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Writer’s block: two little words that make any writer shiver. If you’re used to feeling helpless when writer’s block interrupts you, we have a solution: Prepare for the worst before you’re blocked.
Pack the following supplies in your emergency kit, and next time you’re feeling blah and uninspired, you’ll be prepared to go into battle with the block.
Map Of Your Escape Route: A toxic environment can attack your muse. Fight off the doldrums with some new scenery. Prepare a list of inspiring places that you can get to quickly the next time writer’s block hits. A change of pace might revive your desire to do the hard work of writing.
Do you enjoy nature? Bring your notebook to a local park or even your own backyard. Do you love people-watching? Plug in your laptop at a local café, or keep a bus schedule handy and grab the next roundtrip ride. Make your emergency escape plan, and when writer’s block strikes, don’t stew and fester in the doldrums. Just go!
Tylenol: Like a throbbing pain, writer’s block can worsen with stress. You need an antidote to get you through until you’re feeling better again. Give yourself some temporary relief by walking away and doing something that relaxes you or makes you happy. To prepare, make a list of things that relax you or clear your mind: taking a bubble bath, doing a jigsaw puzzle, jogging, etc. Rather than working to get inspired, use this list next time you need to get some breathing room and return to the drawing board.
Flashlight: When you’re caught in the dark, everything can seem gloomy. You could be standing in a roomful of people who are having the same trouble you’re having, but you feel alone. Darkness of the spirit can skew perspective and make you feel like all’s lost. Be ready for darkness in your writing life; it’s unavoidable even for the best writers.
Make a list of your achievements—everything from “I finished my manuscript” to “I was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.” Refer back to it when you’re feeling glum. Also, read books by other writers; many authors have penned encouraging books that talk about overcoming setbacks. Buy a few to keep on your bookshelf, and read a few pages to shine some light on your situation. Find some quotes that inspire you, and keep them close to your desk—just like you keep a flashlight nearby in case the lights go out. Then, when darkness falls, you’ll be ready!
Flare: At some point, all writers need help (with editing, marketing, brainstorming, and moral support). When truly in need, send out a flare for others to see, and help will be on its way. Prepare for the future by nurturing a support system today. Join and be actively involved in an online or local writing community. Meet people and help them when you can. Then, when YOU need help, you can be sure it will be there for you, ready and waiting.
But even if you don’t seek help from other writers, you can always turn to your friends. Plan a list (even if it’s a short list) of people you feel comfortable talking to about your writing. Maybe it’s your best friend, a sibling, or a partner from your writing group. If there’s a particular character, plot, or issue you’re stuck on, ask someone for ideas. Even if you don’t solve the problem, there will most likely be something in the conversation that will help you brainstorm later.
Sustenance: Similar to the food and water you would store in an emergency kit, your brain needs nourishment to defeat severe cases of writer’s block. Go through your music library and make a few playlists of inspiring songs. They could be songs that you find energizing, relaxing, or that bring out particular emotional responses. Also, use sticky notes to flag inspirational passages in books and literary journals that you admire. The next time you’re feeling really desperate, you won’t have to think about how you’ll lift your mood. Instead, you can just do it!
With these tools in your Writer’s Block Emergency Kit, you’ll be ready for the worst. And don’t forget, if you’ve got the writing part down but dread the business side of submitting your work, Writer’s Relief has been helping writers since 1994!