I might have writer's block- I'll let you know as soon as I open this manuscript

This week we're writing about writer's block.  It's the dark side of publishing, those unproductive times when we struggle to get a decent word on the page.  And while I have had those days where it takes eight hours to get two sentences on the page, or even those where I end up with a negative word count for the day, those days are in the minority.  I think that more often then not my writer's block is something else entirely: procrastination.

Procrastination ranges from an hour spent on Twitter before I ever open WORD, to several weeks where I never even open my manuscript.  Occasionally, I tell myself that I'm composting, letting my subconscious rest until inspiration hits.  Other times, I'm more honest about the fact that I just don't know what comes next or I'm afraid I can't make sense of things.

The fix is simple: open the manuscript and start typing.  The fix is hard:  Open the manuscript?  But I just found this link to 150 pages of drama on Goodreads (and I have no idea what comes next).

Writing first drafts is especially painful for me.  I hate staring at blank pages. All that white is terrifying.  But I also love discovering those moments and details I didn't know about until they appeared on the page.So eventually, I suck it up and open the document.

Here are some things that have helped me keep procrastination at bay:

1.  Set goals: setting a realistic goal can motivate you to complete it.  On weekends, when I write, I usually give  myself a goal of 1500 or 2000 words.  By the time, I hit that goal, I'm usually in the middle of a scene or chapter and in a rhythm that keeps me writing even more.  Realistic is the key.  If you set a goal of 10,000 words in a day, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

2.  Enlist other writers to cheer you on:  Have a #wordwar with other writers online (see who can write the most words in an hour). Talk to your writing friends about how you feel.  Commit yourself to sending a new scene to your critique partner at the end of the day. 

3.  Set deadlines:  Deadlines are great motivators. You don't have to wait for a publisher to dictate your writing schedule- set your own. Give yourself rewards when you hit the deadline. 

4.  Skip ahead:  When I am stuck at a particular scene, it sometimes helps for me to jump forward to a scene that comes later. I'm making forward progress, and often times I'll figure out what needs to come before by writing the later scene.

5.  Read:  Some writers don't like to read while they write a draft, but reading is what got me interested in writing in the first place.  A great book inspires me every time.

6.  Do some character/writing exercises:  On days when writing a scene feels too challenging, I can usually handle a character worksheet or brainstorming session.  The discoveries I make through writing exercises usually get me excited to jump back into the manuscript.

7.  Give yourself permission to suck:  There is freedom in suckage.  You can always fix it later.

8.  Change locations:  take your computer outside, head to a coffee shop, or just move to the other side of the couch.  A change of location can change your attitude. 

9.  Edit yesterday's work.  Editing uses a different muscle.  If you can't bring yourself to face the blank page, start with one that's already got words on it, and finesse it before moving on to the next scene.

10.  When all else fails, take a break.  You're a writer.  You won't be able to stay away forever.  Besides, your family misses you. 


Great advice! I especially like #6. Can you recommend where to find the best outlines for character worksheets or brainstorming exercises? Thanks.

And...I found this post while doing my best not to look at the blank white space on my word document. :-/ Thanks for the words of encouragement...and reassuring me that I'm not alone in this awful, unproductive procrastination place. :-)

My writer's block is usually procrastination, too, and all of your ideas are helpful! Another favorite tool of mine is my diary. When I can't write anything in Word or in my "manuscript notebook," I can totally unleash random ideas through journaling, and get newly excited about my WIP that way.

Laura, you can try this character worksheet http://yamuses.blogspot.com/2010/10/ya-muses-character-worksheet.html but it's fun to create your own questions for your characters to answer for you, too. Almost like interviewing your characters.

Tracythewriter, you are not alone at all *avoids looking at blank page* Beth, love the journal idea.

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