A Writers’ Block Troubleshooter

Don’t Expect Perfection

A lot of times what stops me from writing is realising that the perfectly formed scene in my head will not spill forth onto my page with immediate elegance.  I end up writing clunky and pointless sentences like “She walked down the corridor and opened the door, afraid.”  It makes me frustrated, and I sit there thinking of the perfect way I actually wanted to express myself, despite not knowing the rest of the scene yet.  I may know the end, but the only way I can get there is straight through the awkward middle, coming back to fix the awkwardness later.  Artists make sketch lines.  They come back and smooth them out later, only once they can see the entirety of the thing they are trying to draw.

Feed Your Brain

Do you have the desire to write but not know what to write about?  Make sure the brain is nourished so your ideas can grow there.  Read novels, especially the ones authored in the style you want to use.  Watch movies and figure out what makes them work or what makes them fail.  Find topics that interest you and learn about them through videos, articles, visits to the museum.  Talk about your ideas with a friend.

Write Anything

If the ideas don’t come, learn how to write without them.  Write about your day.  Write about what you wish you could write about.  Write lists about the worst meals you have ever eaten, or the most useless superpowers you can think of, or your top celebrity crushes.  Write about what you are doing or thinking right now, even if it’s only “la la la what should I write there’s a spider on my wall”  Write anything because it keeps you fluent, and when you are fluent you won’t waste the good ideas when they reveal themselves to you.

Set Yourself Goals

Maybe writing feels pointless, like you are throwing useless words into a bottomless bucket, forever.  This is especially likely to happen with a long project in its first draft.  If so, make sure you know where you’re going, and set yourself milestones to help you get there.  If it’s an overall level of productivity you need, try setting yourself a word count.  If you are lacking a sense of urgency, set yourself a deadline.  If it’s a sagging story, try show it in a brief form – a line by line summary, an elevator pitch, a diagram of the shape of your story, with its rising and falling action.  For a novel, try this for the entire book or broken down chapter by chapter.

Fix Your Environment

Some writers say you should be able to write anywhere, with anything.  A tiny notebook with a blunt pencil in the middle of an abattoir?  No problem!  However, this doesn’t work for me.  A long time ago I moved into a tiny, grubby pre-furnished apartment, and the only place I had to write was a rickety table with a low, frayed dining room chair.  The heights were all wrong and it gave me backache.  I invested in a soft and adjustable office chair, and my output skyrocketed.  So make sure your environment is one that suits you.  If it distracts you or makes you uncomfortable, find somewhere else.  Maybe later when you want to boost your output further you can practice tolerance for less serene environments.  I write on the train sometimes, as long as there’s nobody sitting next to me to peek over my shoulder, and I try to ignore peoples’ incessant calls and phone noises.

Clean Your Body

Often if I am feeling unmotivated it is because it’s the weekend, I dragged myself out of bed and to my computer where I played video games for the four hours straight, and now it’s 1pm and I’m still in my pyjamas with messy hair and fuzzy teeth.  I do not want to achieve anything in this state.  But taking the time for just a few basic routines in the morning – showering, getting dressed, brushing teeth – transforms my motivation.

Just Do It

Are you procrastinating?  Stop it.

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