Repeat after me:
There is no such thing as writer's block.
Now, don't throw your computer at me. I'm not saying we don't all hit walls, get stuck, or occasionally panic when faced with a blank page.
I'm not suggesting there aren't phases of life, sometimes seemingly endless stretches, where other concerns monopolize our time and attention.
After all, creativity is a fickle thing.
But one of the best things I've ever done for myself as a writer is reframe the concept of writer's block as productive pause.
If you grew up playing sports, or do any kind of weight training, Crossfit, etc., you've likely heard the term "active rest."
Well, your brain benefits from the same time to recover, mend, replenish its energy stores.
When you're stuck, something in your brain is telling you to pump the breaks, to sit back and listen to the muse or the universe or wherever you pull from for creative inspiration.
But this doesn't mean it's wasted time.
It's also may not be the best idea to just sit there and stare at a blank page waiting for the story to write itself.
So, what are some tools you can use to set yourself up for success and churn out high + good quality word counts on a regular basis?
(I may or may not also be really excited that my main points form a handy little acronym that is also my birthstone.)
Organize. Plan. Access. Let it flow.
Organize. When you want to maximize your time, you need an efficient system.
That might be a little different for everybody, depending on what type of computer and program you prefer to use.
Personally, I use Google Docs and Google Sheets for all my pre-writing, outlining, background notes, and tracking.
This allows me to access current docs and save and organize new ideas from any device: phone, tablet or computer.
This is especially handy, because you can create a sidebar outline from all your chapter headings that makes it easy to jump around/navigate within you manuscript.
When my documents get larger, and thus eat up more storage space or take a while to load, I tend to switch over to a traditional word doc, backed up on iCloud.
I'm in this phase right now with Gemini, which is currently at about 120k words. But on days I know I'll need to write from my phone, I just save chunks of it into a Google Doc entitled "Working Chapters," and copy and paste back into the master doc when I have time.
Take the time to get a system of files and documentation for everything from notes and ideas, to planning and goals, so that you know where everything is when you need it.
Want more details about the specifics of my planning docs, outlines or word count metrics? Let me know what you want more of in comments and I'll try to get going on that next!
Plan Ahead. Think of it like meal planning, but with words.
If you've ever bulk prepped food, or planned a menu for a week, you know that it saves you time in the long run.
The same system can apply to your writing.
- Spend an hour or so, once a week, going through your outlines for upcoming chapters
- Note any problem areas or scenes that may be harder to write than others, anticipating where you might get tripped up
- Create a plan for how and when to tackle them
I always have thinking points handy for when I find myself in a productive pause, or any other place where my mind can be moving, even if my hands can't be typing.
These are just 2-3 bulleted phrases to get me thinking, sometimes jotted down on a sticky note, but more commonly just stashed in my head.
Here's a functional example:
Last week, I realized I was going to be writing a scene where my main character makes a BIG mistake, an amoral mistake, and I knew I was going to have a difficult time pushing this particular envelope.
For this, my thinking point was, "Decide how far ____ needs to go. What can I live with? What can't they come back from?"
Then, as I was driving around and doing errands, I took some voice recording brainstorming this, then jotted down some notes into a google doc in a parking lot, and just let the whole idea simmer.
When I sat down to write the scene that night, it came in at 2.7k and took me just about two hours to write.
If you always have your project in the back of your mind, you can take steps to utilize transitions and downtime as productive toward that wordcount as an end goal.
I may only have two separate one-hour windows to write on any given day. Usually those windows are also multitasked with something kid-related or after bed. If I'm hoping to hit 2k-3k words, that's not a lot of time. And this kind of active rest is invaluable to keeping a fairly high wordcount pace.
Access. Hand-in-hand with organization and planning, having access to your story and creative tools from anywhere allows you to maximize your time.
But I don't think the hardest part about this is a lack of tools. I've already talked about how you can set up a system for yourself between devices, and move between writing or recording from just about anywhere.
I think the hardest part is increasing your flexibility when it comes to where and how you think about your book.
Perhaps by necessity, having four young kids, and two of them with special needs, I find myself capable of writing pretty much anywhere and under most conditions.
But it certainly didn't start out that way.
While it may be tempting to tell yourself you can only write under certain circumstances, start pushing those boundaries a bit.
The more flexible you can be with when, where and how you create, the more opportunities you'll have to add to that output.
Finally, y'all. Let. It. Flow. Elsa style.
I like to say that I don't write words to make a story, I let the story play like a movie in my head and then I write what I see.
I am an observer of the story first and an active participant second.
This concept of flow, I really believe, is one of the most useful tools a writer can have. It's the idea that we aren't constrained by the words we produce spontaneously, but are rather in possession of an endless wealth of creativity. Then we just need to do our best to represent the story our imagination comes up with.
But, then again, I'm a very visual thinker, so this might just be something that works for me.
So, some new things to include in your writer's toolbox:
Organize. Plan. Access. Let it flow.
Katie, this is so helpful. Especially, for me, the plan ahead portion. I tend to just sit down and start writing but often get frustrated because I usually feel lost! Lol I’m definitely going to try this. Thx for a great post!
Leave a comment