It happens to all writers. We have a tough day when the words won’t come. Or we go through life events that consume our time and focus and the writing gets pushed aside for days or weeks at a time. When we sit back down in front of the computer, the well is dry. How to get going again?
I fondly recall the torturous month I spent after accepting the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge some years ago. Sitting down and forcing out 1,700-some-odd words every day (weekends too) for thirty days made clear to me the level of commitment many classic writers possessed. As the laundry piled up, the dust bunnies multiplied and the children got tired of eating cereal for dinner, I reminded myself that those writers also had wives to handle the details of life while they hid in their studies with a typewriter, a bottle of bourbon and plenty of cigarettes. In other words, it’s doable, but not practical. At least, not for everyone.
What I learned about myself that month is that when I write every day, I build momentum. My brain begins to know what’s expected. It’s working even when I’m not at the computer. While I’m cooking, my subconscious is concocting plots, drawing characters and creating conflicts that will make their way onto the page when I sit down the next day. The conscious part knows I will be writing soon, and the subconscious steps up to the plate.
So when we can’t write every day, how do we start from zero and get going again when we have no momentum?
I’m sure each writer has their own tricks. For me, reading is the best thing I can do when I can’t write. Fabulous prose and rich stories get my mind working. My imagination fills with lush worlds and complex characters, and it helps clear the cobwebs out. Poetry also reminds me not to waste words so that when I’m ready to write, my mind searches for just the write ones to convey my thoughts.
As a last ditch effort, I like to open up an old project and do some editing. Often I’ll find a better way to say something, or a chapter that needs enhancement, clarification or more tension. And once I get going, it’s hard to stop.
What tricks do you use to break through writer’s block?