16 July 2010

Blockbusters

No, not those books that sell umpty-zillion copies... or films that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars... I'm talking about the strange things writers do to get past the dreaded writer's block. *cue ominous music* I won't pretend to speak for the whole tribe, but here are my tried and true ways of smashing through whatever walls my demented brain feels like building when I'm just trying to follow my own plot, damnit!

1. Take a shower. That's right, a plain ol' simple shower usually gets something to shake loose. It's better for inducing ideas to appear in the first place, but something about flowing water gets ideas flowing too. Some of my best (read: most ridiculous) poems have appeared spontaneously and more or less complete while fighting with my sham
poo (my hair's about three feet long, by the way) or my razor.

2. Go running (and leave the iPod at home). There are generally two places I pop out for a run - one is full of trees and paths and people walking dogs and kids and whatever, the other is full of gravestones. Whether I'm spotting just the right name
for an elusive character (or wondering who would name a poor defenseless baby "Lemuel"), watching a tiny segment of an interaction between people I don't know, or just soaking up the air and green space and clearing my mind of all the technological clutter, the mindless repetitiveness of one-foot-after-the-other works wonders for those pesky mental roadblocks (and it's much easier to imagine hurtling them when you're already moving).

3. Clean the bathroom. This one might be just me... I'm not the neatest person in the world (I can hear all my friends dying with laughter right now) - okay, okay, I'm a total slob. Not dirty (you won't find moldering food or anything), but quite messy and terrifically disorganized. Every once in a while I get on a mad cleaning frenzy and then things improve for a bit, but I just can't keep it up and things devolve into clutter fairly rapidly. My bathroom, however, is tiny. We're talking sit-on-the-toilet-head-on-the-sink-feet-almost-in-the-shower-simultaneously tiny. So cleaning it not only doesn't take long, but has immediate and visible results. What the hell this has to do with writing, I still haven't figured out, but I usually come up with something good.


4. Got a favourite oh-man-you'll-never-believe-this-one tale that you trot out at parties, when meeting new people, or when there's one of those awkward conversational lulls? Get good reactions to it? Okay, so WHY? In other words, mine your life for those events that stories are made of - mine tend to start with "You know how you always read about someone (insert weird activity here) but you think, people don't really do that? Yes, they do..." One of my better ones (make that "most embarrassing ones") involves the phrase "hopping mad". Oh, I was a veritable grasshopper of fury that day - hmm? No, of course I'm not going to tell it NOW, I have to save some things for later...


5. Read books with similar storylines. How did so-and-so get their character(s) out of this mess? Like it? Think it's dumb? Could do it SO much better yourself? How? Oh, that's easy, I'd - well lookie here, you broke your block. :-)


6. Skip it and move on. I'm currently guilty of this one in my BuNoWriMo WiP - Chapter 6 ends with the highlighted text "somehow they figure all this out", page break, Chapter 7. Hey, I finished the story, didn't I? If something's not working, skip it and come back to it. If it worked in those stupid standardized tests we were subjected to in high school, it'll work here too.

7. Come up with a list like this so you can go back and DO the fixing, following your own damned advice. Now if you'll excuse me... ;-)

11 comments:

Hart Johnson said...

Lemuel? Oh that poor KID! Probably one grandpa was Lester and the other was Samuel (which could happen in MY family... both being family names... but Lester isn't a very GOOD name...)

The shower and the power walking (haven't run for a couple years) work well for me.

The only one on MY list you are missing is 'writes something ELSE'--often if I write a little on one of my fan fics (particularly the really SILLY one) or a short story (which are NEVER publishing quality) I can rattle the block out of place.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great list of tips! I like to skip the parts where I've gotten stuck, too. :) We can always fill in the blanks during the 2nd draft.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips! Walking with my iPod usually works for me :)

Deb and Barbara said...

I love your list! For me, it's walking my dog. And going to sleep. Sound counter-productive? Well, you'd be amazed how many story ideas have begun or been advanced by that hazy half-awake time before sleep.

Problem? Remembering in the morning!

Barbara

Marjorie said...

This list definitely beats staring into outer space for an hour. Haha! That's what I usually end up doing when I hit a wall.

Cruella Collett said...

I love Lemuel! He needs a novel written about him! (Wouldn't it be a nifty [today's favourite word] name for a dragon?)

And those are some good tips. I only have bad advice, so I'm going to pass....

Hart Johnson said...

Barbara--I have SO MANY dream inspired starting points--usually about 3 odd, dream-related things + power walk=book plot.

Chary Johnson said...

Great tips for trying to get out of a writer's block funk. I really like the cleaning one and going for a run *although in my case it would be a walk* :D

staceyshackford.com said...

Ha! Graveyard = genius!

ViolaNut said...

Tami - there are quite a few "Lemuel"s around here, though I won't give too many details 'cause I don't want to pinpoint my location. Suffice to say that, though it only took 10 minutes of scavenger-hunting to find Mr. Cushing here, he's not the one I set out to find. ;-)

Elizabeth - it's amazing how freeing the knowledge that there will BE a 2nd draft is...

Jemi - I prefer bare-eared when I'm searching for inspiration, so I can eavesdrop on my fellow exercisers and put my own spin on it. ;-)

Barbara - sounds like it's time for a notebook on the nightstand! And a mechanical pencil, so you can erase but not worry about a sharpener...

Marjorie - unless you're writing about aliens, in which case by all means stare into outer space. *snort*

Mari - Lemuel the Dragon... hmmm... I think I'll have to get back to you on that one. Then again, my latest fire-breathing beastie named himself Xerran, so I can't really talk...

Chary - if you figure out why cleaning works, PLEEEEEASE tell me...

Stacey - I love this graveyard; as you can see from the stone it's pretty darn old and therefore redolent with atmosphere. If I hadn't been able to find a Lemuel, I was going to post Sempronia's stone as an example of a rotten moniker. *shrug*

RosieC said...

Don't worry. You're not alone. I'm a clean-the-bathroom kind of girl myself, with a similarly subatomic bathroom :)

Thanks for the rest of the suggestions!