That moment when you come to, and realize your brain froze over an hour ago. You rapidly defrost your neural crannies only to discover it’s time to pick up the dry cleaning, the curtain climbers from school, your freshly spayed dog from the vet, and the thirty-seven obscure ingredients you’ll need for the ethnic dinner party you got roped into hosting during an earlier cerebral eclipse!
You snatch up your keys, and hop out the door, one shoe on, bemoaning the fact that Writer’s Block embezzled another hour, not to mention ten perfectly good fingernails. What to do?
I’ve learned the hard way that Writer’s Block has a tendency to flare up more frequently when I’m pantsing my story. On the contrary, when I take the time (before I start clicking away on the keyboard) to wine and dine my characters, and listen to their hopes and dreams, the actual writing flows a lot more steadily. Similarly, sketching out my plot points before I begin means I’m statistically less likely to end up in no-U-turn tangle two hundred pages in. And the great part about is that you can still change things up as you go, a little freewheeling within an outline is a good thing. If you do want to delve into plotting in depth, a great resource is Structuring Your Novel by K.M.Weiland.
The issue of pantsing versus plotting is hotly debated among authors. For me, the sweet spot is somewhere in between. You can over engineer anything, including a story, and part of what makes writing exhilarating is the process of discovery as the story unfolds.
Regular exercise improves convergent and divergent thinking, the two components to creative thinking. Get that blood flowing to the brain before you start rapping away on the keyboard. Roddy Doyle, author of The Commitments, recommended that writers keep their thesaurus at the back of the garden shed. Not a bad idea, except of course it’s not 1987 anymore, and a thesaurus is only a click away for the vast majority of us. But the principle remains the same. Take the stairs. Do laps around the house when you’re talking on the phone. Elevate your computer and stand, preferably on one foot.
This one’s simple. Keep showing up at the same time every day. Eventually muscle, mind and muse will kick into gear automatically. Structure trumps paralysis. If you want to be a professional writer, punch a time card!