More “Rules” for Beating Writer’s Block
First and foremost, remember there are no rules. What works for one person may not work for you. With that caveat in mind, here are a few guidelines that may help you make more productive use of your writing time.
1. Never just sit and wait for the words to come. Jump right in and engage in the writing process. Use listing, free writing, word association, automatic writing, etc. to start and to restart. Allow yourself to write badly at times.
2. Don’t be self critical, especially in the first draft stage. Look on each writing task as an experiment and an opportunity to refine your skills as athletes do when they practice. Realize that most of what you write won’t (and shouldn’t) get published.
3. Separate composing from the act of revising and editing.
4. Keep a daily journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings, hopes and expectations. Observe the world closely. Try different genre’: stories, poems, plays, essays, letters, etc., but don’t feel obliged to complete anything. Vary viewpoints and themes. Variety helps you grow.
5. Maintain a separate notebook or a file for your story ideas.
6. Consider switching to a different genre if you’re not making progress. A story with too much dialogue might work better as a play. A poem could turn out to be a picture book.
7. Outline your longer projects and do a detailed sketch of all the characters before you start. Some writers believe that planning can stifle creativity and spontaneity, but an outline which is used as a general guide can help you make more productive use of your writing time. Knowing where you are going makes it easier to get to there. And it allows you the opportunity to naturally incorporate foreshadowing, thematic elements, character development, and the resolution of conflicts into your novel.
8. For a change of pace do something physical. A hike or a bike ride, paddling a canoe, splitting wood, or shoveling snow can do wonders for focusing your mind.
9. Read both classics and contemporary work for inspiration. But try to set trends rather than following them.
10. When things aren’t going well, use your time to do research, work on story plans, and catch up on and the business side of writing: bookkeeping, marketing, updating contacts, etc.
11. Read writers’ magazines like The Writer and Writer’s Digest for success stories.
12. Use your old material to inspire new.
13. During longer projects be careful of where you stop each day. Rather than quitting at the conclusion of a chapter or after tying a scene together, stop in the middle of the action, or start the next scene, so you’ll have a good beginning point the next day.
14. Be patient. The more you write the more you improve. The more you improve the more fun you have writing. The more fun you have writing the more you want to write.
15. Keep your body healthy and your mind clear.
And remember, there are no rules.