I’m a writer. I love writing. Every day. But what happens when real life gets in the way, and I end up in front of the computer doing everything BUT writing? When my brain won’t shift to writer mode, or I’m stuck and the solution won’t show itself? How do I stave off the inevitable guilt that’s sure to follow?
I wrestle with this on a regular basis. I’ve also learned (it took awhile) that beating myself up over it is not going to help one bit. In fact, it’s going to make things worse. So, I’ve come up with a multi-faceted solution that’s flexible and guilt-free. Here are a few things I do – you may find them helpful when the wall/block confronts you and writing desire turns heel and runs.
I leave my office and work somewhere else, in a different format. I use a pen and paper to map out possible solutions to what’s blocking my story, or I just write notes about something unrelated to the scene, but still a part of my story. I write at night, in bed, instead of at my computer. I think about situations and ask myself questions. “Who’s going to come through the door next, and why? What’s going to be served for dinner? What preparations do you make when you hear a blizzard is on the way?” Jotting down ideas/answers to questions relevant to your story will keep you engaged and may give you a leg up over that stumbling block.
I write in my head. (It’s a good thing people can’t see what goes on there!) I garden, bake bread, or clean the bathroom. My hands are occupied, but my brain can still imagine what is going on in my story. My characters can have conversations, I can think about the logical progression of events, or some fun detail that I never imagined might present itself (porcelain doll legs?). If you have a busy brain or a short memory (or both, in my case), you might want to keep a paper/pencil handy to jot things down before they get crowded out by the next mental picture.
I make lists. I like doing this at night/paper-pencil/in bed. My brain works best there when it’s list-making time. I usually do it when I don’t think I’m getting anywhere, and I need a life-ring. I think about my story in general and then just start writing down details, any details. The weather, setting, characters, food, time of year, fun objects, names, and words I like. I let my brain go where it wants, and I write down whatever shows up, even if I think it’s worthless as I pencil it in. This is a time for my brain to play around and not be too serious. I weed out the list later, but it’s interesting, the many “worthless” ideas I jotted down became some of the most valuable to me as I move forward in my story. So, don’t second-guess yourself!
What I’ve learned is that writing is not just the act of writing or typing. It’s a magical experience of freely exploring possibilities and giving myself permission to come out from behind my desk and accompany them on the magical place that is my imagination. And I’m getting pretty good at the guilt-free thing, too.