So You Want To Be A Writer? - Tip # 5 Time and Writer's Block

Two of the biggest obstacles for any writer can be finding the time to write and dealing with writer's block. Have you faced these problems? 

Writing is a very personal activity. I have several little tricks that work great for me and am happy to share them. Just keep in mind that they might not help you or you may need to modify them to meet your needs. If my suggestions don't work, keep searching for the things that will help. Google is your friend.

Here are a few things I've discovered that help me combat time issues and writer's block.

Making time to write: Life intrudes, many writers also have full or part-time jobs, and they often have families and other responsibilities. There are days I would love to have a little remote cabin in the woods where I could happily cut myself off from everything and just immerse myself in writing, but it doesn't work that way. Here are a few things I do to carve out some time to write:

  • I do a lot of my writing between the hours of 11 pm and 4 am. I always have. That is when the house is quiet and I can focus. But I do that writing on the days when I can sleep in.
  • When I worked full time I would take my lunch to work and eat in the car. I'd spend my breaks and lunch time writing with pad and pen. 
  • I often will set my alarm to get up an hour or two before my family does and write. I always do this when we are on vacation or traveling. It works really well for me. I get several hours to write and then I can spend the day with everyone else.
  • I look at my day and schedule blocks of time to write. Depending on the day the blocks might just be ten minutes long, or I could get lucky and have several hours. Getting something down every day is the adds up!
  • Once I've done all the plotting for a book, I will break it down to scenes. I don't necessarily write them in order (see the Writer's Block Section). In fact, most of the time I write the ending scene I know where I want the book to go, then the beginning, and then I work my way between them. But at some point I have a diagram that lists all the scenes. Each one will have something like - Hero/Heroine meet - and it will have any notes I've made on location of that scene, how they meet, or a snippet of conversation that popped into my head. So every day I pick out one or two scenes so I have a choice on what to work on. I print out the info I have for those and stick the pages in a pad of paper to take with me throughout the day. I'll work on one of the scenes when I'm waiting in a doctor's office, or grabbing lunch, or have ten minutes to sit down and drink a cup of coffee. If I just have a few minutes I may concentrate on something simple like flushing out the setting, or the heroine's clothes and hair, or on just a few minutes of conversation. If I have more time I will go broader and work on the emotions or the conflict. 

Just remember, the first draft is not the book. You write until you think you have the story down, then you read and edit. You change scenes around, you delete scenes, and you work on layering in emotion and setting, or on the funny bits or building tension. The most important aspect to finding your muse and having time to write is that what you put on paper isn't cast in stone.

You can always fix it, take it out, or expand on it later. But you have to have something written down in order to play with it.  My first draft might be 30,000 words. Then by the time I add things to it, change things around, expand on scenes etc...the book typically finishes between 60,000 - 75,000 words or more.

Dealing with Writer's Block: How long can you stare at a blank piece of paper? Turns out I can do it for hours. At some point in your writing career you are going to have to learn to deal with this dreaded phenomena. It can last for days, weeks, even years if you let it get out of hand. Here's a few things I do to get out of a slump:

  • If I can't get going on one scene I switch it up and work on something else. If that doesn't work I'll close my eyes and go through a series of what ifs. What if...something interrupted the action or emotion? What if...the heroine did something out of character? etc...and see if that gets things started. 
  • I move. If I can't write sitting at my desk, I move to the couch, or the hammock. Or I take a bath and make sure I have my pen and tablet near. There is just something about water and bubbles that will usually spark my creativity. When it gets really bad, I haul myself up and out and go sit at the park, or the coffee shop. 
  • I change up the medium. If I'm working on the computer and the cursor hasn't moved...I will switch to pen and paper. You can also use a recording devise and dictate to yourself.
  • Sometimes the problem isn't writer's block, but a time issue. At that point I tell myself that 500 words, or 100 words, or heck...a really good 50 better than nothing. It ads up. And having days where you write nothing ads up too! So set a goal to write something each day and don't sweat the daily word count. Eventually you'll get more time and you will be very happy to have something on paper that you can work with.
  • Writing first, promo and personnel social media comes after you've made your word count for the day. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc will suck up all the time you give them. While the promo excuse may be legitimate...write first. Then you can go look at the cute kitten videos and post in reader groups!
  • Get up and do something else for just a few minutes. I will often load the dishwasher or throw in some laundry. Then come back and try again.
  • Do some research for later on in the book. If the words aren't flowing, then do you need to do a little research? An example would be if you had a character that commuted to San Francisco every day. Do you know how long it takes to drive anywhere in that city? If you are having a hard time writing, then use the time to do a little research and strengthen the background of your books.

Writing isn't easy. But it can be fun and very rewarding. Just know that you will have days where you strain to get a few words down, and others where you will be amazed out how everything flows and your word count is awesome. I hope you found something in this blog to try the next time you run out of time or face a blank page that isn't speaking to you!

Have a great day,