Like most writers, I experience writer’s block from time to time (translate—pretty damn often). Sometimes it’s easy to figure out the cause. Maybe I’m about to get sick. Maybe things are extra stressful. Maybe I’m moving cross-country. (I could do a whole post about how much I beat myself up for not writing much during my recent move.)
Sometimes, though, it’s harder to figure out what the problem is. Sometimes it’s a problem with the story itself. Sometimes it’s a problem with your individual environment. Or sometimes it’s just a matter of forcing yourself to get the words out.
Other times, the only way to get the writer’s block out of the way is to just…do something else.
I’ve discovered on several occasions that if I set the writing aside and try another creative project, I often get my issues untangled. Recently, getting frustrated over my lack of wordflow, I got a sudden urge to buy either a cake decorating set or a stack of Sculpey bricks. The Sculpey was cheaper and has considerably fewer calories, so, armed with a coupon, I marched into Michael’s and bought a box of assorted colors and a book featuring Very Impressive Sculpey Art I Will Never Be Able to Do.
And I made some earrings.
Two days later, I started writing again.
Coincidence? Maybe. But I’m going forward on the theory that there’s a cause/effect relationship here. I was feeling blocked, so I looked for another creative outlet. I found one, expressed it, and in the midst of finding some form of creative zen, the words started flowing again.
It’s made me wonder if this kind of thing has happened in the past, and I just haven’t put two and two together. I frequently get obsessed with creative things. I’ll go into a craft store and buy a bunch of colored pencils, or watercolors, or a stack of pastels. One time I went on a rubber-band-bracelet kick. It’s as if sometimes my brain needs a swift kick in the creative rear—or a break from the particular creative demands of writing.
Let’s face it—writing a novel is a long-term proposition. It takes tens of thousands of words all strung together in an order that (hopefully) makes sense. You have to stay focused for weeks and months and even years sometimes. There are a gajillion small details. So maybe our muses get intimidated, and approaching another art form helps soothe them. Think about it. I made a pair of earrings a couple nights ago. It took me less than an hour. I have a final product I can do something with. It was physically soothing and achieved a nice result. That’s a lot different from putting one word after another for weeks and weeks before I can slap “The End” on a book.
Many other forms of creativity are also more physical. Putting paint on a canvas. Smooshing pastels into a piece of paper. Kneading bits of clay. Knitting a sock. They’re meditative, too, and in many cases while you’re creating a smaller, more physical project, the writing part of your brain can wander around and play with ideas while you’re not really paying attention.
I think it just might have been the key (although I hope it doesn’t stop working now that I’ve made that connection). So next time you’re feeling like the writing isn’t quite clicking, maybe give it a try. Buy a bar of Sculpey, or just bake up some Play-Doh. Draw some birds or paint a picture. See if it shakes the words loose. It’s worth a try, and even if doesn’t take care of the writer’s block, you’ll still have something to show for it.
My workshop, Kicking Writer’s Block to the Curb, will help you engage with the various elements in your environment that could be causing your blockages. You’ll be able to look at your current WIP or your current work environment—or both—and pin down the most likely culprits. You might even start to notice your own patterns—are their particular times of the month or of the year that you have more trouble producing? Like when it’s too far past the last payday and not close enough to the next one? Or during the weird, threshold times of year like fall and winter? Do you always get stalled at the same place in every book you write? (I stall out between two-thirds and three-quarters of the way through. Every Single Time.) Does stress affect your writing output? Do you need to dial back on your political engagement or spend a bit less time trying to help out that friend who drains your energy?
Some of these things might be hard to pin down and even harder to act upon, but with some practice, some awareness, and some new boundaries, chances are good that your writing time will become more productive, and you’ll be better able to figure out whether your current blockage is a sign that your story itself is in trouble, or if it’s just a side effect of something else going on in your life.
I hope you’ll join me on May 15 to get started on your journey to a more productive and less stressful creative flow.
BIO: Katriena Knights wrote her first poem when she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She recently moved from the mountains of Colorado to Urbana, Illinois, where she lives in a house that’s almost a hundred years old with her daughter and a variety of animals. So far, the house appears not to be haunted.
Visit her at her website at katrienaknights.com
You can also find her at twitter.com/crazywritinfool
and on Facebook at KatrienaKnightsAuthor
Her latest book, Call Me Zhenya, was published through the Kindle Scout program and is now available from Kindle Press. She is busily trying to plow through writer’s block related to the book’s sequel.
Short-term protective custody, they said. Just until people stopped trying to kill her. But two years later, Anna Slaten—and the data locked inside her enhanced brain—is still behind bars with no word on her status with the deep-cover agency she works for.
Evgeni Belyakov seeks atonement. Two years ago, the wolf shifter/assassin did what he was ordered to do. Since then, he’s learned the ugly truth about the Agency. And that Anna is next on their hit list. But saving her could mean risking everything. His heart. His secrets. And surrendering control to the most dangerous creature of all. His wolf.