For my first couple years as an author, I couldn’t keep up with my ideas. My brain overflowed with plots and scenes, characters who screamed for me to tell their stories. I wrote as fast as I could, feeling like a hamster on a wheel. It seemed at the time that I’d never catch up to the endless supply of stories bubbling up. This past year I’ve experienced a series of stops and starts with my writing.
A nudge from within pointed me in the direction of writing something besides erotic romance, but I’m not in a groove for that, yet. I took a stab at writing a children’s book (middle grade) and since I couldn’t rely on sex to fill the pages, I replaced sex with action sequences. I’m not sure that worked. Also, I am used to writing conflict between the hero and heroine, so instead I had conflict between the main character and his best friend. Except–oops–in middle grade books, friendship is usually sacred. Not that there aren’t many MG books about friendship troubles, but I realized it didn’t work in my story. I needed the friends to be tight. Instead of cleaning up the book and moving onto something else, I shut down and shelved it.
It’s a terrible thing when you pinch off your creative flow. I think part of my problem with that book, was trying to see it through an agent’s eyes (since unlike romance, children’s lit is still dominated by the top five publishers). I brought an extra layer of self-criticism to the party, and by the time I was through I didn’t have a clue what was good or bad, or even what was up or down.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated incident. I had several other moments this past year where I just felt like I was wading through mud to finish a manuscript. I lost perspective on the story and my writing and muse shut off. Most recently, I was under a deadline for a Valentine’s anthology. In retrospect, I can see that I created a perfect storm. For one thing, I had the pressure of a deadline, which always creates unnecessary stress.
Then I started reading a lot of books. I usually find inspiration from reading my colleague’s books, but in this case it backfired. For one thing, I was immersing myself too much in other author’s worlds instead of one of my own creation. For another thing, I stayed up way too late at night reading. Missing the normal hours of sleep meant I didn’t have that early morning fantasy time when I usually start dreaming up scenes for my characters. To add to the storm, my dad gave me an early Christmas present of a 14-disk audio series of lectures on writing fiction. That also should have been awesome, but it wasn’t. Listening to the “expert” talk about writing just brought an added cloud of doubt to my already stymied imagination. And, I realized later, that I was listening in my car, which is normally the place where my characters can run wild in my head and play out scenes for me.
So what do you do when you’re stuck?
- Identify which times/activities in your life allow you to noodle on your stories/scenes. In my case, I realized driving in my car is a fertile time period, so I need to keep that space open.
- Find inspiration in a book, show, movie, real-life story.
- Avoid “over-filling” your bucket with other people’s stories. If you get steeped in the energy of someone else’s creation, it’s hard to find your own story’s energy again.
- Remove pressure. Deadlines suck, but we all know that the more we focus on them, the more panic ensues. It’s a tricky balance of keeping your nose to the grindstone without keeping your eye on the clock.
- Have sex. No really, it’s important. It’s just as important as going to the gym or taking your vitamins. Besides all the fabulous side-effects of a good orgasm, it feeds your erotic imagination, which, of course, you need for this gig.
- Fire your inner-editor/critic. They only confuse you. You can edit later, when you’re finished with your draft. Just ignore that red-penned bitch until you’re ready to revise.
How about you? What strategies have you found for easing out of writer’s block? Please do share!