“Get back to writing with literary abandon.”
WHAT DO Ray Bradbury, Kathryn Harrison, Stephen King, and C&C Music Factory all have in common? Each one of them has the tools you need to wrench free of writer’s block. Yes, that’s right, beyond the conventional wisdom supplied by King and company, even the purveyors of 1990’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” can help you .
5) Have a Freewriting Word Vomit
WRITE SOMETHING, anything, without thinking. At first, this seems counterintuitive; writer’s block, after all, is the inability to write. But perhaps you are over thinking things, standing in your own way, second guessing every keystroke. If that’s the case, consider the advice acclaimed author Kathryn Harrison supplies her writing students: “Please stop thinking.”
Give yourself permission to write freely. Allow your unrestricted stream of consciousness to take control. Here are your instructions: grab pen, place point on paper, move pen. No matter what, just keep writing. Even if you’re thinking, “I have nothing to write,” jot that line down and keep going. It may ultimately lead to something useful.
4) Let the Music Move You
MUSIC CAN tap into a powerful and primal place. It is emotionally charged and visceral—powerful stuff when writing, especially when the tunes you spin match the tone of your scene. If your prescribed playlist falls short, reach for a more effective dosage: movie sound tracks.
Few musical forms conjure emotion like a well-written film score. Begin by thinking about the emotion you are trying to capture in your scene. After finding an appropriate song, close your eyes and turn on the film projector in your head. How does your character look? What is she doing? How is she feeling?
Allow the music to guide the movement of your scene. Or, in the words of “Gonna Make you Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C&C Music Factory, “Let the music take control. Let the rhythm move you.” (Warning: If you click the video below, this song will be stuck in your head for 97 days.) After a few moments, write down your observations and apply them to your scene.
3) Rewrite a Scene or Chapter Instead of Creating New Material
I KNOW, I know, you want to get that word count up. But your count isn’t going anywhere until you have something to write. Sharpening a scene is a great way to kill two birds with one pen. You can improve your story while simultaneously opening the door to new ideas. In the words of screenwriter Carlo Gébler, “The secret of writing is rewriting. It’s that simple.”
“When the worst case scenario is verifiable progress, feel free to strike a check in the win column.”
This particular strategy is one of my favorites. Even if the muse refuses to visit—highly doubtful—you will have spent your time productively. When the worst case scenario is verifiable progress, feel free to strike a check in the win column.
2) Do Some Light Research
“JUST BECAUSE you’re writing fiction,” says Writer’s Digest contributor Scott Francis, “it doesn’t give you license to make everything up.” But you don’t have to write a thesis paper to better understand a subject appearing in your work. All you need is a few minutes and a search engine, magazine, or newspaper. The key is to ensure that the source material is relevant to your story.
Writing a crime novel? Check out the police blotter in your local newspaper. Thinking about witches’ brews and magic potions? Thumb through a botanical treatise. Creating a private investigator who only uses the best equipment? Crack open an issue of Popular Photography to learn about the latest in image-capturing technology.
1) Read for Pleasure, Then Read Some More
YOU CANNOT be a writer without first being a reader. And since you are a writer, you probably love reading anyway. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and several author novels, advises as follows: “Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
The importance of this tried and true technique cannot be understated. Reading—lots and lots of reading—is vital to your progression as a writer. As Stephen King so bluntly explains in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”