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In a writers’ group on Facebook, I recently read the words “I lost the flow.” She didn’t know where to go next. How to get the scene in her mind down on paper. Writer’s block is something that happens to most of us. So what’s the solution?
Years ago while visiting friends who had a large parrot, my husband was told, “Step away from the bird!” He had his back to the cage and the parrot, whose previous owners had mistreated it, was leaning forward to bite. He moved quickly and no husband or bird was harmed in this story. Writer’s block bites, too, and the advice to “step away” can be very helpful.
How do we know when to step away? Here’s what works for me.
If I’m not clear on what should happen next, stepping away for a time lets ideas marinate in my subconscious. While I go about other tasks, my mind can work on the puzzle of the scene. It can mull over the character and discover what would be her most natural next step. Doing other things can give me a fresh look at the problem.
I might even work on a different writing project. Or do further research. I might play with blurbs or look up comp titles. I’ll read blogs and articles about writing. I’m a sucker for good writing quotes and collect them, and will search for them. I’ve tried writing something totally new, such as a poem. Having fun with words makes me desire to keep writing. Jeff Goins says, “You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel ‘inspired.’”
If I’m overly frustrated with how my writing is going, stepping away for a time means I won’t toss the whole project unnecessarily. Perhaps I’m simply too tired. Or hungry. Or too stressed by what else is going on in my life. Stepping away is a necessity in these cases. Or maybe, I’ve just been sitting in the same place too long and getting up and moving will help. Sometimes I need to fill up my creative reservoir by going out and doing something new and fun. Other times I get filled up with inspiration by attending a workshop or other writer event. Taking a portion of my writing to my critique group is helpful for me, too.
One of the keys about stepping away is that it is only for a time. Just as my friends didn’t give up on rehabilitating their parrot, don’t give up on your writing. Yes, some projects may just not work and they’ll be set aside. But finishing projects, reaching the end, is a goal worth striving to, and really the only way to do that is to do the actual writing.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.