Four Life Lessons From Writers Block
I have had the worst writers block ever since finishing NaNoWriMo at the end of November. I mean, last month I didn't even get a Flash Fiction Friday posted.
Usually, once November ends, I take a bit of a break from my novel. One, I love the holidays and I want to spend December enjoying them and not stressing over my writing. Two, it's always good to give yourself a break and space from a work in progress so that when you're ready to go back to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes.
Usually, this works out well for me.
January came around and I was all pumped and ready to go. I was going to have this rough draft of Vampire Snow White finished by the end of February so I could send it over to my critique partners! It was going to be amazing! I had motivation! It was a NEW YEAR! DO ALL OF THE THINGS!
Yet, here we are. It's the beginning of March, and I am no where close to having this first rough draft done. The last two months, I've been battling writers block like none other. I've re-read what I worked on in November, edited some chapters, wrote a couple of pages, and rewrote chapters. But I am no where close to where I wanted to be. More days than not I sat at my computer, looked at the blank screen, then turned on Gilmore Girls and forgot about writing.
Part of it is due to pure laziness. There's something about winter that makes me not want to do anything. Whoever thought to have people start New Years resolutions in the middle of winter clearly didn't know what they were doing.
A lot of it though was simple writers block. Every writer and author gets it from time to time. You simply have no idea what is going to happen next, or you can't picture the characters, or there's holes in world building. This is part of what you sign up for when you decide to write. Even if it's non-fiction or blogs! Everyone has those days when they sit at the computer and they can't think of a single thing to type. You just push through it and keep going until words come out.
But I've never had writers block this bad before. Or at least in a long time. I didn't know what to do other than avoid and complain. So, that's what I did.
Finally, after talking with my critique partners and getting a good pep talk and advice, I sat down the other night to work on outlining. Not writing, world building, or character development. Just write down the plot points I knew I had, then fill in the gaps from there.
At first, it wasn't easy. Once again, I stared at the blank piece of paper. Then, once I got going, I had some major revelations, which I think can be applied to other things in life even beyond writing.
1) You Have to Enjoy What You're Doing
The biggest revelation I had was that I didn't like the main plot line I was going with. Yes, it needed to be in there, and yes, it could be really awesome and fun. But, as a main plot line? No. I hated it. It was boring. I couldn't figure out what was going to happen next because I didn't like what I was doing.
Once I saw that I didn't like my plot and I could go in other directions, everything came so much easier. The ideas started flying through my head and I couldn't wait to see what else I could do.
It makes me think of Sarah J Maas' books. Yes, her writing and books have their problems, I won't deny that. But, one of the things I love about her books is that as I'm reading I can tell that she loves what she's writing about. It oozes from the pages her love and passion for it. When someone loves what they're doing, you see it in their work.
Not that you're going to love your work and every single thing about it all of the time. But if you're stuck in something and you realize that you don't like it, what can you do to be sure you do like some aspects of it? Motivation will come much easier and quicker if you find you enjoy what you're doing.
2) Don't Confine Yourself to What You Think Something "Has" to Be
I had it stuck in my head that my Vampire Snow White book had to be an urban fantasy. She was a vampire, the setting was in modern day, therefore: urban fantasy.
As I was attempting to outline, I realized that this book doesn't have to be urban fantasy. It can have many of the elements of urban fantasy, but I didn't have to stick to that alone. When I opened myself up to the possibility that this book could just be "fantasy" in general, I saw so much more of what I could do with it.
Especially when in the beginning stages of a creative project, you need to let go of the rules sometimes. Do your own thing. Shake it up. Look beyond the bounds of what things "should" be like and do what you want!
3) Change Up the Style
Another element that had me stuck in writing the last few months was that the style I was writing in didn't fit my vision for the book. It was pretty typical of some of my other books. Which is fine. Most writers have a specific style and it works.
But it didn't sound like my main character. I looked at it and kept on thinking about how this didn't feel like her.
So, I went back and rewrote my first chapter using a different style. I'm still experimenting with it, but I think it'll work. If not, I'll try it another way.
Basically, if you're stuck in something, try it from a new angle and see how it goes!
4) Allow Yourself to be Bad
This is one I have to remind myself every single time I write a rough draft. It's called a "rough" draft for a reason. It's not supposed to be good right now.
But for some reason, I, along with most writers out there, think that we can be that one in a million person whose first draft is a work of genius!
It doesn't work that way.
You're allowed to make mistakes, have things be messy, and not be perfect all of the time. No matter what you're doing, let yourself have breathing room. When we put too much pressure on ourselves for something to be perfect, we stop ourselves from getting anything done at all.
I'm not saying that my rough draft is going to go along and I'll get all of the words written right away. I will still have days when I sit in front of the computer and have no idea what to write about. But, I have much higher hopes for my progress now.
What are some lessons you've learned when you're stuck on something you're working on?
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