Creativity,  Inspiration

Hacking Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can be hell. Like insomnia or constipation. You want something to happen and it just doesn’t.

Writer’s block is like a concrete barrier keeping your car from falling down to the next floor. Not all writers have this problem but when it hits, it’s a bitch.

Lots of reasons why you can’t write. Usually nothing physical; no person is blocking you from your computer unless you have a two-year-old that wants to play or a cat that likes to sit on your keyboard.

Writer’s block is just yourself getting in the way. Or more accurately, your inner critic says things like “You can’t write that!” or “that’s just shit.” Or the more hurtful saying, “you don’t have any talent so why even bother?”

There’s lots more. Feel free to add your own as a comment.

How do you fall asleep, take a crap or write what you want to write? Like anything, it needs a helper. Warm milk, lots of fiber or maybe just a hack.

The trick is to outsmart that asshole that’s living rent free in your head and stopping you. You outsmart him writing AROUND the block.

In “The War of Art”, Steven Pressfield names his writer’s block as resistance. A multi-tooth shiny monster that sits on your shoulder and whispers how you should just stop. There’s a new show on Netflix to binge. Facebook is calling you to like stuff and argue with people about politics.

But you hear no one having “Facebook Block”

But your critic, your resistance or the asshole in your head can be tricked. Instead of writing the thing you want to write but can’t, write ABOUT and AROUND what you want to write. For instance, your first line could be, “Today I will write a paragraph in my awful story and that paragraph is about how I wanted to kill my father when I was five.”

That’s it. Write ABOUT what you want to write. Throw in as much hate and anger at the process you want. Writing this way shouldn’t trigger an allergic reaction to your writing. You can deliver a sneak attack to your critic who is waiting for you to start writing the real stuff.

There are a couple of rules you can use, taken from Natalie Goldberg’s, “Writing down the Bones.”

First Rule. Start with a start line. “Today I’m writing about” or “Today I don’t want to write about.” You can also use “Today I remember” or “Today I don’t remember” and just go. Her books have other examples.

Second rule. Keep your hand moving or keys pressing. Don’t cross out. Don’t fix spelling, grammar or if on a computer, the font.

Third Rule. To start off, set a kitchen timer or timer on your phone to countdown from five minutes to zero. Write to a short and fast deadline. Write to that damn clock counting down while Jack Bauer tries to defuse the bomb by writing as many words as he can.

If you are lucky, as you write fast about what you want to write, your critic won’t notice what you are trying to do. When they finally wake up and go WTF, they won’t be able to keep up.

Blocked about telling the secret family story that you need to tell? Fine. Write about how you don’t want to tell the story about what happened once Christmas Eve, when your mother pulled a gun on your father because he was having sex with the neighbor? Write about how bad it would be to detail how your mother found out about it and bought a gun from Walmart because they were having a Christmas sale? Write about how awful it would be to tell the world how you had to visit her in prison. No one would want to hear that.

But seriously, you can do this. Your brain is like a two-year-old. Your critic can be distracted long enough to start the process and kick his or her ass to the curb.

(and full disclosure, my mother never pulled a gun on my father, but I’m sure she considered it)

Tony Ollivier Technologist, writer, boomer, father, and a member of 10 Minute Novelists. This post originally appeared here and is used by permission.

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.