You know that feeling you get when you are staring at a blank page that you know is supposed to be filling up with beautiful language, only to find that nothing is happening? Of course you do, you’re Wrimos. Writer’s block can come with making writing a part of your daily reality for an entire month, whether in November, or June or August, for those campers among you.
A 2010 Psychology Today article by Dr. Bill Knaus offers ten tips for overcoming writer’s block—that sensation of creative emptiness we sometimes experience when we intend to write. Since I’m currently dealing with a bout of creative blockage (regarding what to blog about, if you hadn’t guessed), and I imagine that many of you have or will suffer the same affliction this month, I thought I’d share his tricks.
The sentences in italics are taken directly from the article; the un-italicized commentary is my own.
1. Look for your procrastination trigger. Dr. Knaus names some possible triggers, including self-doubt and perfectionism. I doubt that these are major issues for many of you, who endeavor to write entire novels in a month, but for anyone who does harbor such insecurities—don’t! We love you the way you are! And remember, no one expects you to write a good novel just yet; this is a rough draft that you’ll have eleven months to revise.
2. Adopt a reasonable perspective. Okay, this probably doesn’t apply either. I’m not even going to pretend that producing 50,000 words in 30 days is completely reasonable. But, as thousands of Wrimos have proven over the years, it is doable, and exhilarating, no?
3. Prepare to think independently. I like this one. Dr. Knaus urges you to write for yourself, not for others. Constantly worrying about your potential audience’s reaction to your work can slow you down tremendously, and, as you know, time is the critical factor during your annual streak of prolific composition.
I’d say that the need for approval inhibits your creativity as well, or at least your willingness to act on your creative impulses, because you’re too worried about pleasing others to take risks.
4. Map your cognitive-emotive-behavioral writing procrastination process. I would suggest postponing this activity until the end of June or August (or November), when you won’t be spending all your free time trying to bang out that word count. But, when you have the chance, take a moment to reflect on your typical cycle of procrastination and consider some ways to disrupt it.
5. Decide when to start, and commit to that time. This is Wrimo-appropriate advice if I ever heard it. Dr. Knaus suggests setting a time to begin writing and really forcing yourself to stick to it.
6. To boost your motivation, set up a reward and penalty system. You may already do this, but here’s a helpful hint from Dr. Knaus: administering small rewards at frequent intervals boosts motivation more effectively than does setting a bigger reward for the distant future. Small handfuls of Skittles every few hundred words, rather than holding out for that king-size bag at the end of the month.
7. Expect inertia and prepare to meet that challenge. Isn’t that the whole point of your article, Dr. Knaus?
8. Distinguish between “can’t” start and “won’t” start thinking. Writer’s block is entirely “won’t” start thinking. It’s not that you suddenly lose all mental capacity; it’s that whatever your mind produces seems stupid or boring or unoriginal. You can put words into coherent sentences no matter what, so just keep doing it. Eventually, you’ll regain that creative flair.
9. Plan for re-writes. You’re not going to pen the next War and Peace in 730.484398 hours (I needed a new way of describing this time frame). Schedule an outpouring of pent-up literary discretion for your revision period; now, your task is to write as much as you can.
10. Rather than view yourself as stuck in a writing procrastination rut, focus on the free-will component of writing. Basically, tell your free will that it wants to write a novel in a month.
You can view the article here. What do you think of these tips? What do you do when you get writer’s block? And—the secret agenda behind all of this—any ideas for my next post?
Photo by Flickr user SewPixie.