How I Deal With Writer’s Block
You couldn’t possibly have already read my afterword in the new Lyssa (#4), but if you have—I mean, when you DO, because of course you all gobble up every word I give you—you would know that I read quite a few books by Piers Anthony when I was a teenager. And yes, cynics and critics, I know he has a reputation as kind of a…let’s just say possibly a hint of the dirty old man and a kind of, shall we say, overproducing writer (but I still like the ones I like!)—and that this probably explains a lot about how I’m still kind of stuck in late 80’s/early 90’s teenage level sexuality. Regardless, the biggest thing I learned from him was a method for dealing with writer’s block.
Yeah, I was already writing a lot by then, just not much that was worth a damn. Journals and notebooks like every young girl. As a teen, some steamy fantasies that, once, got me into a ton of trouble when someone found them. All of that writing, though, was nothing I ever thought would be read. The ones I liked of his were the first few Xanth books and the one about the Incarnations of Immortality, so it was probably in one of those that he said he didn’t believe in writer’s block.
It really surprised me because of course it’s a real thing, it happens to everyone. What he meant wasn’t that he never gets stumped, but rather that even when he does get stumped, he doesn’t think that means he can’t still write. If he’s stuck on something, he said he goes and writes something else—skip ahead and write the end, or write a scene he does have in his imagination for later or earlier in the book, or he’ll work on something else entirely.
That was a real eye-opener for me, because I always thought you just start at the start, and write until you’re done at the end. So far I’ve found that usually that really is the best way to do it, but when you find yourself just staring at the last thing you typed or wrote for ten minutes (I still hand write a lot), chances are you need a change of mental scenery.
You can stop working altogether and do some yoga, or get something to eat, or refresh your enormous coffee cup that every serious writer I’ve ever known owns. I do it sometimes, but I don’t recommend it. That’s probably the worst advice, because when you’re done with that, sometimes, or usually, you’re not back to writing. You’re looking at the TV or thinking about dinner or running to the store for more creamer.
No, you’re almost always best off keeping your cute little asses right in your writing chairs, and just changing the mental scenery without moving. Skip ahead. Go back and insert a new scene that changes where you left off. Drop the erotica piece and start an epic fantasy story, or a blog post (ahem…I’m busted!), or something else you’ve had an idea for since you last worked on it.
There is an exception though. If you can easily get laid, writer’s block is the perfect excuse to take your cute little ass out of the chair. Rule #1: always get laid. Rule #2: Stay in your chair if you can’t get laid and keep writing something. Half of the reason I got into writing erotica in the first place was just writing my thoughts down when the ‘real work’ was giving me a migraine.
I don’t know if every writer has a thousand unfinished essays and articles and stories and three-quarters-done novels somewhere, but I know I do. They get written eventually, and sold, sooner or later, at least so far. So think about it next time you get stumped…just write. Hell, a lot of the writing I sell isn’t even writing so much as it is typing, and any real writers who make money at it writing for someone else will know exactly what I’m talking about.
The thing is, as long as you keep typing, sooner or later you’ll be writing. Your mind will turn against the lousy crap and force you to actually create something. Maybe it will suck, but at least it’s not nothing. If it’s not nothing, it can be rewritten until it’s worth reading.
Ok my darlings, it’s back to the grindstone for me. Lyssa #4 coming soon! And more, but that’s for later.
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P.S. I know the title of the page should be ‘How I Deal With Writer’s Block’ but my SEO thing told me to take out the apostrophe. Don’t ask me!