How I Beat Writer’s Block

At the Peace Arch border crossing, entering the U.S. from Canada, the border patrol person asked me what I did for a living. He seemed very interested when I told him I was a writer and offered me a cure for writer’s block.

“You know what you have to do to overcome writer’s block?”

Of course I wanted to hear what he had to say.

“You have to travel. That’s what will get you over writer’s block.”

He sounded so confident, I decided to take his advice to heart.

I travel to a park or the beach, and sit in my car and write. I travel to a local tourist area and walk around for half a day. I travel to home decor stores to see their enticing displays. I visit the ocean, or the mountains. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest I have access to numerous places to get inspiration for writing, places like Granville Island, Fort Langley, White Rock, Crescent Beach, Deep Cove, Belcarra Regional Park, Stanley Park. I could go on.

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Granville Island, British Columbia

My budget constricts me a little, but I have still managed several longer vacations in the past year or so, traveling to the Okanagan Valley, to Manitoba to attend two weddings, to Ontario to visit family I hadn’t seen for decades, to New England to do research for my novel, and most recently to Portland, Oregon to attend a writers’ conference.

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Red Lion Hotel on the River-Jantzen Beach, Portland, OR

 

I’ve read a lot of advice on how to overcome writer’s block. If I am blocked, it is for a reason. Usually it is the pressure of the urgent. The sense that something is more important than writing.

I am also an artist and a musician and the answer to why I don’t paint, or play piano or guitar is the same. The mundane duties of life supersede my artistic ambitions. If I am not writing or painting or making music, it is because I have not placed a high enough importance on these activities.

I recently visited the website of an author and agent I met at a writers’ conference and saw that his last writing post was dated June 28. My natural response was one of sadness. Why is this skilled writer not writing regularly?

Maybe it is because we writers are not machines. Yes, we can seat ourselves at our desks and determine not to get up for four hours. This will produce results of sorts. Some writers are able to adhere to a self-imposed writing deadline and I expect their email as consistently as Saturday, or a full moon. But we are not all like that.

The greatest hindrance to good writing is a depressed spirit. Traveling, getting into a new space and making new encounters, works very well to lift one’s spirits.

One weekend I travelled down to Lynden, WA to help my son and his wife paint the interior of their house. My husband took a separate car and came later, after work. When I returned back home, my husband went through the border first and I followed after him. The border guard greeted me and I told him I had been visiting my children.

“I heard you ‘Tom Sawyered’ your husband into painting a house.”

I laughed, and thought to myself, border guards read too. Once again my little journey proved to be inspiring.

Maybe traveling isn’t your way of getting over writer’s block. Find out what works for you and do whatever it takes to get your thoughts out there for people to read. Somebody is waiting to hear from you.

 

Why I have not been writing as much

From the perspective of the successful author, no reason is valid for not writing, short of being comatose or having both arms in a cast and my mouth wired shut.

But for anyone who would like to hear about my process, here it is.

For awhile I was writing five blog posts a week and that was going well. But then I decided to focus on editing my novel for the OCW Conference and leave my blogs until after the conference in mid-August.

Following the conference I began to ask myself what was more important, social networking, or completing a novel? I don’t want to do one to the exclusion of the other. However, most of the time I would much rather be blogging. When I am working on my blogs, I seem to use a different part of my brain and then I can’t seem to switch to working on my novel. I am trying to find a solution to this problem.

It may be difficult for you to believe, but I didn’t really think that I would have people who would be “checking” regularly to see if I had posted something. The thought makes me want to create something of worth.

Recently I have noticed that bloggers who feel compelled to write almost daily, tend to lose their edge. I have been asking myself how I should pace myself so that this does not happen to me. I think I can continue to be fresh and write once or twice a week.

Eight weeks ago I pinched a nerve in my shoulder which caused numbness in my hand and required me to minimize activities that aggravated the problem. This meant reducing my computer time for six weeks and modifying my typing habits. There has been some improvement but I have to continue to be careful.

I am learning how to make writing a career. I am analyzing how I function best. I am trying to find out how can I optimize my time. I am figuring out how to schedule myself, how to balance research and writing time with my other responsibilities. I want to maintain overall health, so I am working on good dietary habits as well as incorporating exercise, recreation, socialization and rest. Who knew there was so much to being a writer?

So, please bear with me, if you have the patience. Part of the reason for this site is to let you in on the experience of being a writer, or an aspiring writer.

I have been “doing the work,” so to speak, but not in the sense of keeping my seat glued to the chair. I have been examining options, learning from other writers, trying to find my path.

Something has appeared at the bottom of my page in my absence. I appreciate the services provided by wordpress, but I admit I feel like my autonomy over my website has been compromised by the random placement of ads on my page. Was this the only option?

On time management and self-discipline

Has it come to this? Why of course! And we always knew it would, one day.

Joking aside, I was reading Sally Stuart’s Guide to Publishing a few days ago and became motivated to make some changes. It happened because I recognized who I am as a writer and what I want to accomplish. In her book she outlines types of writers as those who:

  • are totally committed to writing and would have to write no matter what (even if never published)
  • work at a full-time job while writing (always their first love) is on the side
  • write because they believe it will provide wealth or fame
  • write a lot and get excited about several projects at once, but seldom finish anything
  • spend their life (or at least their writing life) writing one story or experience
  • are obsessed with a single idea that is written and rewritten
  • write, submit, and sell, year in and year out (p. 130)

I know writers in most of these categories. I asked myself which one best described me and realized in that moment what I wanted. The category you or I find ourselves in does not have to be our destiny.

So, I am making some decisions. As she suggests, I am making time to write. I am informing friends and family of when I will and will not be available. I am setting goals, breaking them down into manageable pieces and making use of my calendar and to-do list. I am identifying time wasters and setting boundaries around my quality working time.

Knowing who you are and exactly what it is you want can be extremely motivating. In the next few weeks this blog will reflect some of the changes I will be making. Happy writing!