Kimber here. Being my usual charming, magnificent, magnanimous self. While I’m sitting here waiting for She Who Must Be Obeyed (sometimes) to grab my leash so’s we can head out for a walk, I wanted to introduce you to one of our new friends.
We recently reached out to Edward and offered him a guest post. He wrote about how he faces down The Dreaded Writer’s Block. There are some pretty nifty tips and ideas here. So I’d listen up ‘fize you. Take it away, Edward!
How I Deal with Writer’s Block Before It Starts
By Jonathan Edward Durham
Those two words. I don’t even want to write them. I don’t even want to think them. Even the very mention is enough to send shivers up the most successful writers’ spines and set their knees knocking.
Writer’s block is a truly terrifying prospect and it’s something we’ve all had to deal with at one time or another…but if you’ve dealt with it enough, hopefully you’ve learned a trick or two to turn the tide of those battles in your favor, and while I may not be the most seasoned gladiator, I’ve seen my share of time in the coliseum, so I figured maybe I’d pass on a few things that have worked for me in the hopes that maybe they might work for you too.
For me, overcoming writer’s block is all about prevention…it’s about avoiding that battle altogether, because once you actually step into the ring…all bets are off. I’m not sure who said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” but I probably would know that if I hadn’t been punched in the face so often.
Anyway…where was I? Oh, that’s right. For me, beating writer’s block is all about being so prepared that it doesn’t even want a piece of you in the first place. It’s about making sure there’s no crack in your armor big enough for a dagger to fit through…it’s about being smart enough that you don’t have to fight, which is the sweetest victory of all. So, without further ado, here is my art of war…
The Art of War
1) Outline, outline, outline!
Outline everything. Everything.
I spend up to a month outlining and annotating and developing before I even sit down at my keyboard. I fill dozens of yellow legal pads with pieces of dialogue and character traits and names and random ideas and plots and subplots and imagery and phrasings and literally anything that comes to my mind that’s even tangentially applicable to a story. And then…then I storyboard. And I storyboard it all.
I have an entire wall in my home covered in cork and I lay out the entire narrative so that I can see exactly how it flows, how it begins, and also how it ends…and I don’t stop until I think it’s just about perfect. I leave as little room for flexibility as possible…that way I’m never at a loss as to what’s happening next, because all I have to do is look at my wall. I’m never lost for plot, because the plot’s already finished. In the end, it’s like a Mad Libs and all I have to do is fill in the blanks with pretty words lol.
2) Eat your frogs.
Mark Twain once said that if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you can be pretty sure that it’ll be the worst thing that’s going to happen to you that day. Now, he’s a stone cold genius, and I’m most certainly not, but I’m pretty sure that was his roundabout way of saying that it’s best to get the hard stuff out of the way early, that was you don’t have to worry about it…and I couldn’t agree more.
I write best when my mind is clear and my frogs have been eaten and I feel like I’ve earned the right to be creative…so that’s what I do. Every day before I write, I answer all my emails, exercise for two hours, run all my errands, and eat any other itinerant frogs hopping about, and only then…only then when my belly is full of horrible, horrible frog…am I centered and clear-headed and ready to spill some ink. I mean, who could work with all that croaking going on anyway?
3) Edit what you’ve written yesterday before you write anything new today.
This honestly might be the tip that helps me the most. Every day when I sit down to write, the very first thing that I do is go back and do a quick edit of what I’ve written the day before. There’s a few different benefits here for me…one being that it lightens your editing load at the end of a section or chapter or draft, but the other is that it acts almost as a stretching session before a big run. It gets those muscles loose and gives you time to get focused and reacquainted with the rhythm of your story, so when it comes time to start churning out new content, your blood is already flowing and you’re ready to go and you’re much, much less likely to be stymied by…well, you know.
4) Write in the same place at the same time as much as you can.
This is a big one for me as my OCD just loves the warm and fuzzy feeling of environmental familiarity, so for me, the best place to be is the place I usually am…and that goes double for when it’s time to write. There’s also something to be said for creative association…if you’re used to being creative in a certain place, then eventually that place makes it easier for you to be creative because you now have a positive association with it. It’s a bit Pavlovian, but he gave a lot of very good dogs a lot of very delicious treats over the course of his career, so he was a pretty great guy if you think about it that way. In short, write where you’re comfortable, and try to make a habit of it.
Work Smart, Not Hard
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you good folks. I’d have more tips for you, but I didn’t outline enough beforehand and I…just…can’t…think of anything else to say 😉 In any case, I hope my pitiful musings find you all in good health and maybe, just maybe they’ll help you the next time you step into the right with the big bad you-know-what…or maybe they’ll help you avoid having to put the gloves on altogether.
Remember…work smart, not hard. Actually, do both…definitely do both.