A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks
I don’t get “writer’s block!” Never have, never will.
Why? Because I believe writer’s block is a personal exemption—a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. It’s an all-too-common fallback; a walled defense against discipline; and a self-imposed pardon for the sins of inaction. It’s a cheap way to justify a writer’s lack of incentive, drive, or passion.
It’s an escape clause for the unmotivated.
Wikipedia defines writer’s block as “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown.” I’m OK with that definition as it offers the uninitiated (the nonwriter) a way to compartmentalize and clarify an apparently common “affliction” of the writing class. My degree of uncomfortableness comes from the overt tendency of many writers to give in to this “disease.” As stated above, it’s an excuse the brain buys into—a way to justify that what you are facing is insurmountable, unconquerable, or unimaginable.
Writer’s block may be something dancing among the brain cells of other writers; but it’s something I refuse entrance into my cranium. I do that by engaging in any number of creative measures that prevent either its birth or its influence.
The list below includes a few strategies I’ve incorporated into my writing regime. Some of these are done on a regular basis as elements of my daily activities, rather than at times when I might be struck with this insidious disease. In short, I take a proactive stance to writer’s block, believing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. My secret: Make some of these suggestions a regular part of your time in front of the computer—well in advance of any potential onset of the disease. Use them before you get the disease, not when you might be face-to-face with this monster.
- Visit a library – Spend some time and read the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Write in a different place – The laundry room, a closet, the basement, in your car—it doesn’t matter. A new environment always stimulates new thoughts.
- Start in the middle of your book, not the beginning – Beginnings are always tough; middles are much easier.
- Use a different writing tool – A pencil, a crayon, a paint brush—anything that takes you out of your comfort zone.
- Set the timer – Write as much as you can about anything for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes.
- Freewrite – Write about anything bouncing around in your head.
- Browse photos – Access those photos from your vacation last year. Any book ideas there?
- Copy and type the first paragraph from a favorite nonfiction book. Close the book and pretend that that paragraph is yours. Now write the rest of the story.
- Listen to two different types of music – Smooth jazz and classic rock and roll always energize my brain cells.
- Do a different kind of writing – Write a memoir, a racy narrative, a letter to your congresswoman, a complaint to the electric company, a science fiction tale.
- Read some quotes about writing – Click on brainyquotes.com and look for writing quotes.
- Watch some funny YouTube videos – Laughter always changes your mindset.
- Write at a different time – Very early in the morning, very late at night, just after dinner, during commercials on TV, while folding laundry.
- Take a trip – Around the block, to a neighboring city, the beach, a friend’s house, a new grocery store.
- Paint – Pick up a paintbrush and paint a picture of your concept. It doesn’t have to be pretty—no one will see it.
- Write a letter to your audience – Tell them why you are writing this book.
- Have a long conversation with someone under the age of sixteen.
Tony is an award-winning author of more than fifty children’s books, including the 2018 Outstanding Science Trade Book Tall Tall Tree (https://amzn.to/2KDjDyg). He also authored Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published [“This book contains everything you need to know and understand about writing children’s books.” – 5 stars] (https://amzn.to/2tREKCa).