How To Beat Writer’s Block Like A Boss

My previous blog post was all about where I get my ideas from so I thought it only fitting to address the problem of what to do when you’re lacking inspiration to get those very ideas written out. Writer’s block is a common foe to us wordsmiths and also, one of the trickiest to overcome. Or so we choose to believe. So how do we go from Exhibit A to B?

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There are a few ways to remedy the infamous block, ones that have proven quite effective for me in the past. Here are a few general things to try when you get stuck.

  • Distract yourself from the distractions: Focus on your writing and writing only. Often times, writer’s block stems from having too many things on your mind that keeps you from finding the space and correct mood to get the words flowing. In that case, get all those prior engagements done with and create a distraction-free zone for yourself. That might require a little more discipline, especially if you have a lot on your plate from work or uni. Create a routine that works for you and stick to it.

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  • Take a break: If you’ve got the time write but you’ve been sitting there, trying to muster up the words to start your next big hit for over an hour – stop. Stop right there. Forcing yourself to get the words out never works because of that big bad P word – PRESSURE. It ain’t good for your heart and it certainly ain’t good for your writer’s soul. Take a moment to leave the words that won’t come out and go out for a walk, play with your pet, listen to your favorite music or make a good cup of hot chocolate (or whatever floats your boat). You might already have the space to write but it certainly shouldn’t feel like a prison.
  • Stimulation is key to get the ball rolling: The innuendo-lover in me is trying so hard to keep her comments to herself but this point is pretty important. Maybe you’re completely in the zone but you just don’t know where to start. In which case, engaging yourself with sources of inspiration could be your solution. Read a book by your favorite writer or watch a TV show or movie in the same genre as the piece you’re working on. Talk to your friends and family and gather ideas from them too. Interacting with the environment around you can often help visualize what you want to do with your work.
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If you’re stuck on a particular scene or can’t seem to get around a certain development in your story, there are a few more writing-specific solutions that you can try out.

  • Rewrite the scene from another character’s POV: I was stuck on a scene where my protagonist comes face to face with the villain for the first time and no matter what I wrote, the interaction between the two just came out chunky and weird. It felt so off. I was so focused on capturing her emotions, I realized what was missing was his part of the formula. So, I re-wrote the scene from villain’s POV and it helped me discover exactly what I needed to fill in the missing parts of the equation. Although that didn’t make the final cut for the story, it helped me get over the speed-bump. If you feel there’s a missing element somewhere, try and find it.

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  • Hit backspace till you’re comfortable to start again: Let’s say you’ve written the first page of your new chapter but you’re finding yourself unable to keep going. Everything was going well right up to that point. Try cutting something out and rewriting that part in different words to get back your flow. Maybe the last paragraph or two, or even the entire page. I guarantee you, your second rewrite will beat your first. It’s like trying on new pants. You just need to find the right fit.
  • Pull a Leo: And by this, of course I’m referring to the one and only Mr. DiCaprio. He’s infamous for his method acting and dedication to stay in character (Django Unchained anyone?). Try and get into your character’s shoes. Live a day of your life and approach everything the way you think your character would, see it through their eyes. Just don’t go extreme and kill anyone or uh…rub a gash oozing your blood over someone’s face. Nothing that’ll get you arrested, basically.
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And if all else fails:

  • DO ABSOLUTELY           .

(Get it? No?)

Do nothing, my friends. 

Sometimes, you just gotta wait it out. If you’re not feeling up to writing at that very moment, it’s absolutely fine. You should allow yourself to suck once in a while. We all need some time to rekindle the flames and if that means giving yourself some time off from the written word, do it.

You might think I’m contradicting everything I’ve said so far but trust me, if there’s a block that none of the above solutions can solve, it’s probably something a little bigger than you think. Got a personal problem? Are you stressed out from work? Did you watch Infinity War and find yourself unable to come to terms with reality after that ending (I feel you on this one)?

Give yourself a break and get back at it when you can but this doesn’t mean you can:

  • use self-pity as an excuse to get nothing done if it’s something you can address
  • procrastinate away because ‘you’re just waiting for your Eureka! moment’
  • find reasons not to get over it

The best solution to own writer’s block is simply: to write. 

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There’s no one out there who can write the way you do – so go. Don’t try to do perfect, just do you.

Be your own muse. 

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Where Do I Get My Ideas?

From everything and everywhere.

^^ That would be my answer in its vaguest form, but honestly – there’s not much more to say.

Growing up, I had this little jar which I proudly dubbed ‘The Imagination Sanctuary’ consisting of story ideas I came up with on the go scribbled onto bits of paper which were then neatly rolled up and placed inside. Whenever I felt like working on a new project, I would reach in and grab a chit, and get to work.

