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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fighting Writer's Block

Writer’s block is very real. No matter what kind of writing you do or for what purpose you write, writer’s block is very disturbing. If writing is your livelihood, writer’s block is worse than disturbing; it even threatens your ability to pay the bills and support your family! But even if writing isn’t your main source of income, writer’s block robs you of your very essence and therefore, it can be devastating.

One reason writer’s block is so terrible is because it is the opposite of something really great. When your writing muse graces you with her presence, you behave as a genius, frantically scribbling and tapping wildly at your keyboard; you produce amazing work and you soar on a natural high. Then comes writer’s block. You feel abandoned and everything about you is barren. Barren in your mind and in your spirit: this is writer’s block, the fall after a surge of great writing. This is writer’s block and the reality is it happens. It happens to all of us.

We usually don’t see it coming; writer’s block just drops in one day and suddenly, the mind is dull. When this happens, you basically have two choices. You can lay down your pen and go into sulking - a behavior that will no doubt send you into a downward spiral of low self-esteem and depression, or you can turn your dry spell into an opportunity for growth.

That’s right. Writer’s block can actually be good for you as a writer. I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me here and look at this obstacle with an open mind.

Like anything we do in life, we get into a rut, even with our writing. You write about the same stuff; you use the same words; you even write in the same style. No wonder the muse leaves for awhile! Don’t fret it, though, realize instead that this is your muse calling you to stretch your brain muscles a bit and strengthen your skills. Take advantage of writer’s block and use that time to try something new.

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Reflective writing

Have a discussion with yourself about writer’s block via writing. Write out your struggle with writer’s block.

A) Give it a personality and tan on the heroic role of defeating the villain. Yell at it. Curse it’s will. Send it off to a place “where the sun don’t shine”.

B) Ask yourself what you have to gain by bowing to writer’s block. Answer yourself in writing, of course. If you have to wallow in self pity, do so in writing, but conclude your piece with what it feels like to give in to defeat. Hang the conclusion where you can see it and read it over and over until you are ready to rise up and get over it.

2. Revisit and Rework

Go back to pieces of writing that you have already completed and take a look at it from a different perspective.

A) Analyze the characters and/or ideas in the piece (do this analysis in writing, of course). Pretend you are a student in a literature or logic class and analyze with a critical mind.

B) Rewrite it from a different perspective. If it is in first person, write it in third person, or keep it in first person, but change the voice; if it is a narrative, make it a personal letter. Whatever you do, just step into another voice and tell the story from a different point of view.

C) Write it in a different tense. Make it an historical piece or turn it into a futuristic fantasy. Try putting it all in present tense – that is always a challenge!

D) Take one or two points in the piece and expand that section. You may even be able to take one point and expand it such that you can write another whole independent piece from that later on.

Writer’s block is very real and, like the common cold, it is unavoidable. So when it hits, hit back!

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