What To Do When Writer's Block Is Blocking Your Brain

What To Do When Writer's Block Is Blocking Your Brain

It's not procrastinating, it's idea-gathering.

We've all had moments where writing has gone from being a relaxing, relieving activity to being a stressful, laborious task. Of course, when you've got the feelings flowing and the anger, excitement or passion raging, words spill from your hands easily. You know what you want to say and how to say it. But when writer's block hits, it's no fun, especially not when it's the night before an assignment is due. When writer's block has got me down, I like to use these few tricks to try and get my creative cocktail flowing again.

1. Make Coffee and Eat a Sweet Treat

There's nothing like the buzz of caffeine and sugar when you're down with writer's block. The sugar high turns the gears in my brain much faster than I can even write, and those two hours until I crash are prime writing time.

2. News Patrol

Scroll through the news, whether World News or pop cultural or whatever floats your boat. I try to get ideas from what's happening in the world today, especially if I see something that makes me angry. Unfortunately, that happens a lot more often than I'd like it to.

3. Read Something Funny

I have a collection of Garfield comics that I keep by my desk at all times. When I'm stuck or when I need a break, I love flipping through and reading my favorites. Jim Davis never fails to make me laugh. Most of the time, this tactic doesn't help me get ideas for writing, but it's a really fun way to pretend I am.

4. Read Old Journal Entries

You never know what kind of gold you'll find in your old journals. I found this while trying to find inspiration for this article. It's an old college research list, when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I think it says a lot about me. Certainly made me laugh, and it helped me come up with this item for the list. Win win.

5. Make a List

Make a list of everything you know about the topic, even if all you know is the title of the topic. Sometimes seeing everything on paper in front of you helps you figure out what ideas you want to connect together. From there, it's a simple matter of playing connect the dots.

6. Talk About It

One of the most important lessons I learned from my high school English teacher was to collaborate. Your list is next to useless if you don't have anyone to talk to about it. Talking with other people gives you a diversity in thought that you just can not achieve alone. You'll be surprised at how much another person's own unique version of life can change the conversations you have.

7. Watch a Lot of YouTube

My personal favorites are Ellen and old celebrity interviews. What can I say, it's a guilty pleasure.

8. Take a Shower

It's true. Many times, the best ideas come to you while in the shower. You're relaxed, you're happy to be clean, and bam! It hits you: the perfect way to open your essay. It's funny, it's clever, it's daring.... they'll be knocked off their feet.

9. Color

It's supposed to activate your right brain, I think. I don't know, I'm gonna go color til I figure it out.

10. Just Do It

When it's the last possible moment and you can't procrastinate--I mean, gather inspiration--any longer, just sit down in front of the keyboard and type, my friend. Fake it til you make it. You'll find your way into the argument sooner or later.

Cover Image Credit: Alexandra Greene

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The Key To Ending Your First Draft Blues

Or at least getting through the next chapter with your hair intact

Ah, the first draft. We’ve all been there as writers. The day we decide to turn a blank word document into a 70,000 word (or more) masterpiece. Or, at least, that’s always the aim. Often as first-time writers, we go into the experience blind, learning as we go, and never really knowing whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

It can be frustrating at times, as most first drafts are a test of sanity. As somebody who had written ten first draft books (nearing eleven) in six years, I have had my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to first drafts.

My first book ever took me four years just to write it, I started at the age of sixteen and finished by the time I was twenty. A year later I had written another. I then wrote one in thirty days, and nowadays I write about three to four books a year.

My point is, there is no science to writing. It is all about learning how to do it, and finding the methods that suit you best. I just wish I could have had someone to tell me all of that when I started.

With that in mind, here are my five pieces of advice on how to write your first draft:

#5 Embrace the Terribleness

The first draft is always the worst version of any story. The sooner you accept it, the easier it is to move forward with your work. So you misspell a few words so bad that even Word can't help you. That shouldn't stop you from going with the flow. Your dialogue will feel hammier than a "Star Wars" film, but you'll clean it up the second time around. You're not expected to create a masterpiece on the first go, so just enjoy the ride.

#4 Suffer for your Art

Writing can be hard. I've said it enough times already, but it's true. You have to be prepared to suffer for it. The reason my first book took four years to write was because I didn't commit to it. The reason I wrote 80,000 words in thirty days was because I committed myself to write at least 1,000 words a day. Now I average 3,000 daily. Is it painful to force 3,000 words to the page every day? Yes, but that's what you have to do to get the draft finished.

#3 Take your Time

Now I know this goes against what I just said, but it's important that you go at the pace you want to. I was happier writing 1,000 words a day, but I was eighteen then. At twenty-three, I'll never get everything done going at 1,000 words a day. Commit yourself to writing every day, even if its only 200 words. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. You'll get to the finishing line quicker if you jog a steady pace rather than adopting a sprint and rest mentality.

#2 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yes, it's important to remember what colour your character's hair is, which one is taller, and what weapon they are carrying. Although with that said, it is important to keep going forward. In my editing, I go over everything with a fine comb, often with a character profile at my side. Don't get bogged down giving every little detail the first time around, you'll have time for that later. The hardest thing is getting it down the first time.

#1 Keep the Story Going at All Costs

This kind of goes without saying, but it is by far the most important step for me. You have to keep moving forward. It doesn't matter if you have to use the biggest Deus ex machina to get your plot going again, you can always edit it away in the re-draft. I use a technique called automatic writing, which means that I don't plan every detail of a chapter. I simply write it as I go. This allows me to give my characters natural reactions as events often come as a surprise to me too.

Obviously it is good to have a rough idea of what is meant to happen, but as long as you can get your characters from A to B, then you are half way there. The other half will be polishing it to the point you can see your reflection.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Cover Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Writer%27s_Block_I.jpg

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4 Steps To Writing a Haiku

It's Fun I Promise

You've probably had to write a haiku for English sometime in your school career. You most likely found it boring, or difficult, or just plain stupid. I am going to try and show you a more fun way to write a haiku.

1. The Basics: What You Should Know

In case you don't know, a haiku is a Japanese poem that is only three lines long. It is usually taught that the syllables in each line should go 5-7-5. But really, as long as there are 17 syllables or less in the three lines, it's a haiku.

2. Write to Get a Reaction

When you write a haiku, you are aiming to get one of three reactions: Aaaahhh, aha!, or ha ha! For example...

Aaahhh: Laying in bed/dog next to me under blanket/my furry heater

Aha!: Life is too short to love people/who do not deserve/your whole heart

Ha ha!: I'm on the toilet/and my stomach drops/the roll is empty

3. Create an Image

In your writing, you want to create a new image in your readers mind with each line. Take my first haiku for example. I first talk about laying in bed. Then, I say there is a dog next to me under the blanket, so you picture a lump under the covers. In my last line, I call him a furry heater so you imagine a heater covered in fur. The image you create is more important than the syllables.

4. Performing

Lastly, you need to think about performing your haiku. As always, when you're speaking in front of a room of people, you need to project so the whole room can hear you and you need to make eye contact. Another thing to remember is the tone of your voice while you are saying your poem. Dramatic pauses can keep people on the edge of their seat, waiting for what you're going to say next. You also have to remember to be confident! And if you're not confident, fake it till you make it!

Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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