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How to Beat "Writer's Block"

Dean Wesley Smith’s website is a treasure trove for writers — he’s got two or three books about the publishing industry going up there, he constantly puts up free fiction, and has his fingers on the pulse of both indy and trad publishing.

If you head over there, though, make sure you read the comments.  The veins of pure gold are down in comments – Dean’s offhand comments are often mini-writing workshops, full of hard-earned wisdom about the writing process.

For example, check out this nugget of wisdom about so called writer’s block:

Michele, writer’s block is a myth, but project block sure exists. It’s often when you write yourself down a path and somehow your conscious brain gets a handhold and veers you in a direction. Then your writing brain, your subconscious says, “Nope.” And you just grind to a halt. Or, sometimes your subconscious just hasn’t figured out the next line yet. Which is why I often sleep in the middle of a story. When I wake up I can type again. (grin)

One big aspect of project block is not trusting your subconscious. This comes from the conscious/critical mind’s driving need to know where the story is going. As long as you just trust that the story is going somewhere and type, this aspect stays silent. But when you find yourself NEEDING to know where the story is going and not knowing, like a junky needing a fix, more than likely the project will stop cold.

Switch projects and go again. No such thing as writer’s block. But project block for many reasons is real.

YES.  This, a thousand times.

I first learned this from my writing buddy Charlene Teglia — we were chatting about working on multiple projects, and she emerged with a similar gem, that you can have different projects at different stages, and when you are stuck on one, move to another.

And the mighty Kevin J. Anderson says something very similar as well:

Each writing project has many phases: research, plotting, writing the first draft, doing the rough edit, polishing the final edit, copyediting, proofreading, and the marketing and business.  Since some of these tasks are more onerous than others, I keep several different projects on the creative burner at all times at different stages.  Personally, I love the creative explosion of plotting the story from scratch and writing the first draft, but the first major edit or the last proofread both seem like a lot of drudgery to me.

However, if I have several novels or stories at different stages of completion, I can switch from one process to another, while charging along at full-steam.  The variety also makes the tedious parts more palatable. 

 I can research a new novel for an hour, then write a draft chapter of a different story, then proofread galleys of another novel, answer questions in an interview for yet another novel, then maybe go back to tweak an outline, or do some more research.

So there you have it…a writing secret it took me years to understand and start to implement.  The best part about this job is that you never ever stop learning.

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