laurie G - fresh air and beautiful nature is a great way to get the bran working again. I can't beleive I forgot to put chocolate on my list! Very important!!

LindaC said...

Going for a drive to run an errand always gets my characters yapping again. I don't know what it is, but I can write like the wind after I've gone for a drive.


Jena Lang said...

Great post! Taking a break and putting my focus on something else for a while usually helps me move past my brain block.


Amanda Forester said...

LindaC - I always have great ideas when I'm doing something that makes it impossible to write things down. Driving is great for that.

Jena Lang - taking a break is a great way to resett my brain so I can start up again with some new insights.

Di said...

I have a couple ideas:
- do something that makes you laugh -like watch a YouTube Video about kids or animals
- eat a piece of really good dark chocolate
sallans d at yahoo dot com