Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blogger's Block

Today I will be writing about that Sauron to your creativity’s Frodo, that Magneto to your intellect’s Professor X, and that Jar Jar Binks to your inner fanboy’s self-respect. Today, I will be writing about writer’s block.

The irony of writing about writer’s block does not go unnoticed by me, your heroic blogger. I came up with this topic following a desperate bout with this ultimate evil that left me with a fragment of an idea and a near-concussion after applying my forehead to the desk multiple times with increasing force. Now, I wouldn’t suggest such a response to writer’s block if one can help it. If not professionally done, the Head-Desk Method will only result in blunt trauma, a trip to the hospital, and possibly a broken keyboard. So, you may be asking, how do the non-“professionals” deal with this juggernaut if we don’t wish to fork over the money for a new keyboard? Well, I’m glad you asked, as it will provide me with a post for today.

In order to battle writer’s block, we must first understand writer’s block. What is it? Why does it happen? Who created it and what’s their address? Does anyone want to go egg their house? etc.

While it varies from instance to instance and person to person, the main culprit of writer’s block is pressure. This pressure can come in a multitude of forms. It can be the pressure that builds up from having something due and as the deadline creeps ever nearer you find yourself less and less able to write; or, the opposite can occur and you find yourself unable to type a single word until there are just seconds on the clock, needing the pressure to force the words out in a single word vomit. Then there’s the pressure you place upon yourself, where you worry you’ll never be able to match up to what you’ve done in the past, getting further and further into your own head and pulling up insecurity after insecurity to haunt you and keep your fingers away from a keyboard. As I said, there are a multitude of causes of writer’s block, some more and some less melodramatic than the instances described here.

What do you worry about as you sit staring blankly at your computer screen, halfheartedly willing yourself to begin typing something—anything—but without any luck? I tend to have quite a few fears going on in the back of my mind while not-typing: fear of failure (or worse, mediocrity), fear of unoriginality, and fear of missing out on life by being stuck here at a computer screen unable to write. But—after regaining the keyboard from Freud—there are things we can do about writer’s block that don’t necessarily delve into the soul searching.

Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up over time for combating writer’s block, either told to me because they worked for others, or I figured them out myself. There are also a few mixed in that I found during some quick research that I thought could be helpful as well.

1. Take a break
I put this one first because it’s both the easiest and the hardest to accomplish. Easiest when you’re sick and tired of staring at nothing, and hardest when you’re sick and tired of staring at nothing but have fifteen more pages left to write on a paper due in six hours. Taking a break means just what it says: take a break. This means getting up, getting out, getting as far away from your writing as possible, either physically or mentally. Set a timer for yourself (I tend to go with anywhere between half an hour to an hour) and do something you want to do, and not just the little bit of fun you’ve been allowing yourself since the flow stopped. That was procrastinating, and what you need to do is take a break. You can walk around the block, take a shower, take a nap, play a video game, anything you want. While you’re doing this, your subconscious will continue mulling over your writing and when you return to your writing, you’ll be fresh with new ideas. Besides, were you really going to write during that time, or just feel bored and wish you could be writing? Be honest.

2. Just write
This one involves just turning off your internal censor and write. Just keep writing until you strike upon something that fits. It may take a while when you first try this process, but eventually your brain will get better at turning off that tiny voice inside your mind that constantly judges everything you write and forces you to be perfect from the beginning. You don’t need to be perfect right away, that’s what editing’s for. But won’t editing take more time? Do you really think it could take more time than just staring at your computer screen doing nothing? Besides, even if you don’t get around to editing, at least you have the word/page count you needed to hit.

3. Set a schedule
This one applies more towards those writing on their own, rather than those forced to write for school. Set a schedule for yourself, whether it’s “I will write every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 7-9pm” or “I will write 3 pages every day.” Either type will do, or a different schedule entirely. The time schedule will condition your brain to be super creative and in writer mode those times, getting you on your game right away with little warm up. The page count will set a deadline of sorts for yourself whereby those of you who need the pressure of an approaching deadline to squeeze out anything will get something down on the page.

4. Unplug
This one has proven itself to be, when used with number 1, the most useful tool for getting rid of my writer’s block. By unplugging, I mean disconnect yourself from everything that isn’t your writing. For me this means pulling out my internet cable and rockin’ it old skool, relying solely upon my wits and instinct to write. For you this could mean turning your phone or the TV off. It can even mean removing yourself from the computer entirely (something I’ve been forced to do at times) and going with pen and paper. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the most effective way for me to beat writer’s block, as getting to the internet now involves more than just a double-click, and instead requires a replugging of my Ethernet. I don’t know what I’ll do if I ever go wireless…

-Zach U.

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