Well, it’s the new year, just barely. And if writers are anything like the rest of the world (look, we can be weirdoes, but we’re not inhuman), there’s a significant percentage of us who make New Year’s Resolutions.
Leaving aside the whole thorny issue of whether New Year’s Resolutions are worth making or not (and techniques for making them work, which I have already had my little rant about), I’m going to go ahead and make a guess that most writer-folk who follow this blog might be making New Year’s resolutions to do more writing, or editing, or whatever it is. Which means that, somewhere along the line, they’ll encounter the dreaded Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block is almost as divisive a topic as New Year’s Resolutions. Every writer sympathises with the feeling of wanting to write, but the words just not co-operating with them, but I’ve rarely seen two people attribute it to the same cause (with the possible exception of ‘just not feeling it today’). Likewise, everybody has their ways of dealing with this. Some people decide that they’re not going to write that day, because they want to enjoy writing and can’t see the point of forcing themselves to do something they won’t enjoy. Some people try to ignore it and write through it. There are rewards systems, systems for tricking yourself into being productive … everyone has a different way of dealing with it.
So, coming into the new year, with all of these grand dreams of writing more, I thought I’d address the concept of writer’s block a little.
First, I think it’s important to realise: Every profession has off days. Mechanics and builders have days when they feel like they’re moving slower than usual, doing things less efficiently. People who work reception and fast food cashier jobs have days where they swear they’ve said “have a great day” instead of “how can I help you?” like five times already and what is wrong with them today? Even the writer’s natural enemy, the office worker, has days when everything said in that meeting didn’t even make it in one ear and out the other, it vanished somewhere in between.
Second, it’s important to realise that progress works on averages. At the end of the year, you’ll look back and see the overall numbers you made (this year, I wrote n words/finished n drafts/achieved a, y and z milestones). Some days, all you can do is take that long view. Maybe today wasn’t the best for progress, but you had that really good writing session last week/you’ve got a full day off next week and you’ve got a good feeling about it. It’s important not to stress yourself out or beat yourself up about it – that won’t help you at all. In fact, it’s likely to only make things harder.
Third, as is the same with any other writing craft advice (and probably every other piece of life advice at all), Your Mileage May, Does, Can, and Will Vary. So try everything! I promise, you’ll have more than one day of writer’s block this year. If you have trouble dealing with it, try something new every time and compare how they work.
I won’t list too many techniques here, since you can go out on the Internet and find lists of fifty ideas on every node corner, but I will say that different types of writer’s block will require different approaches, so expand your arsenal and do what works for you.
Feel free to swap tips and tricks in the comments, as usual.