Hello again and welcome to Wordslinger. I have been working on several projects this month and was especially grateful for the ease at which the words came to me.
But it’s not always like that.
Sometimes I’ll fiddle with a sentence for ten minutes before I realize it’s unimportant to the story anyway and could’ve been discarded in favor of momentum.
Other times I’ve sat and stared at the screen, hoping that the writing fairy would bonk me on the head with her star tipped wand so I would just begin something…anything.
Writer’s block: Why does it start? How do we overcome it?
I hope to give you a few answers to both of these questions:
(By the way, every time I hear the word ‘block’ I think of all those little wooden toy blocks with painted letters on them. I only mention it because in this context it’s ironically mocking).
Many people believe that writer’s block stems from fear and inadequacy, and while I’m sure that can be one trigger, it is definitely not the cause of every day blocks that creep into our lives and sit on our hands like greedy cats.
Most causes are less ominous, more obvious: fatigue, distraction, malnourishment, and stress. (My auto correct turned my first attempt at malnourishment into ‘masturbation’).
Maybe my iPad is onto something.
Our brains, like muscles, can be either overworked or underworked and each is it’s own cause of writer’s block. You may be on a low carb diet and since the brain runs on sugar, you may just be a few Skittles or Milk Duds away from a best seller.
If you’re hungry or tired you’ll begin with a disadvantage and that will only serve to sabotage your efforts. The same goes for distraction. You have to set yourself up for success and that’s a matter of making your stomach, your ears, your back and your ass as comfortable as you can.
A note about music, (no pun intended). You may not think that you can write to music (that’s what I once believed) but the hypnotic qualities of rhythm and melody are fuel to the brain, just like giving a kite more wind. Also, it’s the chaotic, random sounds that pull us out of fictional universe and headphones can really cut down on that.
I go back and forth with using music, and of course, it depends on the project. Sometimes it’s overwhelming while other times I crave music like Pringles.
I’m glad I introduced it to my repertoire because it’s moved me emotionally and helped to capture fragile moments. You can’t go wrong with listening to something appropriate to the project but then again it’d be worth a try if you’re blocked.
Okay, let’s say you’re well-fed, well-rested, and you have peace and quiet or music and you’re not stressed…
And still nothing comes…
It’s time to get your hands moving. (And I don’t mean masturbation).
Even though you may have formulated a great tale in your head, the of translating your thoughts to something as pedestrian as text can seem overwhelming. Thinking is not the same thing as writing, so type type type. Blocks are like walls; they can be thick or thin but you have to swing at them to find out.
Even if you have to write the title of your project a few times to give your self a boost and unlock some muscle memory, allow yourself to do so. If you don’t have a title, get one. We love to label things in our brains and if you don’t have a label you won’t retain ideas as well.
Quick sidebar on two types of brain storage systems:
*Most common in men, the “Brain Box” system (as I call it) is the result of putting every stored fact, memory, or concept in it’s own container and storing it away.
*Most common in women is the “Brain Stew” method of storage, (borrowed from Green Day). This is where everything is tagged and tossed into a big common area where thoughts intermingle.
I am definitely a “Brain Box” guy, but I envy the fluidity of the female mind and try to leave my boxes open when I can. The “Brain Stew”style is tremendously helpful if you are an artist or a writer, but it does have a tendency to muddle your retrieval process.