Friday, August 24, 2012

Conquering Writer's Block IV: BRAIN CLOG

Today I'll continue my series on conquering writer's block. The other posts are here (introducing the model), here (going over the "flavors"), and here (about how to dissect the "when life gets in the way" flavor of writer's block).
 
And now we get to ...
 
BRAIN CLOG.
 
Writers have to accomplish a lot of different stuff. In addition to writing all the words, we have to craft a clever plot that surprises and engages the reader. That's kind of difficult sometimes, and it's natural to get stuck. On a scene, a plot twist, a character motivation ... A LOT of writers told me that this kind of stalls them out sometimes
 
Many of the tips I see for writers are things like "just write!" or some variation on that. BUT--if you've got the BC flavor of writer's block, "just write!" isn't likely to work as well for you. It could result in an intensification of your frustration and stuckness. I would know. One of my big problems, actually, is that, when I get stuck, my brain goes into this mode:
 

I worry at that problem until I can't see straight. I dream about it. It is all I think about while I commute. And as I do, I get more ... and more ... and more ... well, crazypants, for lack of a better term. But no closer to solving my problem. You know the only thing that ends up relieving this kind of STUCKness?
 

 

So really, you have to get off the hamster wheel. If you're on overwhelm, if you're just stuck, it's actually best to step away for a little while and think of other things. How many of you have come to a solution while thinking about something completely different? Your brain is amazing. Let it do its work. And, failing that, get another perspective! Talk to one of your critique partners. Don't argue, and don't decide pre-emptively whether or not the suggestions will work. Just let them sit for a while.

Now ... if you do this, if you step away and give your brain permission to wander, you have to be aware of when/if that wandering turns in to avoidance. It can happen. Think of your thoughts as green fruit, gradually ripening as you let them sit in the sunlight. If you stay away too long, the risk of them going rotten and turning into something gross that you'd pretty much do anything to avoid cleaning up ... gets higher by the day.

Which is why, on Monday, we shall talk about a little something called AVOIDANCE. Otherwise known as: THE CYCLE OF DOOM.

Until then, my friends, have an excellent weekend!

13 comments:

  1. Enter Jessica Bell. Now straddling the CYCLE OF DOOM. I've been stuck now for about a YEAR. Feck ...

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  2. When Brian Wilson would get stuck when composing, he'd play boogie-woogie just to clear his mind, and then the right chord would come to him.

    I can't play boogie-woogie, so I simply go for the long walk, and it really does help to shift your perspective and clear the clogs.

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  3. Ha, we are a lot alike! I worry at a sticking point until I'm crazypants, too -- even though I KNOW walking away from it and taking a break will eventually lead me to the solution. Stubbornness -- a whole other problem!

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  4. Watching a good movie is usually the right trick for me.

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  5. What I do is plan, plan, plan ahead. That way, I don't get stuck not knowing where the plot is going next. And then, even if it isn't the most engaging at the end of draft one, at least draft one is done, and then there's something to show people who know how to fix it. You know who you are.

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  6. OH no! Cycle of doom? I'm afraid....that that's me.

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  7. When I get stuck, I figure it's for a purpose, so I can work something out. I edit something else or write a little poem or something. This way I'm writing with no droughts. It took me nearly 6 years to come up with this strategy. Since I started it around 01/10, I've written all but about 16 days.

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  8. The cycle of doom, eh? That sounds like a torturous hamster wheel. Or a bicycle with a lot of metal studs on the bicycle seat.

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  9. I can relate to this. Even though I outlined my last book which hugely helped in not being stuck there were still some sand traps that sucked me down into, ok, now what? I almost always find that exercise of some sort - a walk, a run - really helps.

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  10. You're right about doing something else. Walking, taking a shower... I've even had brain uncloggings while driving, but that can be a bit dangerous, especially when you blink and think "I can't remember how I got here."

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  11. Great post! Sometimes I get so many things going on in my head it's hard to focus on one project.

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  12. Yesss! Solutions often strike me when I'm not actively thinking about my plot problems. I just wish they'd happen more often / quicker!

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  13. This is so SO true for me! Whenever I reach a point or a scene in one of my books and I'm like, "How am I going to get from there to here???" Or "How is this going to work out in an interesting way???" ;p

    I go for a jog. Seriously. Sometimes a looong jog--LOL! But it works every time. <3

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