|Rebel by Dawn Meredith|
Ever been stuck with writer’s block? Ever felt the terror of the tyrannical empty page? Ever had a deadline that seemed to gallop towards you, while you fumble about trying to put together something decent, with that despairing thought that you won’t make it?
These are some of the challenges we face as writers. Because we’re human and not perfect. Neither are we machines that can churn out top notch writing with little effort.
Writing is a creative process. It’s the process that’s important. We live and breathe and dream through our story development as it evolves. It is a part of us.
But occasionally, something goes wrong.
Of course, there have been gazillions of articles, books, even songs written during, and about, Covid 19. And there are creatives who struggled to produce a single thing during lockdown. I know people in both camps. But it’s not just about achievement – it’s about fulfillment. Satisfaction. Expression. Creation. Why else would we put ourselves through this, at times, nightmarish thing we do called writing?
Over the twenty years I have been writing professionally, I have developed some strategies for dealing with those dark times when nothing seems to happen, or I just seem to produce rubbish. Intrigued? Here goes:
- Don’t beat yourself up about it. Guilt is a marvellous passion killer. Self-doubt does not improve your confidence. Accept this is happening but try not to fear it. Everyone goes through this at some point in their career. Even the world’s highest selling author of all time, James Patterson, had to develop some very randomly creative ways of getting through the blocks.
- Ask yourself – besides writing, what do you love to do? From surfing to sewing, gardening to garage sales, there is something you love to do that relaxes you. Write a list! Here’s some of mine – Gardening, drawing, knitting, quilt making, pottery, playing the piano, singing along with my favourite bands, walking on the beach collecting bits and bobs, tip shops and op shops, going for a walk on our farm to a favourite spot, playing with my handsome cat Harry, going for a family drive to somewhere I haven’t been before etc. Note, some of these things aren’t strictly ‘creative.’ Who cares? They relax you, free up your brain space, release feel-good hormones into your bloodstream, take you out of your stress for a while.
- Watch a TV show or film and analyse what makes it well written or poorly written. Is it predictable? Is that a good thing? What don’t you like? How would you write the characters/scenes/plot your way? Watch your favourite TV show or film and jot down why you love it so much. What’s the best scene? How do you feel when you watch it?
- Get your hands in the dirt. Even if you aren’t a gardener! Did you know we humans have the capacity to smell a certain bacteria in soil five parts per trillion? It’s the smell you detect after rain. We are connected to this Earth. We are meant to touch it, grow things in it, appreciate it. Even if you just buy a nice-looking plant, some potting mix and a pot, or a small citrus tree. Whatever. Connect with the Earth! Connect with your natural surroundings, physically, not just visually. Be a part of your planet. Breathe deep. Imagine it replenishing something inside you.
- Cut some flowers from your garden and bring them inside where you can admire their beauty and smell their fragrance. What smells do you enjoy? What smells would your characters enjoy/repel them?
- Search the internet for images of your characters or setting. Print them out and blu-tack them to the wall. Think about their features - what is unusual or special about them? How cool would it be if they were real? What do you think is their biggest personal flaw? Best asset? Worst nightmare? Dream come true?
- Research deeper. Get lost in another world for a while. Go off at a tangent, down an internet rabbit hole. Even if you write non-fiction, this can be loads of fun! I spent a whole day researching weird cultural practices from around the world. It helped me figure out a new race I am writing about, get to know them better.
- Talk to your target audience – kids, about what they love to read and why. What don’t they like? What’s the best book they’ve ever read?
- Go through your old photo albums.
- Revisit the music you loved as a teen.
- Bake something delicious.
- Go for a swim/run/skateboard/walk/kayak.
- Think about what your characters like to do as hobbies. How does it make them feel? Or is it unpleasant and a duty?
- Re-read your favourite books from childhood. What did you love? Why did you keep reading them?
- Write down 10 ridiculous, completely mad situations that fall into your brain, i.e.: your character falls down a rabbit hole, gets abducted by a giant squid, suddenly starts growing and doesn’t stop, grows facial hair in 30 seconds, falls off the edge of the planet, finds out they are part mammoth/ancestor was a turkey etc. Complete and utter nonsense, BUT something in there will spark off an idea you can use. Make it fit your story, force your characters to deal with this random element. Try it! It works for James Patterson!
These are just a few ideas. Maybe one of them will appeal to you. The main thing is to enjoy the process. We put so much of our personal selves into the creative process; our thoughts and feelings, our past, our hopes, our surroundings, our observations. It’s not just about producing something at the end, it’s the rich journey.
However wiggly and unexpected the road.
Editor’s note: Discover the wealth of stories Dawn has written and published on her website.