Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mental Constipation

Since it has been a few days since I blogged about anything writing related, I thought I'd discuss every writers worst fear -- WRITERS BLOCK.

Now I've never had what I'd consider true writers block, which as i define it would be having a desire or need to write but not being able to conjure up a subject, characters, plot, or even an idea.

But I do sometimes have what I'd describe as writer's hurdle. I can see and imagine where I want to go, but there is some time of obstacle between me and the finish line. An impediment between the thoughts within my noggin and that flashing cursor on my computer monitor.

When this happens and I find myself staring at a blank screen for ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes I have a choice to make. Forget trying to get it right and just get something down. Sometimes this works and I write myself over the hurdle. If that doesn't work I have a few other constructive tactics that help, playing solitaire, hearts or free cell is not among them.

1) Listen to music. I favor Texas songwriters who tell a good story through their lyrics. Such as Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, Cory Morrow. But I like nearly all types of music as long as the person singing actually writes the majority of the songs they perform. I have very little respect for the pretty faces that have decent enough voices but no heart behind their songs. But don't get me started because that is another blog for another day.

2) Read. Diving into a good story and getting involved with someone else's characters sometimes allows the voices I created to become clearer.

3) Drive. A good long car ride by myself is always good for my writing. But maybe not for the other drivers on the road once I get my mind wrapped totally around the story in my head.

4) Shower- A really long hot shower has away of melting away my mental barriers and allowing the flow to resume.

So how about the rest of your writers out there? Do you get writer's block or writer's hurdle, and how do you combat this hideous disease?

Jerry does his MS Telethon. Whoopi, Billy, and Robin host Comic Relief, Willie puts on Farm Aid. Where is Writers Relief and who should be the big name behind it?


Frank Baron said...

Being blocked is rarely a problem for me. My #1 writing bugaboo is procrastination. Somewhere along the way, writing became work. (Probably when I decided to try to make my living at it - duh!)

I'll do just about anything, up to and including housework, in order to avoid sitting at the keyboard.

By the way, I 100% agree with you about singer/songwriters although there are a few performers who do a fine job interpreting others' music in a heartfelt fashion. I feel the same way about movies and often seek those small movies which are written and directed by the same person. I want the writer's vision/thoughts/emotions translated the way its creator intended.

Time to vacuum. ;)

Frank Baron said...

Oh, I forgot.

Nice bass.

David said...

I like the phrase "writer's hurdle." It's descriptive of that problem. I've also had that, but not writer's block.

Some sf writer, I can't remember who, used to recommend writing anything, even a string of nonsense words, just to get the juices flowing again.

I have two tactics (which sometimes work, even!). One is to skip that part of the book and work on another part. The second is to try not to look at the whole section that's become a hurdle and instead nibble away at some small part of it. After getting rid of enough small parts, what's left tends to come into better perspective and be more easily handled.

But this only applies if the hurdle is a section of the book and not some other, non-book problem.

Bluefingers said...

Hey Travis...i have struggled over hurdles upon hurdles esp. with the latest WIP. And taking the advice of you...helped. Start looking at the story from a different pov, or trying to just get something down on paper.

For me, I listen to music. A lot like what you recc. And then I try the prose drills. Taking a particularly wonderful passage of prose from one of my fav. books or authors and then copying it until my hand can write no more.

Works most times. And if I can't get into the story I can usually start another one or write in a different story I have had on the back burner.

I think if you have enough projects going, you should never have writers blocks. You can just pick something to work on and go from there. Usually my characters pick where I am going to work for the day.

Also, one of the other things I have always done that has helped me focus, is to do something which takes no focus. Like folding laundry, sorting a deck of cards, coloring in a childs coloring book. helps too..



alternatefish said...

Usually I try to just ride the blocks out by doing nothing and letting them die a natural death. This sometimes means I don't write for a few days, but since when I do write I tend to get 2-3000 words in an evening I don't feel too bad about this.

See, usually when I have true writer's block (a term I don't actually use because it sounds so...painful--BLOCK!!) the problem is that I don't know what happens exactly next, and walking around for a few days not writing will clarify that and then I can write it.

Some other things that help me, if I'm just at what you call a hurdle (I know what happens next but the words just don't work): Beethoven (really really loud--the only way Beethoven works, really), walking around my room talking to myself pretending to be one or more of my characters (and then convincing my roommates not to call the straitjacket people), reading a page or two in five or six books in the hopes of having a word or phrase spark something in the back of my brain.

Sometimes this stuff works...

alternatefish said...

Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.
--Steve Martin

A lot of people share his opinion that writer's block doesn't actually exist. Some of them are pretty sneery about it, calling blocked writers "lazy." I do not like such people.

Travis Erwin said...

Thanks to everyone who has chimed in on this, and an extra thansk to Frank for noticing my fine bass.

David I wish i coudl skip ahead whne I'm stuck but I guessI think on linear terms because that is the only way I can write. Franks I to procrastinate but there has to be a better way to waste time that with housework. And don't worry Bluefingers I'm not really stuck, just shy on time. And Fish, love the quote, but who needs an excuse to drink?