Keeping The Creative Juices Flowing
There's no denying that there is a huge pressure that comes with writing. You want something utterly original and yours, but still relatable to your readers. You think that when you write, it has to be profound but not too intense. It has to make an interesting and unique point but it can't be too specific. It has to be funny but you don't want cheap laughter, you want to be witty. You want to give your readers epiphanies. Teach them something useful. Send them on an emotional rollercoaster. Will people get that obscure reference to the Cyodrake's Gaze Plot? Should you make a clever existential joke? Will your audience understand it? Oh, what's the point?
Folks, I'm going to dedicate this article to writer's block. If you have ever aspired to get a piece of writing published or even just out of your head and onto paper (or a screen), you'll know what I'm talking about. It's one of the most demoralising obstacles that you'll have to overcome as a writer. And it feels worse when you have a deadline. -shudder-
So let's begin with a few tips that have worked for me in the past.
1. Your environment
When I work, I have to work in silence, or the closest I can get to silence. Whether it be working on an essay or personal creative writing or an article for the Neopian Times, I can't have any audio distractions. That's why working in the library proves so effective for me. I know that that doesn't apply to everyone. I know that some people like it when you have some noise in the background, which I don't agree with but if that's what gets your creative juices flowing, then go for it! Just make sure that it's not distracting you. You should remove as many distractions as you can. Anything that doesn't help you write just makes procrastination easier. Anything that takes your attention away from your work must go!
2. Get it out
No, I'm not talking about the stray and possibly diseased looking Kadoatie that your pet found in the streets. I'm a strong believer in investing time into your work every day. Are you in a good mood? That's great! Try and get as many words out while you're in that good mood. Are you in a not so good mood? That's tough, buddy but I still want you to work on your piece, even if it's just a few words.
If the piece that you're writing is the reason that you're feeling grouchy or tired, then put it to the side. Don't abandon writing completely! Take on some side projects, that's what I do. Just write anything. You have no idea how many people advise this. Take some prompts, and go nuts! It's not hard to find single-word/sentence/paragraph prompts. Head over to the Neopian Writers Neoboards or the Neopian Times Writer's Forum if you're still looking.
As far as advice goes, this one works the best for me. Commit to writing. You don't always have to write related material. The sheer fact that you are writing something is a huge achievement! Keep your creative side a well oiled machine. Are you stuck on a plot development? Take some time to explore your main character's family instead. Flesh out little character traits. Left or right-handed? What does he/she laugh at?
Do writing exercises that aren't related to your project. Write about something that would not have you tear your hair out. Pick out anything item on your desk and write about it. It doesn't have to be poetic or artistic. Describe it. How did you get the item? What does it do? If you dropped it, what sound would it make? Disclaimer: I do not recommend actually dropping the item to find out.
Going back to reread what you've written will give you the push to set ideas in motion. Try not to go back and edit. Your priority is to write everything out first and edit later. Editing is usually a lot easier than getting your ideas out so I often find myself editing one paragraph to perfection and ignoring the fact that I only have that one paragraph and a rapidly approaching deadline.
3. Research and planning
Remember to do your research! Even for your creative stories. How embarrassing would it be if you mentioned a Transparent Peophin, when a few seconds of research would tell you that there are no such things!
Are you writing an article? Are you stuck on what your next paragraph should entail? I recommend doing some more research. Go back and visit your outline. If you don't have one, make one. It's easy: just jot down your ideas and arrange them into an order than feels comfortable. Go over your research, see if you missed anything that needs to be brought up. Simplify what needs to be said by pretending you're explaining it to a child. That usually makes it easier for you to understand as well.
It helps me when I plan out my writing. Honestly, one of the worst feelings is the one you get when you're halfway through a project and you realise that you've made a huge mistake. The kind that makes you want to delete everything and rewrite. RESIST THE URGE TO ABANDON SHIP! Firstly, you're less likely to come across this problem if you'd planned out your essay, article or creative work. Secondly, do not bin what you've done. This happened to me once and I ended up throwing everything out and starting from scratch. I can tell you, it was one of the most thoughtless things I'd ever done. Why do you dislike what you've written? Do you really think chucking the whole thing out will help you with your problem? Is there absolutely no way you can fix it? To be honest, I'd advise that you take a break. You've worked up too much stress. You've set the bar incredibly high for a first draft. Sleep on it and come back. Read what you've written, what you've already accomplished. Because I don't think there's anything wrong with your work, I think you just have writer's block.
Say, whenever you finally manage to sit yourself down and write...do you feel hungry? I mean, despite the fact that you just had dinner and two helpings of dessert, you just want something to nibble on, right? I assure you, most of the time, you are not peckish; you're bored. Keep a glass or bottle of water beside you while you work. Take a sip whenever you want to eat. Try to distinguish between hunger and boredom induced hunger. Appropriately assign yourself ten to fifteen minutes to let your brain take a break (and maybe use that time to get yourself an actual snack).
Reward yourself. I understand that feeling when writing is your passion and talent and yet, you just ugh! at the thought of it. It's so sad when the thing you love turns into a chore. When you realise that relief of finishing a long term project just isn't enough for you anymore, recognise or find other motivations. Why are you writing? Who are you writing for? Is it to entertain or inform? Or both?
I'm not going to comment on how to get an original idea because I think that it is so rare to come across a truly original idea, but I do believe that you can take an original idea and give it your own spin. If you can take a concept or thesis that everyone has, and manage to turn it into your own, you've done what most people struggle to do and I congratulate you! Disclaimer: I do NOT mean plagiarize (ie. steal) someone else's idea and try to put your name on it.
Despite how simple it is for me, or anyone else, to suggest solutions to your writings problems, it's always easier said than done. Remember what I said about the emotional rollercoaster? You forget that as a writer, you are also on that rollercoaster. I really can't claim to always follow these rules. I have those bad days where I want to crawl into bed and sleep as long as I can without it being classified as a mini-coma. Because really, I'm the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination. People think I'm joking.
I'm not. And no, I shall not recognise the irony of writing an article about writer's block.