A guest post by the fantastic author, C.H. Aalberry
My best ideas never seem to make it down onto paper. I walk home with my head full of pictures and witty dialogues, but as soon as I sit down to capture them, they evaporate. Getting ideas onto paper is hard, and that blank sheet can be intimidating. There may be rare times when words pour out faster than you can get them down, but what about the times when you sit in front of your computer and can’t think of what to do next?
Writer’s block. It affects all writers eventually, particularly during first drafts. Writing is an act of creation that is easily derailed. So, what can be done to solve this dilemma? Here are eight tips I use when I get stuck:
1) Start somewhere, start anywhere. Write what comes easiest. It doesn’t have to be the next chapter or even the next paragraph in the story, because as long as you are writing you are making progress. If you have any ideas floating around that you know you want to include, nail them down and put them in order later. I write a few key chapters first, which gives me some idea of where the story is going. Maybe start with a description of a character or a place: it may not be included in the final product, but it could start you off.
2) Don’t panic if it’s not perfect. You write a few lines. They are rubbish. You want to give up. Don’t. The point of a first draft is that you are creating the raw material for your second draft, so don’t worry if it seems rough.
3) Change the scene. Try writing at your local library or cafe. A change of location can nudge you into action. Load everything onto an online drop box and you can carry on from wherever you are in the world (except for North Korea).
4) Talk it out. I find talking about my work out loud helps me work out a direction and a few key phrases to get me started. No one to talk to? No worries! Talk aloud to yourself- all the creative types does it (note: best avoid mixing this step with step 3).
5) Put some pressure on. Tell your pal or your partner or your parrot that you will have five hundred words written by the end of the day… it’s an incentive to get started because if you don’t that parrot will judge you forever.
6) Take some pressure off. Go for a walk. It may not help your writing, but at least you’ll be getting some exercise. Also, inspiration is more likely to strike when you are relaxed, so get out there and smell the roses.
7) Still struggling? Get inspired. If you are spending hours in front of your computer but not producing anything then it’s time for a break! Think of it as sharpening the axe. Go to an art gallery. Look at pictures of wildlife on the internet. Learn a little something about the world. Read a short story or two (shameless plug: ‘The Origami Dragon And Other Tales’ is full of short stories guaranteed* to inspire you). Sometimes all it takes is a change of mood.
8) Persist! Persistence is a key ingredient to writing, so keep calm and keep writing. After all, slow progress is still progress.
I hope that helps. If you have any ideas about beating writer’s block, post them in the comments, I would love to see them. Finally, remember that writer’s block is normal, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you love!
*I lie; there are no guarantees when it comes to inspiration. But the book does contain a story about tiny elephants.