I’m currently working on a manuscript, and I get butterflies in my stomach before I sit down at the computer every single day. Will I be able to do it today? Will I know what to say next? Will it go okay or will typing each word be like pulling teeth?
Writer’s block is a common ailment. There’s a good chance you have it if doing the laundry or unloading the dishwasher sounds more appealing than writing. Here are my top three tips for overcoming writer’s block.
Don’t Promise the World
Promise an hour. Or a half an hour. Maybe you blocked off a whole day to write. Finally, right? Finally you’re making the time to do the thing you want to do. But then that block of five or six or seven hours seems enormously long. What are you actually going to write about for that length of time? Hmmm. Does my sock drawer need reorganizing? What? It’s important!
I wrote a whole article about how thinking in small increments can fight off writer’s block. I’ve actually been employing this method lately, and it works. Sure, you have seven hours. But that’s stressing you out. So promise yourself that you will write for thirty minutes. Just thirty. That means no checking social media. No chores. No Internet cruising. Thirty minutes with your manuscript.
You can do thirty. Everybody can focus for half an hour.
I find that once I get over that hump, my mind starts humming. See if it works for you. If it sounds like a game, it is. All of these tips are ways to trick yourself into getting to work.
Remember Where You Are
I sometimes get in the mode where I only want to move forward. I want to increase that word count, and I zero in on a number. If you are a NaNoWriMo person, you’ve probably been there too. Sometimes it feels like rereading what I wrote yesterday is counterproductive because it isn’t forward progress.
The thing is, if you don’t know where to start today, reminding yourself of where you left off yesterday can help. I find it difficult to remember exactly where my characters were emotionally without rereading. I also can’t help but do a little bit of editing to “smooth out” some of yesterday’s work. Doing this ensures the first draft is less “rough.” It also helps maintain tonal consistency.
A big part of my personal writer’s block is not knowing what happens next. Often it’s because I don’t remember exactly where I was in the story. I don’t remember the importance of the scene I just finished, and it all feels so overwhelming.
I find that writing regularly (daily or at least most days a week) reduces this confusion. The last scene I wrote is fresh in my mind. I look forward to taking the story to the next place. I don’t forget as many details. Plus there’s a rhythm to it that tamps down the butterflies. I have less of that “will it happen today because it really needs to happen today” anxiety. Instead I feel more confident knowing I can do it because I just did it yesterday.
At the end of the day, writer’s block is about fear. It’s fear of not knowing what to do. It’s fear it won’t be “right” or “perfect.” It’s fear that this whole writing thing is pointless. It’s fear you’ll never finish a book or this book. Getting over these worries is key to being productive. So play mind games on yourself! Your manuscript will get written with much less hand-wringing if you do.