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Working Around Blocks (Writerly Type Post)

Every author gets stuck. Sometimes it’s that niggling feeling that your opening is all wrong or the pacing is messed up, other times you get just plain old stuck. You sit in front of your computer and stare at the words. Type in three or five more. Maybe a paragraph, and then stop because it is not working.

So what to do then?

We’ve all got our “go to” activities – for me, I find several things help:

1) mindless activity – ironing is my big one. The rhythmic movement, the sound of the steam, the scent of the shirt as I work – it loosens things in my head and enables me to plot without overthinking it. Dishes and scrubbing of things like bathtubs are good too. But not toilets – this just agitates me because I live in a house with the penis posse and, well I don’t need to go on. Excercise bike – plot and shrink my thighs all at the same time.

2) going on a drive. This is not mindless in the same way because you have to pay attention to more things, but at the same time, the time when I’m on my way to pick kids up and I’m alone is hugely important. I get a lot of work done in that 20 minutes – that’s the time when I seem to work on a scene and how it will flow into the next.

3) Brainstorming/talking it over with my husband or my writerly friends. This is always hugely helpful because I can just sort of riff and they’ll toss things out or just listen and give their opinion. Sometimes you start talking to explain the story to someone and you realize as you’re talking how stupid it sounds. That moment, while unpleasant for a moment, is important because it’s something you can fix!

4) Music or movies – stuff that can enable my brain to lose itself in the pattern – it’s like my brain is working so hard on the problem that it’s harder to see but when I’m sort of relaxed and focused elsewhere and I don’t have to overthink, it all sort of untangles.

These are just a few. The thing is, this is the sort of problem that snags writers and you can’t give up and let go to move on because there will always be that point in every book. The key is working through, getting past. Because problems CAN be fixed but you can’t just give up.

Got any tips of your own for dealing with a block?

2 comments to “Working Around Blocks (Writerly Type Post)”

  1. Sasha
    May 15th, 2009 at 11:49 am · Link

    Movies,/tv/music is a good one for me. So is vaccuuming and cleaning house.

    Strangely, when I’m stuck and I go to work at eh bar, if it’s a quiet night I ramble on to my co-workers -none of who are writers or want to be, but all who listen and are endlessly fascinated with the process of writing a book. The non-writer co-workers often have great advice for me, or they just let me ramble till I find my own satisfaction

  2. Charlene
    May 15th, 2009 at 7:20 pm · Link

    Going for a walk, taking a shower, cleaning the house, cooking, drawing, all sorts of rhythmic but wordless activities help me think things through. I also journal about the problem and try to identify what’s wrong and then come up with different ways to fix it. (There’s always more than one way) I switch POV. If all else fails, I move on to something else I know has to happen and write that scene.

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