I’ll be straight out of the gate here and admit that this information isn’t my own, but great advice I picked up from Kevin Smith’s podcast “Fat Man On Bat Man.”
In it, Kevin, Mark, and Cheo Coker (the show-runner of Luke Cage), discussed the topic of writer’s block and how to overcome it.
Here’s my summary of what they discussed, and my thoughts on it. – But I recommend a listen to the podcast to get the pieces I glazed over.
1 – Your First Draft Is Going To Stink – No article, blog post, or book ever looks the same when it’s published, and that’s something you need to keep in mind.
This blog post, before I tidy it up, was originally a set of bullet points that I expanded on to make this post. There were parts added, paragraphs swapped around, and the delete button hit many times on the way to what you see now, but you’ll never know that.
The same way you’ll never know how bad the first draft of a Stephen King book is, because you only see the perfectly edited, proofread and spellchecked final product.
It can be easy to allow writer’s block to take over your mind because you don’t know how your couple is going to meet in your love story, how that spaceship jumps into warp drive in chapter 2, or how your hero finds out that their father isn’t their father.
Gloss over those parts. – Jump ahead, and jump around your story.
Does that final exchange of dialogue between the hero and his foe excite you? – Go there and write it.
Does the thought of describing the intricate features of your star-ship excite you? – Go there and write it.
Or how about that scene in the supermarket, where your couple meet for the first time? – Go there and write it.
There’s no reason why you should waste time wondering what’s coming next when you’ve got parts that you can jump into right now and work on.
Not only will you find backstory ideas, get to know your characters better by doing so, but your subconscious mind can work in the background, tying up all those confusing pieces as you’re working elsewhere in your book.
2 – Use A Carrot Or Stick Approach – You know yourself better than anyone else. So are you someone that would be motivated to slog through a writing block because of a treat, or are you someone that need’s a stick?
In the case of Mark Bernarden, he used the carrot to lead him in the early days. Sitting by his laptop he had a sealed copy of the game ‘Skyrim’ that could only be opened when he’d done his work. But later on, that changed as he had bills to pay and mouths to feed.
So, what’s your carrot? A massage, or a dinner at a expensive location when you finish your first draft. Or that box-set you’ve been itching to get into?
Or maybe the opposite will work better for you?
A day wasted, puts that weekend away a day further back.
An hour of writing time wasted playing around with font’s and layouts, is an hour of TV time taken from you.
Of course you’re the one in control of what you do and don’t do, so it’s easy to break your own rules and do what you want.
If that’s the case, maybe you need to hold yourself publicly accountable?
A book not finished by a certain date has to be given away free to your fans. A first daft deadline not met, means that money you gave to a friend ends up going to cause/or person you despise.
The more you make yourself accountable the more you’ll slog through those tough days when writing even a sentence is hell on earth.
But no matter how hard is seems…
3 – You’re In Charge Of The Work – Right now I’ve got the power to hit the delete button, change the paragraphs around, or call this piece anything I want. – Because I’m in charge of the piece, not the other way around.
Words are words, and thoughts are thoughts, we waste hundreds every day and yet we take them seriously when they’re on a page. – Stop giving them that power.
These words wouldn’t exist if I didn’t put them here. And if you didn’t read them, then no one would know that they’re here.
In some cases, writers block comes about because you give them that power. Your character has to say the right thing, you’ve got to know where he goes next, and that long speech at the end has to be worked into the final piece.
No matter how you good you think you are, or how great that scene that’s coming down the line is going to be, it’s never going to be as good as the one you’ll write in three years from now.
And you’ve got to be honest with yourself, you’re not that good.
In two years time I’ll probably cringe at these words, the ideas I expressed here, and how long it took me to write this piece. – But, it’s just words that I’m capable of writing right now.
And as I read somewhere before, you can’t edit a blank page.
A page of drivel can be edited, used as a spring board to jump from, or deleted as drivel.
If this page was blank, I wouldn’t have a blog post I could edit, play around it, or have something to look at to see if I was creating anything constructive.
The same goes for you.
If you’re struggling with an idea, lost and don’t know what to do next, write drivel until that spark fires up and you find a thread you can latch on to.
But always remember, you’re in charge of what you put there.
Perfection is a goal that’s always moving. Two years from now you’ll be a better writer.
But in two years, those goal posts will have moved further out of your reach.
I’ll leave you with these three thoughts…
- You’re in charge of you
- You’re in charge of the words
- And you’re going to suck, get over it.
Now get that butt in the seat and keep typing.