On The Block

No, I’m not talking about heads. Thank goodness. That would be gruesome.

No, my subject today is worse, my friends, worse by half. I’m talking about good old fashioned writer’s block, that fearsome dragon whose ugly head rears at the best of times and the worst of times, forcing you to resort to trite cliches like ‘best of times and worst of times’ and ‘fearsome dragon whose ugly head rears’ and generally preventing you from writing anything awesome or inspirational because you can’t see past the old ideas, the cliches, the tried-and-true phrases that are lamer than a camel with a broken back.

Cliche though it might be, writer’s block can spring on you at any time, anywhere. You might be flying along, chapter by chapter, spinning words more deftly than Penelope at her loom, when you hit a wall and you suddenly can’t go any further. Your caffeine high is over and it’s not time for a beer yet. You’ve exhausted your ‘idea tank’ and need to refill before you can go any further. What’s a writer to do?

Here’s a few ways I’ve taught myself to get over writer’s block. These are tried and true tricks, vetted by everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Kurt Vonnegut to Amira K. Makansi. (See what I did there?) These five easy-to-follow tips will get your mind off of why you’re not writing and get you back on track to pound out that manuscript.

1) Take a walk. No, seriously. Go out and get some fresh air. Take your dog (or cat, if you’re into cats on leashes, which probably means you’re a weirdo) on a walk and let the ideas percolate. Stare at the trees, the sky, the grass, the flowers. Instagram some pretty picture and remind yourself that there is beauty out there in the world. Getting away from your computer, notebook, typewriter, or dictation-machine will do you worlds of good. Besides, everyone knows exercise is important, right?

2) Re-watch one of your favorite movies, TV shows, or BBC specials. I find that whenever I’m seriously in the trenches, battling the gruesome enemy across lines of barbed wire and mustard gas, re-watching one of my favorite flicks brings new plot ideas, snippets of dialogue, or character traits into my mind, and it’s easy to motivate myself to sit down and incorporate those into my manuscript.  Plus, it’s always inspirational for me to watch some of my old favorites – it reminds me of what I aspire to. 

3) Eat. Eating is inspirational. I promise. So is cooking, for that matter, which is maybe an even better idea. You’ll be stirring that soup, looking at those lentils and peas and carrots and suddenly ideas will congeal before you like blood pudding in an intestinal lining. The words will start to flow like your dad’s nose eating spicy Thai curry. What do you mean, I’m not inspiring you right now?

4) Drink. Nothing gets the words flowing like a few beers or glasses of wine. Just be sure to get out that red pen tomorrow – trust me, the typos, grammar mistakes, and wait-but-I-thought-that-line-was-genius-last-night lines will make that absolutely necessary. (Normally I’d say, “knock yourself out,” but in this case, please refrain.)

5) Sit down at your computer and type. I don’t care if it’s drivel. I don’t care if it looks like infinity monkeys wrote it. I don’t care if it accidentally writes a computer program that destroys the known universe. Nothing beats back the bad-block news like pounding out words, even if they’re meaningless, even if they’re useless to the overall arc of your story. Something will come from it; some idea, a phrase, a character, that will be usable later and will help you get your game back. Nothing beats writers block like just plain sitting down and beating the shit out of writer’s block.

So, there you have it. Easy, right? Now jump back on that horse and don’t cry over spilled milk! It’s time to get some writing done.

Special thanks go to @AwakeBlackWoman for inspiring this post!