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A little Jack Sparrow never gets old. 

Over time, the jar was tossed and replaced by a Word Doc spanning several pages. Not nearly as magical, but it did the job and continues to be sanctum to hundreds (I’m not kidding) of novel ideas I’ve come up with – ranging from fantasy to sci-fi to romance and even childrens’ books. Whether I get them all written out is another story.

I draw inspiration from everything I see on a day to day basis and leave my brain to do the rest of the work. A lot of my stories are imaginings I concocted while being bored out of my mind in the middle of a lecture in school.

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Others are rooted in dreams I’ve had that I jotted down the moment I woke up so I wouldn’t forget the potential they had to be written out. One of my sci-fi story ideas consisting of an alien invasion and intergalactic characters with special abilities was spun from a visit to the dentist and my lack of fondness for modern medical equipment.

So there’s absolutely no restriction on where inspiration can strike from. Although I do have a few tips on how to cultivate a more ‘idea-friendly’ environment for yourself apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned:

Knock yourself out with bingeing on TV shows and movies: this can do wonders. What better way to gain inspiration than from successful and entertaining productions that have engaging characters and good scripts (I hope)?

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Read, read, read: consume the written word like nothing else before it. I used to read a  lot as a kid (the luxury of time having robbed me blind of this satisfaction now). Read genres you love, classic and well acclaimed writers to see why they’re so good and new ones to discover what’s happening in the genre as of late. I’m heavily influenced by the books I read and it helped me become better at the genre I dabble in.

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Your social circles: a lot of the oddball humor and witty dialogues that come out of my characters are directly in relation to my interactions with my close friends and parents. I even based Helena, a supporting character in my story The Closer off of my best friend. It helps to observe the people in your life. After all, your characters are human too. (Or not in case you’re writing about shiny blood-sucking vampires or something. In which case, I sincerely hope yours will be more interesting.)

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The news and whatever’s up in the real world: fun fact –  Suzanne Collins came up with The Hunger Games when she was flicking between two channels; one showing some reality tv show similar to The Bachelor and the other broadcasting latest news about the Iraq War. She fused the two together and BOOM: a worldwide literary sensation was born. Of course, she had to squeeze in a-looot of work in the middle somewhere.

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Writing communities really do help: I talked in detail about this in my previous blog post but being part of one can boost thinking levels to a whole other planet. You get to mingle with writers in similar genres and absorb feedback and criticism on your writing. This not only helps you grow more ideas but improve as a writer too.

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And to save the day if all else fails, Google it: this is self explanatory but a search engine that can produce an endless list of helpful resources is pretty much a modern day magical wizard substituting as one’s muse (except it’s really no magic here but next-level algorithms and mathsy stuff).

In short, like I said at the start, I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. It’s really just a matter of paying more attention and being receptive to your surroundings. Heck, the next time you’re at the bus stop or in a cafe somewhere, I dare you to eavesdrop a little on the conversations people are having around you. There’s bound to be a hidden gem somewhere.

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I’m Still Around.

It’s been a little over a month since my last blog-post, and the reasons for this hiatus are multi-fold (is that even a word?)

Since my return to Bangalore, I’ve been struggling to keep balance of the chaos that has taken over my life again. To think I had actually missed it during the dull, rather monotonous course of my summer vacation, huh? I would give anything to go back to sleeping all day and binge-watching animes now that the stress of senior year has kicked in.

The first couple weeks of college had me busy right off the bat with the start of CIMA classes (this super fancy but tough management accounting course I’m doing). My return to early morning lectures at 6:30 coupled with unhealthy sleeping habits of only four to five hours wasn’t missed at all. Coupled with my determination to keep working on my novel on the side, the constant sleepiness and struggle of juggling everything is proving to be quite difficult.

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My first two Sundays back were spent shuttling to an exam center twenty kilometers away from my house. And in Bangalore traffic, that translates to a day-long journey. Today is the first real Sunday I’ve had off since uni started up again and I’ve spent 99.99% of it doing absolutely nothing.

It’s liberating really – having the looming responsibility of all these tasks over my head but choosing to take the high road and be utterly useless (ha). I’m sure my wise decision to procrastinate will come back and bite me in the ass later, but that’s a story for another day.

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This post is to tell you all that I am very much alive. I can’t make any promises on how regularly I’ll be able to post on the blog as I’m still trying to figure out a working schedule that’ll keep all the aspects of my life in check – studies, family and social ties and of course, my writing. With the former taking up most of it, it’s going to be a challenge. Nevertheless, I shall try to commit to weekly blog posts. I am yet to complete my travel diaries to Munnar so that shall be my first priority!

So, until next time!

Beatrice