Sunday, February 23, 2014

WRITER'S BLOCK: Conquering the Troll

By Jodie Cain Smith 

Without a shred of scientific evidence, I proclaim that any writer who says he or she does not struggle on occasion with writer’s block is a liar.  Like the hairy troll under the bridge, writer’s block waits for us all, hoping we don’t know the secret to passing over the beast.  Yes, writer’s block is a hairy, evil, scary, mole-covered troll.  She must be dealt with.  Writer’s block must be overcome.

When the troll begins to drool and growl in my direction, I step away from the computer.  Extending the torture will not help.  I stand up and move.  Stretch.  Lie on the floor and think deep thoughts.  Read.  When none of these budge the troll from my mind, I take more extreme measures.

As a frequent sufferer of writer’s block, here are my top four remedies:

·        Exercise.  Go on a tough walk or run.  This is not the time to meditate with a stroll and classical music.  Pushing my physical capabilities so hard that I have to concentrate on breathing or risk passing out on the side of the road leaves no room for beating myself up about what my lead character should do next.
·        Organize something.  Attack the closets and cupboards in your home.  We all have them:  the hiding places we are afraid to open out of fear of a head injury.  Yes, seasonal décor will attack if not put away properly.  So, when feeling blocked, I take a few minutes to organize a hiding place.  I often discover what I have been struggling to write.  Unfortunately, I have struggled so much lately that my closets are immaculate.  I’m running out of hiding places.
·        Be creative in something other than writing.  Get crafty.  Explore the visual arts.  Sing.  Get your creative juices flowing without the torture of a blank screen.  I recently began toying around with acrylic painting.  My creations look like the work of a kindergarten student, but success with painting doesn’t matter.  What matters is being cleansed artistically.  For an hour, I clear my head, focusing only on brushing paint across a canvas and Tracy Chapman blaring from the stereo. 
·        Schedule a writer’s lunch (or coffee if you are opposed to food).  Going it alone as a writer is tough.  I regularly attend lunch dates with my writer buds in order to prevent writer’s block or treat symptoms as they occur.  However, this is not chitchat time.  This time is dedicated to discussing each other’s work (exchange pieces ahead of time and prepare a critique) or to explore the craft of writing.  At a recent lunch, my friend and grammar guru Kasie shared a six-point plot structure she is using to revise her novel.  After the lunch, I applied the same concept to my own work.  The answers I had struggled for months to find finally came to light.

So, the next time you face the troll, try one of my writer’s block remedies.  Here’s hoping you find safe passage.


Sarah Herlong said...

Very good suggestions on how to beat writer's block!

Leigh Stevenson said...

I love this! Anyone that claims to be free of the Bloody-Block-Ogre has to be super-human.I remember once complaining about a dry spell and a "fellow" writer (and I use the term loosely)made a sad face and made fun of me. It didn't help. I went away feeling foolish. No helpful suggestions were forthcoming. Thanks for the honesty.

Jodie Cain Smith said...

Thank you, Sarah and Leigh! Personally, I believe writers who claim to never be stuck, aren't really getting to the heart of what they are writing. Thank you for commenting on the post!

Jill Smith said...

Very good advice Jodie. Due to your word of encouragement I have picked up my own project and have decided this will be the year I complete it. Of course the block monster is demonstrating great power but I am determined to overcome!