Writer’s block is something every writer experiences, especially those who create fiction. It’s like hitting a roadblock in the middle of a story with no clue as to which way it should go, the frustration building and building as we rattle our brain for the answers. And if there’s an impending deadline involved, we feel like throwing in the towel, shamefully admitting our failure to responsibly meet the reasonable due dates we were given.
The mistake most of us make is relentlessly pushing ourselves to keep going, which just makes the situation worse. What we need to do is step back, realign our thinking, and move forward anew.
How does one do that? Here are a few suggestions.
- Breathing. I’m not just talking about taking a few deep breaths, although that never hurts. I’m suggesting we follow the advice of Andrew Weil, MD, who tells us that we transform our mind and body into optimum functionality when our breathing is deeper, slower, quieter, and more regular. The goal is to make this a lifelong practice and transform our breathing whenever it crosses our mind, like when we’re driving, standing in line, watching TV, waiting for an appointment, etc. The idea is, if we do it often enough, our bodies will eventually start functioning that way automatically. But to get us past this CURRENT mind fog, we need to treat it more like meditation. So we close our eyes, focus entirely on our breath, and slowly count to five with each deep breath in and out, keeping the pace regular and soft. If our thoughts get distracted from our breath, we gently bring them back. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes straight, and you’ll be in a completely different frame of mind.
- Questions and Answers. The nature of writer’s block is a disconnection from our story and characters, right? So let’s open up the lines of communication and get it back by whipping out a legal pad and hand-writing questions and answers about what’s stumping us (no computers for this exercise). If it’s a plot issue, write something about “how could this incident have happened despite these conditions?” If you’re having trouble with a character, start a conversation. Ask them why they’re so mad, or can’t figure out what to do, or don’t want to follow your storyline. I find that my characters bloom into their own, real personalities, and sometimes they have to do what’s right for them, whether I like it or not. So it’s important for me to take steps to understand them better, and sometimes I have to adjust my story accordingly.
- Images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a half dozen should easily get us through a chapter or two, wouldn’t you think? Before I start each book, I find a picture of someone who personifies each main character, and sometimes it really helps to pull them up on one of my screens and stare at or talk to them when I’m looking for answers. The same is true for settings. If a scene is going on in Paris, and I don’t know where it’s headed, I’ll pull up some images of Paris and see what they inspire. If you need more stimulation, try a little video that resembles where you are in your book. For example, if I’m having trouble writing a car chase, I might put on that scene in “The Rock” where Sean Connery steals the German guy’s Humvee, and Nicolas Cage chases him all over San Francisco in a Ferrari. If that doesn’t get me going, I don’t know what will.
- Theme Music. Do you know why Hollywood pays so much money to composers to score the perfect background music for a motion picture? Because it evokes emotion and immerses us in the moment. So, if we hop onto iTunes and buy the soundtrack for a movie that has similarities to our book, it simply has to get us in the right mood. Let’s use the example of “The Rock” again. Since I write action/mystery/suspense novels, that soundtrack can really get me going.
- Distraction. Everyone knows it’s occasionally necessary to take our mind off the subject at hand to get more clarity. But I think mindless activities don’t help because a portion of our brain is still actively trying to solve the problem. I suggest truly engaging our consciousness elsewhere, thereby blocking our thoughts from the issue so we can come back fresh. For me, this is a good time to work on other book-related activities like marketing, blogging, cover designs and book trailer concepts. It all has to be done, so we can’t possibly feel like we’re spinning our wheels.
Not everything works for everyone, nor does anything work all the time. But I encourage you to try a few of these recommendations when writer’s block leaves you stranded and let me know how they work for you.
The Jack Lazar Series has it all from mystery and suspense to action, humor and romance
Jack heads to Egypt to investigate a crash-landed World War II fighter plane that was recently discovered in the middle of the Sahara. But something remarkable was left onboard, and people will stop at nothing to possess it.
An Egyptian Girl with Blue Eyes? Just Stunning.
But Jack soon finds himself in the middle of a hornet's nest as he becomes enthralled with Dalia, an exquisite woman of Egyptian and English descent whose father is the Egyptian Head Consul to the UK, not to mention a formidable ex-agent with the Mukhabarat. The man's skills and weapons come in handy as he and Jack join forces to battle a faction that has plans to kill millions of innocent people and subject the world to their twisted ideologies.
A Race Against Time
The trail leads to Northern Europe as all hell breaks loose. And before long, it's up to Jack and Jack alone to cheat death as he struggles to save Dalia, her father, and scores of unsuspecting people from the plot of a deranged madman.
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Genre – Action, Mystery, Suspense
Rating – R
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