by Alan Orloff
Writer’s Block. Such ugly words. Funny how the mere mention of it strikes terror into the hearts of writers. I have to say, I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Get in the chair, turn on your computer, and start typing. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, do they? (At least I don’t think they do…)
Anyway, there certainly are times when the words don’t seem to flow very well. And sometimes, even when the words are appearing on your computer screen, they seem dull and lifeless.
How do you get past “stuck?”
Try these tips:
Work on a different section of your manuscript. Jump to the end, or skip to a scene where you know exactly what’s going to happen. The words might flow more freely.
Do something else. Stop banging your head against the wall and trust your subconscious to sneak up on the problem from a different angle. Watch TV, go to the movies, lace up your jogging shoes and get some exercise. If you’re looking for something a little more torturous, clean your house. After an hour of scrubbing floors, I’m ready to get back to writing.
Re-read some of your other work. Pull out some polished examples of your writing and give them another read. You did it once, you can do it again.
Read someone else’s work. Find a book by an author you admire. Read it to absorb the flow and energy of something you connect with.
Type another author’s work. If just reading a book isn't enough, try typing a few pages of someone else’s work, just to get the creative juices flowing. When you’re done, be sure to delete it all. I’m not coming to visit you in prison.
Write something in a different genre. If you are a crime writer, try writing something that’s humorous or autobiographical or features talking goldfish.
Write in a different style or voice. Switch from first person to third (or vice versa) to shake things up. Note: Never attempt to write in second person. That’s just weird.
Write in a different form. If you write prose, try poetry. If you write novels, try a short story (or a cell phone novel). Or log some serious time on Twitter.
Read a book on writing. Stephen King's On Writing or Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird are a couple of my favorites.
Mix up your routine. Try listening to music (or a different kind of music) or try writing at a different time of day than usual. Try varying your locations, too. A park, coffeehouse, or deserted alley may get those juices flowing (especially a deserted alley at night!).
Bribe your muse. Promise your muse you'll do something nice for him/her after you get a few scenes written. Lunch with a friend, a round of golf, or a box of chocolates have been known to work. (So I've heard.)
If these don’t work, I have one more suggestion. Tell yourself that you’re on a tight deadline and your draft is due tomorrow.
That’ll get you writing. (So I’ve heard.)
Alan Orloff has published ten novels and more than forty-five short stories. His work has won an Anthony, an Agatha, a Derringer, and two ITW Thriller Awards. His latest novel is SANCTUARY MOTEL, from Level Best Books. He loves cake and arugula, but not together. Never together. He lives and writes in South Florida, where the examples of hijinks are endless. www.alanorloff.com