Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. It’s a way for insecure writers like myself give each other advice and encouragement. Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.
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Last month, I experienced what I like to call the Great Writer’s Block Crisis of August. I wasted a lot of time. I accomplished painfully little writing or in fact anything else. The cause of this writer’s block crisis is something that I’d like to keep private between myself and my muse, but since I know many other writers struggle with writer’s block I thought I’d share a few of the strange “cures” I’ve discovered over the years.
I picked up one cure from a book called The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. In it, Bell tells a story about Ray Bradbury when he was writing the screenplay adaptation of Moby Dick. At one point, when Bradbury suffered from writer’s block, he got up, looked in a mirror, and said, “Behold! Herman Melville!” I’ve tried this myself, staring into a mirror and saying, “Behold! Isaac Asimov! or “Behold! Frank Herbert!” I sometimes let my beard grow out a little to help with the illusion. It feels silly doing this, but it helps me loosen up so I can write, and it’s a subtle reminder that my favorite authors (Asimov, Herbert, and of course Ray Bradbury) struggled with writer’s block just as I do.
Another writer’s block cure I discovered, purely by accident, is alphabet soup. One day, after a week’s worth of feverish writing, I felt like every single thought in my brain had drained out and poured all over the page. I felt empty, both mentally and physically… physically empty in the sense that I was suddenly very, very hungry. As I ate a bowl of alphabet soup (the only option available that day), I felt not only like I was getting the food I needed but also literally refilling myself with the raw materials of writing: the alphabet. I got right back to writing, and I’ve kept a few cans of alphabet soup in my cupboard ever since.
The final completely ridiculous writer’s block cure I want to share came to me partly because of my other work as an illustrator. For a recent short story I wrote set on the lost island of Atlantis, I also drew an illustration of two Atlantians, using toga costumes as reference. One day, while blocked, I decided to put one of the costumes on and wear it while writing. All of a sudden, I no longer felt like a 21st Century American Sci-Fi writer but an ancient Atlantian recounting the tale of my own people. By the time I changed back into normal clothes, I’d written several thousand words and plugged a few big plot holes in my story.
Of course all these ideas are silly. Maybe that’s the reason they work. Writer’s block is a psychological problem. It happens because you’re thinking too hard, taking yourself and your writing too seriously. The only way to cure that is to do something ridiculous, to loosen up your imagination and free yourself to see your story from a fresh perspective.
So how do you deal with writer’s block?
P.S.: If all of these ideas fail, I have one last cure. I write a letter to my muse, apologizing for the mistakes I’ve made as a writer and begging her to forgive me. If my letter is sincere, she usually takes pity on me and helps me out. This is how I got out of my writer’s block crisis in August.