“When in doubt, bury someone alive.” Edgar Allan Poe was purported to have said this as one of his five essentials for the betterment of a story. Although it’s never been confirmed, even if he didn’t really say it, he should have. So let’s figure out what Mr. Poe might have been suggesting. My interpretation is that there is always a solution to a writing issue. And one of the biggest issues new writers (and old) have is getting stuck without an idea what to do next. Poe suggests doing something drastic.
I don’t like to use the term writer’s block because I don’t believe it exists. But like most writers, now and then I wind up in a dark room with no doors. Usually this occurs in the infamous Sagging Middle as Clare so expertly discussed on Monday. Whether the idea you thought would work doesn’t or you hope the answer will emerge from the ether, you need a way to solve the problem.
So when you get stuck, what can you do? Here are some suggestions that I’ve used. Perhaps they’ll help you, too.
- Change your writing environment. I have a home office with a desktop PC. I also have a laptop. Sometimes I need different surroundings so I grab my laptop and move to another room or outside. Just the act of breathing fresh air can fire up your brain.
- Listen to music. Often I write to background music, usually a movie score (no distracting lyrics). But sometimes setting down in front of my stereo and rocking out to my favorite group can clear my head and refresh my thoughts.
- Get rid of distractions. TV, email, instant and text messages, phone calls, pets, and the biggest offender of them all: the Internet. Get rid of them during your writing time.
- Stop writing and start reading. Take a break from your writing and read one of your favorite authors. Or better yet, pick something totally out of your wheelhouse.
- Don’t decide to stop until you’re “inspired”. I’ve tried this. It won’t work.
- Open a blank document and write ANYTHING. It’s called “stream of consciousness”. It worked for James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. It can work for you.
- Write through it. Beginners sit around and hope for a solution to come to them in their dreams. Professionals keep writing. The solution will come.
- Finally, do something drastic. Bury someone alive. Works every time.
Fellow Zoners, how do you get yourself out of a writer’s corner? What drastic measures have you taken to keep the story moving?