Building Blocks

Why do we, as writers, build those blocks around our creativity?

We do it to ourselves and you all know it. Writer’s block doesn’t really exist, yet we use it as an excuse when we’re forced to struggle and fight for the creative juices to flow.

Yes, I’ve done it. I admit it. I also admit that when I bitch about writer’s block, it is much more likely that I’m in a mental funk, unable to wrap my head around whatever character flaw I’m trying to illustrate, or stuck in an action scene that doesn’t seem believable, or at a loss as to how to transition the story from one place to the next. The writing has become hard and I’m annoyed. I’m not blocked, but rather, pissed that I have to work at it.

Sure, I’ve had days, weeks even, that I could not write a legible sentence let alone muster a new idea. But was I trying hard enough – was I trying at all?

What do you do to get around these blocks? These funks? These anti-creative moods that seem to hit us all?

If you can’t answer that question, then you’ve built your own blocks of doubt and negativity. If you can, then you probably don’t truly believe in the block as anything more than a convenient excuse to play video games when you know you should be editing that story.

(Yep, I do that too. Played all damn weekend while the boys played against the backdrop of my mind.)

Okay Pia, you say, what do you do then?

Well, I do play. I do (try) to recognize that a slow writing period can often mean I’m tired. I might be tired of writing, or just worn out in general, but either way, I need to relax when the Muse is quiet.

If play doesn’t work, then I have a variety of things I try.

1) Read. Yes, read. Doesn’t matter what genre or what form. Novels, flash fiction, comic books, blogs. Just read. My writing gets stale if I don’t read often enough. This might be the biggest ‘block’ of my personal experience.

2) Reread. Not to be confused with Read. Reread the last few scenes of the current WIP. Getting drawn into that suspension of disbelief is a great way to reawaken the Muse. Or, failing that, reread some really old stuff. (Holy moly, I actually thought this was good? This makes me want to immediately start rewriting that old crap.)

3) Pick two characters that have never met and introduce them. Recently, I took Morgan from the current WIP and introduced him to Nik from the old No Girls Allowed posts. They hit it off fabulously. Plus, Nik told me about a fight he had with his NGA beau, Leaf, so that’ll be a scene that could go in their story when I get back to writing it.

4) Bullet points. With either the WIP or a random note from my “Miscellaneous Ideas” file, I jot down bullet points on what should happen, be fixed, or would be fun to write. Just get the ideas flowing no matter how mundane or miniscule. The better ones will follow.

Last but not least, and best used with one of the other four (hence no number): music. Every character has his or her own music. Eventually. Find the band (or bands – make a playlist) that speaks to your Muse and puts you in that space in your head where your imagination wanders free.

Morgan likes Adam Lambert. My vampires like KidneyThieves. Weres, Dar Williams. Sometimes I personally would prefer to listen to something else, but the music that inspires them, does so for a reason. Listen to the words of Lambert’s STRUT and you’ll glean a bit of Morgan’s personality.

When a character doesn’t have his or her own music yet (I need to know them well to figure out their songs) then I have a default love of Placebo. My Muse occasionally takes the shape of Brian Molko, and even when not that obvious, just listening to this band can draw out a better, feisty mood. The most amusing part of listening to Placebo for writing is that I choose very different songs when I’m knocking down the blocks than I would for any other listening situation. Yes, even the Muse has her own songs.

Do you recognize when you’re building your blocks? What are your favorite ways to knock them down again? Let’s write today, dear Readers. No excuses.



One response to “Building Blocks

  • Carrie Clevenger

    Absolutely! What I used to feel was writers’ block was actually a combination of things, like a box with many locks that I have to open just so, or it’s funky.

    1. Being tired. Working far too many hours or just regular life getting in the way.

    2. Stagnating. Lack of outside socialization.

    3. I haven’t hit on the right trigger yet. (don’t worry, I’m going to explain)

    4. It’s not meant to be.

    These are just mine, mind you. Find your own obstacles. Here’s my solutions:

    1. WRITE SNIPPETS. Snippets are tiny fragments of story, or story-starters. I’m lazy and refuse to recognize quotations. Who cares, no one reads comments anyway.

    2. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. You have to have INPUT to PUT OUT. Stop snickering, cause I know how you think. But how in the hell am I going to artfully describe a fucking coffee shop if I haven’t been there in months?

    3. FIND YOUR STORY/CHARACTER’S TRIGGER. For me, it’s music. It’s like a call button for the lift to take me to the right floor, ie the right storyline. My current muse is into Jimi Hendrix and hates Jazz. Okay, I hate Jazz too, but it serves a purpose in the story which made me laugh my ass off once I uncovered it.

    Previous muses enjoyed Danzig, Tool, and NIN. Even Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. My iTunes collection looks like it belongs to a family of schitzos.

    4. KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT QUITS. Yes, we all have false-starts. 500 almost got canned because Stein was taking his sweet ass time to say a damn word to me. Never piss off a writer. Now I have to punish him some more. But he did come back after 2 months of unexplained hiatus. Other stories haven’t been so lucky. Know when to throw in the towel, but be sure to save the very best pieces for another story. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. It isn’t just for garbage.

    Oh, sorry Pia. I didn’t mean to write a novel. Does this count as writing?


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