Coping with Writer's Block

Author MJ Rose has brought in Dr Sue to tackle that nasty little problem that writers don't like to talk about much: writer's block. Personally, I've always found my periods of inactivity coincide with periods of increased stress. Eliminate the stress, and suddenly I can write again. Sometimes it's job stress that's not easily eliminated, but rather managed. Sometimes it's house stress. Clutter is a major source of stress for me-- I just can't work when I'm surrounded by piles of junk. The day the hot water heater bottomed out was a rather unproductive writing day. It seems this is not unusal. Dr Sue points to this example that I find heartening:

By her mid-twenties, Jane Austen had completed three novels plus her satiric History of England and other sophisticated juvenilia. She had begun a new novel when she was forced to move with her family from her childhood home to the less familiar town of Bath. Her father died four years later; the family moved house again and she may have had a love affair that ended badly. During this period, to the best knowledge of her biographers, she barely wrote at all and completed nothing. It was only after the family was settled again that she was able to return to serious, productive work, revising the drafts of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication and creating three new major novels.

If Jane Austen can get through tough times and still write, then maybe I can too. Stress is a fact of life. Something to be managed daily. It's futile to expect to not encounter roadblocks or potholes. You just deal with it and find another route to your destination. I've found that reading outside my comfort zone can be extremely inspiring. A good book makes me want to jump in and play in that world, spend some more time with the characters. The last book that did this for me wasKim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking. A bad book makes me want to write a good one. (We don't want to be catty, now. I'm sure you can think of several awful books you'd like to rewrite.) But sometimes a novel outside the genres I usually read can be so different, so fun, that I leap out of my chair and yell, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" The last novel that did it for me was Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity. It didn't make me want to write a novel like his, it just made me want to write. Hanging out with other writers also gets my mojo going. I don't get to do this in person very often-- maybe once a year-- so I hang virtually at blogs, forums, and websites. I don't believe in pity parties, though. Let's face it, complaining just brings everyone down. Even when I bitch here, I can feel myself flushing down the drain. (And I've promised myself no more complaining here from now on. It's pointless.) I'm trying to maintain a positive attitude when I'm on-line. I get a cup a coffee in me and once I'm feelin' fine, then I hit the boards for a quick pick-me up, and then I hit the pages. It seems to be working well, too. *If you are feeling at all down, don't go where everyone complains. It will only compound your problem. Avoid those folks who drag you down. Think positive. Stay positive.* And finally, don't stop writing. I try to write everyday. This doesn't always happen. In fact, there have been periods of three days at a time, or even several weeks when I haven't seen my work-in-progress, but I frequently think about what I'm going to do when I next pull out the keyboard. If I don't have anything happening in my head, if I've reached a period of inactivity, but I haven't worked through the above solutions, I try to at least write a grocery list, an email, a forum message. Because any writing is writing. And I don't worry about writing crap anymore. As Nora Roberts has said, you can fix a bad page. You can't fix a blank page. If all else fails, try to remember that this too shall pass. .