Last updated on April 14, 2017
So far in this series, you have been introduced to the principles behind writing as a business and we have talked a bit about the first part of the production process: writing some words and how to write more. What about those times when the creativity just doesn’t flow?
If you have heard me talk about writing at all, you have heard me say these words that seem to infuriate nearly every writer who hears them:
I don’t believe in writer’s block.
I’ll keep this post in the series short for two reasons. First, all of the other ones are long. Second, it’s really a simple principle I have shared dozens if not hundreds of times. The simple fact is this: by starting this series and reading along, you have at least entertained the idea of writing for a living.
You don’t get to be blocked in the thing you do for a living. A waiter does not get to have waiter’s block, nor does a teacher get to have teacher’s block. No one would go to a doctor who had doctor’s block.
You don’t get to be blocked in the thing you do for a living. No one would go to a doctor who had doctor’s block.
In any other profession, if you are not able to work that day, you go home sick, your boss finds someone else who can do your job for you, or all of your work is waiting for you when you get back to the office, and you have to make it up.
The kicker is, you don’t get paid, or you use sick time. But as a writer, you don’t really have sick time unless you have set up a savings account just for that reason (which you should, but that comes later in the series on the business end of things). If you don’t work you don’t get paid.
No fairy comes behind you and does your work for you. It really is that simple. Does that mean there are not days when things are harder than others? Nope. Just like other jobs, some days you feel it more than others, and some days are more productive.
You can never have an extended bout of writer’s block, though. Any more than a couple of days, and you are really putting yourself in a poor position. So what do you do when you are just not feeling it? You either fight to get the feeling back, or you work anyway.
Trick Your Brain
You need to write every day. We covered that already, but what you are writing might vary. You may be writing a blog post, a technical article, or the next great American novel. You might even be editing your latest piece, or working with an editor on a project.
So trick your brain so it is ready for the work you are doing that day. Here is how it works for me:
- I use Scrivener for creative writing, short stories, novellas, and novels.
- I use Google docs for blog posts and some articles, depending on who I am writing them for.
- I edit using Microsoft Word and do some technical writing in it.
I never use Scrivener for technical writing, and never use Word for the initial creation of a creative work, only for rewrites and editing. Why?
When I open up each interface, my brain knows what kind of writing we are going to do. I don’t have to stare at the blank page for long before my brain automatically goes into the proper writing mode.
You don’t have to use these programs the same way I do, or even the same programs, although I will make a big case for you using Scrivener for fiction writing (that will come later under what software you really need).
However, you can trick your brain by using certain software, writing in a certain location, or even using a different keyboard, location, or account login on your computer to write. For instance, I could have a Troy Lambert login and a Troy Lambert Author login with different backgrounds, programs, and that even limits access to the internet if that is a problem for you.
Whatever your method, your mind can be your greatest asset.
Write Something Else
I have also written dozens of times and on several writer sites about the need for more than one stream of income. So since you have already listened to that, and you are writing several things, you do have other projects you are working on, right?
So if you are stuck on one project, switch and write something else. Can’t get into the groove for the next scene in your novel? Write a blog post, article, or another short story. The point is when your butt is in the chair, and it is your scheduled time to write, write.
Writing does not include emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, or a letter to your long lost brother. It does include journals, plays, movie scripts, stories, articles, technical papers, ad copy, and dozens of other things, all of which can make you money.
Writing does not include emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, or a letter to your long lost brother.
Nearly every kind of writing you do is creating a story of one kind or another, from a blog post about digestive health to a brochure about your local furniture store. You just have to look harder to find the story arc (more on that in another post as well).
Writing one story usually sparks you to write another. And another. And another. One type of writing will give your brain time to process where you are stuck, and usually, when you go back there, things are flowing again.
Start writing anyway. Write gibberish at first if you have to. Your brain will kick in. Write another story about that character and how they got to this point in the story. The point is to write something anyway.
Remember, if your butt is in the chair and you are scheduled to be writing, write. No matter what, write. Even if it all has to be thrown away later. There are no wasted words except for those that remain unwritten. You cannot edit an empty page or the thoughts that are still in your head.
You may have heard that to become a proficient writer, you must put in 10,000 hours writing, or roughly one million words. Use your writing time to get some of the shitty words out to make room for better ones. Do not ever, under any circumstances, waste your writing time.
If you have to, start typing the phrase “I will always write during my writing time” and keep typing it until other words come. They will. But you must write to activate the writer inside you.
If you are going to write for a living, you are not allowed to have writer’s block. You need to work through it somehow. There are no sick days, and no one will come in the middle of the night and do your writing for you.
However you trick your brain, whether you write something else or just write anyway, you need to work when you are scheduled to work, and for those of us who are writers that means writing. Writer’s block is a sick day, and you can only take so many of those before you go broke.