Beating Writer’s Block

“Help! I have Writer’s Block! Woe is me! What do I do?”

Staring at a blank page.
(C) 2019, JJ Shaun

I’ve seen this written out on the interwebs a lot in the past few weeks. So, what do you do when you have Writer’s Block?

When I have a determined block—well, aside from procrastination, which is my biggest writing demon—I’ve been known to sit at the keyboard and just write in a stream of consciousness mode. In other words, I write whatever happens to bubble to the top of my brain. If I bother to save it (OK, I save everything), I sometimes find nuggets that I can use in later writings. Most of what I write is drivel, but at least I’m sitting at the keyboard writing (#AmWriting).

On the other hand, I’ve recently read some articles that give credence to some ideas I hadn’t considered. Before I go on, I need to make a confession: I’ve carried a subscription to Writer’s Digest since I was in college (don’t ask, it’s been a day or five), and it is one of the few magazines that I read through every month.

Over the years, I’ve gleaned a lot of information from seasoned writers of all stripes—freelancers, novelists, editors, agents, teachers, poets. While I haven’t used the online resource as much as I could (OK, at all, I’ve had to pick where I spend my time), I found that the website is simple to navigate and the writing prompts page is easy to find.

It’s natural to get a writing block when you’re so intently focused on your story that you write yourself into a corner and aren’t able to find a way out. That is where writing prompts come in. I did a quick search for “writing prompts,” and good ol’ Google spat out some 25 million websites for me to peruse. I clicked on a couple on the first page and found this gem, and another that looks even more promising—this site offers a couple of hands full of categories for you to explore. I could add weblinks for the rest of this post, but you get the idea. If you aren’t too keen on someone else’s idea of what to write about, 9 Weird Ways to Beat Writer’s Block on my most recent visit to the site, has tips on other ways to move your writing forward.

My biggest problem is fighting my way out of my own procrastination. On the other hand, the characters that coexist in my imagination generally insist that I sit down daily and give them the attention they deserve—after all, I’ve been neglecting them for way too long. And because I play D&D with the family, I’m also working on a campaign to start when the kids get tired of DMing and want to play. It’s not like I don’t have at least six projects in the works right now, it’s a matter of who is clambering for my interest the loudest. Frequently, more than one of my imaginary friends demands my attention, then I end up staring at my phone, or playing solitaire.

Another way I ignite the writing spark is to begin transcribing the notes from our last D&D game to the computer. I keep a notebook, along with my character sheet, in which I record some of the significant events that occur, mostly during our battle scenes. Over the years, I’ve discovered that everyone keeps game notes of some type, and those notes can not only provide insight into a character’s personality or mindset, they also give me a more complete picture from the characters’ view of the situation. So, at my table, I’ve been known to provide a notebook (or at least a sheet of paper) and writing utensils to each player at the beginning of each session.

Then there are the times that a story just comes to me, and if I sit down at the keyboard and capture it right away, I end up with the bones of a great story. It happened to me this week. I penned a 300-word flash story after seeing an ad for a flash fiction contest in one of the magazines I read. I’ve never submitted to a writing contest like this, so I think I’ll run this story by another writer friend of mine to see what he thinks.

For me, Writer’s Block is one of two things. I’m avoiding writing a hard story (I have a feeling that if I write the story that won’t leave me alone, I’ll dredge up some issues I’m not sure I’m ready to face). Or I’m looking too far ahead at what I still need to write (and I paralyze myself at the mountain of work it will take to complete the tale). I suspect it’s a bit of both.

In the meantime, I know my subconscious is weaving the story, I can feel it solidify in my mind. For the moment, I procrastinate and find other imaginary friends to write about because they are safe. But soon, I will need to take the bones of the story and place them into words. When that happens, you will be among the first to know.

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