Writer’s Block? – Ways to Motivate Yourself by Alexia Gordon
When writing experts aren’t debating writer’s block’s existence, they’re offering sure-fired ways to beat it. I can’t guarantee a fix for writer’s block but I do have a few techniques I use to motivate myself when I feel stuck.
1. I write the same sentence multiple times. Remember, back in the day, when teachers made students write a sentence on the board repeatedly? Or that scene in The Shining when Wendy discovers Jack had typed the same sentence hundreds of times? This repetition isn’t as punitive or as creepy as it seems. I wrote, and rewrote, the same sentence about half-a-dozen times when I started this post. By then, I realized it wasn’t the sentence I wanted to use as my opener. It sounded like a great opening line when it popped into my head but seeing it written out several times showed me it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. Once I got past that, the rest of this post flowed.
2. I change venues. I have an official writer’s nook. Not as fancy as those on Instagram and Pinterest but it does have a robust selection of pens, room for my laptop, inspirational quotes on the wall, and a collection of writing talismans. I hardly ever write there. I edit in my nook but, often, when I try to write there no new words come into my head. It’s too quiet and too solitary. I find a bit of background noise, in the form of people going about their business without directly interacting with me provides the stimulus my brain needs to create stories. Part of the reason I write much of my first drafts longhand is that it’s easy to grab a pen and a notebook and head to a café or a hotel lobby lounge or, my favorite, an airplane and scribble away.
3. I write random lines or scenes. My problem is often having too many ideas floating around in my head rather than too few. So many that I can’t settle on one to develop into a coherent narrative. When this happens, I write down whatever pops into my head without trying to decide where, or even if, in the story it belongs. I’ll write imagined dialog, character descriptions, out-of-order scenes. After a while, I either see a pattern form that I can craft into something that makes narrative sense or I see that a particular idea is not one that I want to stick with for fifty- or sixty thousand words and I move on.
4. I watch instead of write. Sometimes, words just don’t come. I don’t beat myself up (well, I do but I’m trying to stop). I write one or two sentences—any amount of writing is writing—then put my pen down and turn to visual media. Yes, that means Netflix (or one of several streaming services I subscribe to). Occasionally, it means going to the theater to watch a movie or, when I’m at my parents’ house where they get excellent over-the-air reception, re-runs of classic TV shows. But I don’t watch solely for enjoyment. I pay attention to which story elements appeal to me. For example, in “The Mandalorian,” I’m drawn to the archetype of the loner/reluctant hero. Knives Out drew me in by creating a clever puzzle and demonstrating how to present a classic mystery for a modern audience. Studying a medium different from the one I’m working in helps me discern what works and what doesn’t in a story—information I can use in my own craft.
Alexia Gordon: Virginia native, physician by training, author by passion, I write the award-winning Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, from Henery Press. Book 5, Execution in E, publishes March 24, 2020. I’m a member of MWA, SinC, ITW, and CWoC. I blog at Missdemeanors.com and femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/ and host the podcast, The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon. Find me on social media (Facebook: AlexiaGordon.writer, Twitter: @AlexiaGordon, Instagram: DrLex1995) and visit my website (www.alexiagordon.net) to sign up for my newsletter.~ ~ ~ ~ ~