One of the very helpful panels I attended at LTUE was titled “Breaking Through Blockages”. Sandra Tayler was the speaker. I’ve been wanting to share her ideas for a while, but as I’ve been busy putting them to use, I haven’t had a chance.
The very first thing she said was, “When you have trouble finding the time to write, time is very rarely the problem.” The reason you “don’t have time” is because you’re not prioritizing your time. How many things do you have to do in a day? Make a list of those things in order of importance. How important is watching Netflix or playing Angry Birds? (Actually, I think she said Plants vs. Zombies, but that’s not the point.)
In 5 years when you look back at how you spent your time, what will make you proud? That you worked on your book (or whatever project you’re working on) or that you binge watched a season of Psych (in case you were wondering about how I spend my time). People make time for what’s important to them. Is writing (or whatever project) toward the top of your important list?
Time may not be everyone’s block. You finally find the time to sit down and write. It’s exciting, and you’re pumped for your story. You start typing, but the words that come out aren’t doing justice to how the scene played out in your head. And a little voice comes out and tells your writing will never be good enough. It tells you to look at all the books that you read, and how they are way more polished than what you’re writing.
That’s your internal critic. That voice wants you to forget all about the rest of the writing process. It wants you to forget about how many drafts it takes to get to the final one, and all the feedback you’ll receive that will help you get to the point where it is publishable.
The other voice you’ll hear is your inner editor which wants everything to be perfect on the first go.
Learning how to silence the inner critic and editor is vital to the creative process. Reminding yourself that your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, and reminding yourself that others will help you get to the final draft will shut those voices up and help you finish that first draft. If you never write anything down, you’ll never be able to get to that publishing point. Although, there are times when your subconscious knows that something you’ve done is wrong and you can’t push forward until it’s fixed. That’s when it’s okay to go back and edit before continuing. I used to encounter that problem all the time. That’s why I had to become a plotter who maps out my novels chapter by chapter. Then I’m less likely to write something major that I don’t like.
There are other blocks though. You sit at the computer and no words come. Your mind is blank.
Experiment with word sprints. For some people, they need pressure to crank out a paragraph or two. Giving yourself a time limit and a word goal can push you through that block and get words flowing again. Some people have to do word sprints at the same time every day. Plowing through and writing crap is still writing.
Knowing when you are most creative is certainly helpful. Also, maintaining your creative energy is vital to being creative. Refuel your creative energy by watching movies and tv or reading books. Go for a run. Draw. Do something that will get you away from writing. Be aware that anything creative you do will take creative energy, so be smart about what you do. I like to study movies or books to get a sense of someone else’s creativity.
Sometimes you are just busy with school or work or family. That’s when you need to go back to your priority list to see what’s most important. If your job is higher on the list than writing, then you probably want to pour as much of your creative energy into your job rather than your writing.
Another problem is finding those in your life who are not aiding your writing. If someone is feeding your inner critic, then you probably need to cut them out of your life. Husband of mine is absolutely wonderful. When I wanted to drop out of school to focus on my writing, he supported me fully. He didn’t even want me to get a job so that I could write full time. He reads what I write and lets me bounce ideas off him. Even when he’s busy, he still makes time for me to talk at him about what my characters are doing. If there are people who don’t understand what a priority this is for you, then you need to find people who understand.
Sometimes all you need to do is talk a scene over with someone. Make writer friends. Join Scribophile. I love having writer friends that I can go to for advice on what I’m working on. My friend, Jo, who I met of Scrib, helped me figure out that I needed to take a break from Rose because something isn’t quite right with it. Her advice also matched up with Sandra Tayler’s- Work on the project that you are most excited about. You do better work when you’re passionate about it.
Remember, no word you write is ever wasted. It all helps you learn, and develops your writing. All writers are terrible. It’s the editing that makes the writing good.
Her advice was so helpful for breaking through my block last week. I was struggling so much, but I knew that if I could identify the problem, then I could keep going. I know that I’m going to be referencing this post for the rest of my life. I hope it can help someone out there the way it helped me.