This week’s blog post has been really hard to write. I wrote a draft. Deleted it. Wrote another draft. Deleted that one too.
Some people will tell you writer’s block doesn’t exist. A real writer sits down, puts his hands to the keyboard, and lets the magic flow. In fact, in the main writers’ section of reddit, talking about writer’s block is BANNED. Like, if you mention it, they’ll kick you out of the thread as if writer’s block is a disease they’re afraid to let loose. They’re scared of it. Well I’m here to say it does exist, in different shapes and forms, but it can be managed.
Firstly, the blank page. The blank page is cold. It doesn’t care for me or my words. It swallows me up in a bright glare, so white and empty, and so very unfriendly. The blank page, in essence, is what every writer is afraid of: nothing. The fear you have nothing. The fear there is nothing left in you, and more than that, there is nothing worthwhile in you. This is nonsense, there’s plenty there, and it is worthwhile, because it matters to you. Passion defeats the blank page. So in that moment when you have doubts, and when the blank page seems like it’s winning, be open to yourself. Be open to possibility. So many words could go onto that page, so many different sentences, all unique and special to you and your story. Write a word. And then another. Write about the sky opening up and raining fruit loops or skittles, or a turtle that plods in and saves the day. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it sounds. They call this kind of writing freefall writing, and it’s a skill you can practice. Eventually the blank page doesn’t seem as terrifying, and you can reign in those bizarre thoughts and create a more logical story.
Secondly, the situational block. This a little more common for me. I’ll get halfway through a paragraph and can’t go any further. Hell, I might even be halfway through a sentence find myself unable to finish it. I have several techniques for this. One I talked about in another blog post; interviewing a character. Click here to read more about this.
Another technique is situational brainstorming. Take a piece of paper and brainstorm all the different immediate actions your character could take to get out of the situation they’re currently in. After you have exhausted all of the possibilities, and you have a decision tree in front of you, think about where you want the story to head. Think about which option your character would choose. That’ll help you choose the best-fit solution.
Sometimes, once you have mastered your fear of the blank page, you can use it as a solution. Take your last sentence and paste it into a new document. I always have an empty blank document saved to my desktop called ‘The Sandbox’. This is where I play with sentences, because sometimes seeing all the rest of the story stops me from focusing on the present sentence. On the blank page, it gives your brain more space. When you come up with something new that you like, and you think you’ve gotten past the block, copy and paste back into your main document. Close ‘The Sandbox’ without saving, so it’s free and empty of words for next time you need to play.