Well, it has finally happened. I am out of good ideas. Sure, I have a few bad ones but for the most part I am stuck.
Most writers have come to this point at one time or another. No matter what we do nothing comes out of the creative well-spring. There is a term for this most heinous condition – writer’s block.
All writers face this problem at some point. What causes the writer’s creative juices to freeze up quicker than a bird bath in Alaska? I am pretty sure that the reasons for writer’s block are as varied as the writers it affects. I have concluded that (based on no scientific research what so ever) anxiety is the main culprit, and the main causes of anxiety are stress and lack of planning.
Once you're suffering from a block there is no quick fix. The best way to combat writer's block and anxiety is to avoid putting yourself in a crunch in the first place. Sure, that sounds cliché and obvious but it is true. Taking some simple steps in advance can dramatically reduce the effects of a block on you, your writing, and those who suffer along with you. Just ask my fish.
The easiest step to combat writer’s block is planning. I recommend a couple approaches. First, I plan what I am going to write and break it down into a rough outline. This step works for any type of writing whether it is an adventure or a technical document. Once I have this rough sketch, I go back and polish the outline. After awhile, I have my paper laid out. All that remains is writing the filler text.
My second tool for avoiding writer's block is anticipating that I have some days when writing isn't in the cards. Planning for these blocks reduces your overall stress level and makes the writing so easier when you get back to it. If you've planned ahead for this down time, you can afford to fold and wait until tomorrow when you're dealt a new hand. Use this down time to refine outline and further clarify your structure. Having a robust outline cuts down on the time it takes to write filler text. In short, planning ahead saves you time and grief. Do it!
Stress makes writing difficult. It is hard to concentrate on what the NPCs in your adventure if you have to worry about missing your deadline or your son throwing up (the best examples always come from real life). Sometimes the sources of stress are unavoidable; you just have to deal with it. Other times, you are making it hard on yourself. For example, taking a vacation in the middle of a big writing project massively reduces the time you have to write before your deadline. Cut down on the amount of writing assignment you accept around major life events. Do not plan on getting anything written if your wife is in her ninth month of a pregnancy. Have you guessed the common theme to these types of stress? Yup, they can all be alleviated with proper planning.
So what happens when you find yourself in a serious block with a deadline looming? Well, the best thing is to calm down and step back. Go to your outline and review what you have written so far. Sometimes seeing the piece your working on as it relates to the whole project jump starts your brain. You remember your original intentions for certain NPCs or encounters which you lost while search for just the right word. Other times you have to address the issues that keep you from writing head on. It may be as simple as feeding the cat so it lets you write in peace. There are also times when the block is going to win – temporarily. Once a block begins to threaten your deadline let the people who are counting on you know that you are having problems as soon as possible. They may be able to help out in some way.
In the end, proper planning can make or break your writing project or career. Well, that and some talent. As I mentioned in my first article, planning can also help you get a handle on where to start. Planning is one of the most useful abilities a writer develops. The best (and only) way to become a good planner is to make it a habit. I'm still learning new things about how I manage my time and what works for me. Don’t be discouraged after just a few attempts; writers block can never win as long as you keep trying.