June 5, 2013

Writing Club Wednesday: Writing Inspiration for the Non-Inspired

I know everyone talks about the fact that writer's block isn't real. That you just need to get your butt in the chair and get words down on paper, even if it's hard. But I'm going to be honest with you guys. Writer's block feels pretty real to me lately. No matter how much I want to get something on paper. No matter how many plot outlines I make or character sheets I draft up, I can't get the words out. Don't get me wrong. I'm sitting down and writing. I'm racking up word counts eventually. But there's no joy in it, it's a chore to get through. And I know my poor readers feel the same way.

Some people say they can't tell a difficult writing session from an easy one when they go back to read it later. But lately everything I write feels difficult when I re-read. Like my flailing around is painfully obvious both to me and to anyone else who I might share it with. What makes it even worse is that it's also affecting my enjoyment of other people's writing. Not only do I have writer's block, I have reader's block as well!

So I've been looking for other ways to get back to enjoying writing. To feel the tug of a story and the desire to meet a new character or create a new world. And I've found a few things that have seemed to help:

1. Watching Movies - When done well, movies feel like bite-sized books. And when I'm feeling like I can't handle the investment of time to read a novel, sometimes that two hour block does just as well. Its easy to find something sci-fi, or romance, or fantasy to get lost in. And when I'm done, hopefully something has sparked an idea or thought that might lead to inspiration.

1a. Documentaries are also in this same vein. Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction, and ideas are everywhere. Some of my favorite shows to watch are PBS travel documentaries, the BBC Earth series, and a History channel show called Mysteries at the Museum. All of them feel like palate cleansers, like a reset button into the world.

2. Video Games - There's nothing better than being completely immersed in a story, and the best video games do this. They take you to a new world, introduce you to new characters, all in an active, participatory way. The way a character talks,  a new fantastic setting, or an unexpected plot twist can trigger your own ideas.

3. Exercise - Sometimes a good walk is the perfect antidote for Butt-in-Chair. Getting up and moving can jog things loose or start you thinking about things in a different way.

4. Comics - So yes, technically some of them could be considered "books" but after reading the amazing comics our own Chessie did for the release of Leigh Ann's book One, (which are completely AWESOME and you should go check them out right now) I realized that the experience of a comic is totally different than reading a novel. The pictures, interwoven with short text, seem to hit my brain differently and I was inspired to buy a few more. Having that visual aspect instead of just words seemed to help with the reading block especially.

5. Giving up - Shocking, right? But sometimes you need to step back and take a break. If you're burnt out, tired or just plain done with writing (and honestly, we've all felt like that, right?) It's okay to give yourself permission to stop for a while.

Unfortunately I don't have any easy answers for getting over feeling blocked or unmotivated, but I'm always looking for ideas!  I'm trying different things - some are working more than others. But I'm hopeful I'll get through this and back to writing soon.

So how about you guys? What do you do when you're feeling blocked or tired of writing? Do you have any tips for how to get over that?


Anonymous said...

I very much agree with the movie one. I believe movies can even teach us things as writers, too.

Anonymous said...

I was blocked working on my new adult novel last week. I decided to cast my book as a movie with people who I loved when I was a new adult. I make pinboards for each of my novels, so I pinned a picture of Eric Stoltz as the male lead and started picturing him in the scenes. I'm thinking Girl, Interrupted-era Winona Ryder might be the protagonist. For some reason, I was able to start seeing the scenes again .

Caitlin R. O'Connell said...

My favorite way to get un-stuck is plot bouncing with writer friends. It really helps me to just talk through a problem and get someone else's opinion on it, not just mine.

Morgan York said...

A fairly large amount of time passes between me getting an idea (for a book, scene, character, chapter, whatever) and actually putting it down on a page, usually because I'm busy writing something else at the time I get my idea. If I get stuck, I sometimes try listening to the songs I was regularly listening to back when I first had the idea. Music can bring back a lot of old feelings and memories, so maybe it'll help you out, too! Good luck!

Sarah Hipple said...

I definitely go through phases like this.

No matter how much I love books, sometimes I just don't want to look at one. They feel too much like work. And we all deserve a little break sometimes!

But then when I finally get back (after feeling guilty throughout my whole break, of course, especially toward the end) I love books again!

Thanks for writing this post.

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