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!
Thank you so much for this post, Renee. Writers block is a real thing and I thank you for putting your experience with it out there for us to learn from.
Thank you, Livia!!
I have been in a block for the past few months. Part is due to my illness which gets me muddled. I had a breakthrough this morning while lying in bed half awake and got some new ideas about the direction I want o go. I enjoyed your post as it was some of the same feelings.
Anyway, thanks for the insights and tips. They are so helpful.
Good post, Renee. One piece of advice to break through writer’s block that sticks in my mind is: “Give yourself permission to write crap.” It’s what I turn to when I hit a roadblock. It’s related to turning off your internal editor, which you mentioned. The trick is to get the wheels moving anyway you can, even if what you write gets totally rewritten or gets deleted.
That’s a very good suggestion!! Thank you!
Is there a way to subscribe to Write Sex Right?
Yes… at least there used to be. The site’s been recently updated. I’ll try to find it and let you know.
Reading this post is like reading something that comes directly from my head, well most of it anyway.
I don’t have a solution for my writers block problem but I just might try yours. I think my biggest mistake was taking a break from writing. I never meant it to be this long.
I felt like my youngest was growing up too fast (he was 13) and there was a gap widening in our relationship. I also have to care for my husband who has health issues and I had some (health issues) of my own. I thought I could take off the summer last year and just relax, be there for my family. It was great. Trouble was, my son went back to school in February and I didn’t go straight back to writing. I tried but I’d start something and get lost, move on to something else but I didn’t finish that either. I couldn’t get back into my tweeting and before I knew it I was playing Facebook games and feeling distant from everything.
I’m going to try to get it together in the new year, maybe now the time is right.
What has always worked for me was blocking out, in point-form or outline-form what I was going the write the next day. I did this towards the end of the writing day, but before I totally ran out of steam. That way the next morning, I always knew where I was going to put my foot forward, and before I knew it, I was off and running.