April 6, 2013

The benefits of not writing often (or how I avoid writer's block)

You've undoubtedly seen the movies or heard the stories of the writer with writer's block. They sit in front of a typewriter, a laptop, or a notebook for hours, days, or weeks, but their Muse doesn't speak to them. Sometimes they seclude themselves so they can concentrate. Sometimes they go crazy. (The Shining or Secret Window, anyone?)

I don't have to worry about that (and my family doesn't have to worry about me turning into the next Jack Torrance) because I rarely get writer's block. My secret? I don't write often.

I envy those who can spend their entire day writing. I wish I could churn out a new novel every two months. Unfortunately, because I have a full time job and family commitments, I only have a few hours a week to write. However, when I do write, I try to make the most of it. The key, I've found, is that I think about writing all the time. Whether I'm stuck in my daily two-hour commute, working out, or sitting in one of my many meetings at work, I'm constantly thinking of my current work in progress or new story ideas. I flesh out my next scene, and sometimes the next chapter or two if I'm particularly inspired.

Then, when I finally sit down to write, I already have a pretty good idea of what to put down on paper. Since I usually have only an hour or less to write at any given time, most of it is spent jotting down what's already in my head. Then I spend the next day or two thinking of the next scene, and I'm ready to write again. Admittedly, there are times when I still haven't figured out a particular plot point by the time I put pen to paper, but those are rare occasions.

This method has worked well for me for the past two and a half years. But what if you are one of the lucky writers who have time to write all day but struggle with writers block? Maybe the key to unblocking yourself if to stop writing. Get away from your desk. Walk around. Take a shower. Do something else. Many of my best ideas hit me when it's churning in the back of my mind and not the focus of my current activity.

Oh, one thing that doesn't seem to help me: spending my time on the Internet. I almost never make progress on my stories when I'm busy surfing Facebook, Twitter, or the dozens of blogs I follow. :-) Damn you, Tim Berners-Lee, for inventing the biggest time suck in the history of mankind!

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