Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Ideas for Battling Writer's Block

So much of my life was spent fighting writer’s block that I have collected a few tricks which worked for me over the years. I seldom have the problem anymore and when I do it’s short-lived, like being in a bad mood or something.

Here’s the number one best advice I can give another writer – buy The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book has been around for a long time. I have a copy and have given copies away to other writers and artists as gifts for years. Cameron will teach you a couple of very simple, but very powerful exercises that will clear your head and allow your creativity to flow.

Once when I was struggling, a writer friend told me to try using a kitchen timer. Here’s the deal: you wind up a timer to no more than 10 minutes, then type away for that time period; anything from gibberish to your project. After the timer goes off, you must stop and you can’t start again for 10 more minutes. Do not break this rule. You will find that after a few tries the words are flowing and you’re angry with the timer. So put it away until the next time writer’s block is holding you hostage.

Another trick that works very well for me on a novel or screenplay is listing scenes I know I want in the project on an Excel spreadsheet – but any kind of list will work. Then peruse the list each time you sit down to write and see which scene you feel like working on. This really works well for me in fitting the mood I'm in to the right scene - funny, clever, sad, light or dark. I use my mood to enhance the right scene. I get a lot more writing done when I work this way.

Similarly, if I have a strong beginning and ending, I work both ends at the same time, and then fill in the middle.

The “trick” that really isn’t has been the most powerful thing in my writing for the past couple of years. I wrote Red Mojo Mama to the Michael Buble Crazy Love CD. In fact, I wore the CD out and had to download a copy to my computer because I’m working on the sequel right now. My heroine comes out to play to this music. I don’t know why. I’ve tried other CD’s. She kinda likes Al Green, but when Michael starts belting out “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight” she’s 100% there. I don’t what will happen with my next heroine – Victoria – she may like something completely different. But I would urge you to see if you can find something musical to trigger your muse. It almost feels like a Pavlovian response – but in a good way.

That’s my personal arsenal against the eternal enemy of writers – the evil “block” monster. I hope one or more of these will help you.

NOTE: The promised YouTube social media list is almost done. Expect it next weekend.


  1. I agree 100% with the music 'trick.' In fact, I have a number of playlists (at that cover many moods. Romantic, sad, happy, silly, Christmas, oldies, REALLY old oldies (for when you go way back in history)...because I find it really does help put you in the mood for whatever it is you need to write.

    I'll try to put some of your other suggestions to work when writer's block hits. Oh wait! It's hitting NOW. Guess I'll give them a shot first thing in the morning. :)

  2. :) So many posts coming up on the subject of Writer's Block right now! (I just wrote one last week on the 11th! It was also published on the WriMo FTW blog... It is a topic near and feared in the hearts of so many writers - especially those that are participating in NaNoWriMo.

    I find it fascinating - how some people absolutely thrive with background music playing, and those (like me) that require silence for the process.

    Great post!


  3. Great post and advise, Nancy. I probably shouldn't say this-- to guard against bad luck- but I've never encounter a time I couldn't write. I have stopped from time to time because of my location or situation but my muse is alway by my side.

    One problem I do have is blazing away for 60,000 words and then the story take a bad turn and I put it away for later. I think of it as something to do on a rainy day.

    I have a big list of rainy day projects and maybe that's my defense against writer's block

  4. I can't believe I just called you Nancy. Kathy, Kathy, Kathy!

    I hope you'll fix that so I don't look like an idiot! Kathy!!!

  5. I, too, find The Artist's Way very helpful - only thing, I hate waking up so early to do those blasted Pages! But, going scene by scene is a good idea, too!

  6. Dannie - You could never look like an idiot and my mother's name is Nancy, so it's all good. Members of my family often slip and call me Nancy.

    Linda, Kristy and Janece - thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. I'm always thrilled to hear other's thoughts.

  7. The music one is great - I do the same thing. I have a soundtrack for my stories and as soon as I turn that music on the words come.