Inevitably, in every creative writing class I teach, one of the students asks me how to deal with writer’s block. Sometimes they ask if I ever experience it, and if so, what I do to deal with it. I’ve been writing seriously for thirty-seven years, and while there are times I produce more writing and times I produce less, I never consider myself blocked. I do, however, find the writing part of my brain getting sluggish from time to time, and the words don’t come very easily. When that happens, I try to change up my writing routine. So whether you believe in writer’s block or are just looking for a way to recharge your creative batteries, here are some tips on changing up your writing routine.
· Write in a different location. Try writing in a different room in your house. Go out somewhere to write (I often write at a Starbucks). Write in nature. Write where there are a lot of people. Write in solitude. Try as many different locations as necessary to get those words flowing.
· Use different tools. If you usually type on a computer, change the font and color of the text. Write by hand. Use different pens and pencils. Use colored pencils or markers. Use a legal pad instead of a notebook or vice versa.
· Write at different speeds. If you normally write fast, try forcing yourself to write slow. If you write slow, write fast. See which way helps the words come this time.
· Meet a friend for a writing date. I’ve never tried this, but I have friends who get together at a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar. They chat for a bit then spend the rest of the time writing.
· Write at different times of the day. Your biorhythms can vary over time, and the time of day when you’re at your most productive can change as well. If you normally write in the morning, try the afternoon, early evening, or late at night.
· Write at different lengths. If you’re stalled on a novel, write a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. Write a paragraph. Write a sentence.
· Try a different genre. If you normally write fiction, try nonfiction, poetry, or scriptwriting. If you write serious, try writing humor. If you do mystery, try fantasy, romance, etc. The old saying “A change is as good as a rest” applies here.
· Write something that’s not for publication. Write something that you know you’re not going to submit to an editor. This can relieve the stress that can come when you’re overly conscious that there’s a reader – hopefully a lot of readers – on the other side of your words.
· Challenge yourself. Write a story that’s exactly one hundred words long. Fifty. Twenty-five. Ten. Write a two-sentence story. A one sentence story. Write a story without using the letter E. Write a story in a different form – a resume, a newspaper article, a series of bumper stickers . . . anything that you can think of that will be a fun and energizing writing challenge for you.
· Use a pseudonym. Stephen King says that using the Richard Bachman pseudonym not only freed him of the expectation publishers and readers had of him, but those stories tended to come out differently. They were leaner and meaner, with a darker sense of humor. Sometimes pretending to be someone else, even in a small way, can help us get outside of our own expectations of ourselves and help us discover something we didn’t know was in us.
· Write the thing you’re most afraid to write. If you’re afraid to go there, go there. See what happens.
· Write the kind of thing you think you’d be terrible at. If you think you’d be a tremendous flop as a poet, try writing a poem. If you think you could never write a play, try writing one (or at least a scene). Not only will you be getting out of your routine, you might discover that you’re better at this other kind of writing than you ever thought you’d be.
· Write the thing you hate. If you can’t stand literary fiction (or romance or action-adventure or whatever) try writing it. Engaging in forms of creative expression we personally dislike can be illuminating as well as energizing. (And you might gain a newfound appreciation and respect for the thing you hate, whatever it is.)
· Rewrite an old story of yours (or a novel excerpt or a poem, etc.) from scratch. This gives you something to work on that you don’t have to create whole cloth. It already exists. You’ll hopefully be able to get started on it fairly easily, and your creative energy will flow better because of it. Plus, you might gain some interesting insights into your growth as a writer.
I’ve got a couple books available for pre-order.
My next horror novel for Flame Tree Press, They Kill, is due out in July. Here’s a synopsis:
What are you willing to do, what are you willing to become, to save someone you love? Sierra Sowell’s dead brother Jeffrey is resurrected by a mysterious man known only as Corliss. Corliss also transforms four people in Sierra’s life into inhuman monsters determined to kill her. Sierra and Jeffrey’s boyfriend Marc work to discover the reason for her brother’s return to life while struggling to survive attacks by this monstrous quartet. Corliss gives Sierra a chance to make Jeffrey’s resurrection permanent – if she makes a dreadful bargain. Can she do what it will take to save her brother, no matter how much blood is shed along the way?
My tie-in novel, Supernatural: Children of Anubis, is due out in April.
Sam and Dean travel to Indiana, to investigate a murder that could be the work of a werewolf. But they soon discover that werewolves aren't the only things going bump in the night. The town is also home to a pack of jakkals who worship the god Anubis: carrion-eating scavengers who hate werewolves. With the help of Garth, the Winchester brothers must stop the werewolf-jakkal turf war before it engulfs the town - and before the god Anubis is awakened...
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