Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beating the Block

You’ve got it all planned out.  You’re going to be the next Fitzgerald, Twain, Hemingway, or even Rowling.  But you’ve also got a problem: you’ve got the block.

The block?  Trust me, I know all about the block.  It may go by different names, but it’s the universal blight of writers. It’s this towering wall that you can’t quite climb, a blank page you can’t manage to fill.  After this last semester at college, I had a severe case of the block—a severe case of the block.  I’d been doing science-related homework all day every day for so long that I felt as though I had forgotten how to write.  And that scared me.  A lot.

However, the block is no more. It took me a while to recover, but now I’m back to writing just as before, if not better.  How?  Here are some tips, a list of tools that helped me beat the block. 

·      Read. A lot.

Some of the best advice that has ever been given to me?  This: “Hannah, just go read.”  Why? Because it exposes you to entirely new worlds, time periods, people, styles, words, and thoughts.  Not sure what to read?  I finished The Book Thief not long ago, and it was brilliant.  In the mood for something a little lighter?  The Princess Bride (that’s right, it was a book before it was a movie) is one of the most hilarious books I have ever read.

·      Try something new.

Seriously, try this one out.  When you are in a rut, sometimes you just need a tug to get moving again.  Go see the world or at least switch things up. Eat at a new restaurant.  Meet new people.  I’ll say it again: meet new people. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing this can be.  Take a walk at a park you’ve never visited (side note: walking in general is fantastic). Learn how to ballroom dance. Click on the “Discover” tab on Spotify and find new music. Take a pottery class.  Travel.

·      Cry.  

This one might sound a little odd, but bear with me. You can’t capture the depth of the human plight if you aren’t familiar with it.  So push yourself.  Get out of your comfort zone are go do something hard.  You can’t grow as a writer unless you first grow as a person. You want to write something that moves people?  Go do something that moves you.  Find a cause and invest your time and resources.  Be all in—you’re not going to feel anything if you don’t have some skin in the game. Reach out to a friend that’s struggling, even cry with them.  Go volunteer at a homeless shelter; care for the people, sit with them, and listen to their stories.  You will undoubtedly be amazed by what you hear.  Love, and love hard, even if you’re the one who ends up hurt.  And take all of it and store it away, deep in the resources of your being, and once it has stewed sufficiently, pull a Hemingway. Sit down at your computer and bleed.

·      Journal.

Reflect on your own life and the people that fill it.  What thrills you?  What grieves you? What makes you laugh?  What events and experiences helped to form you into who you are today?  Who inspires you? Early on in my writing endeavors, I was advised to write about what I knew.  This was, incidentally, fantastic advice.  You can write about Greek mythology and still be writing about what you know. You can still fill it with life because you have one.

·      Watch good television and do it thoughtfully.

Analyze your favorite movies and TV shows.  What draws you to those particular films? The plots? The characters?  Why?  Write it down. Mull it over.

·      View art or make some.

Deepen your thoughts.  Enrich your mind.  Get your creative juices flowing.

·      Set a goal.

And write it down!  For me, having something tangible to hold and look at is hugely motivational.  There is sky diving. There is cliff jumping.  And then there is that glorious rush of energy produced by checking off a box on a to-do list.  If you write out a reasonable set of goals and stick to it, you will be astonished at how much you truly can accomplish.

·      Start small.

Writing a novel is like climbing a mountain. It can be downright exhausting and even discouraging at times—a lot of the time, honestly.  Even the most experienced climbers have to pace themselves. It’s perfectly acceptable to take it a small stretch at a time, take a break, and then repeat.  Come up with a routine that works for you, but don’t be so married to it that you become crippled when your ideal writing conditions are not met. Be flexible and hang in there. When it comes to both climbing and writing, it is often endurance that is most prized.

·      Push. Harder.

Keep going.  Been doing two pages a day? Try three.  Aim for excellence; be the very best that you can be.

·      Be forgiving.

Know in advance that you won’t always meet your ideal writing quota.  Know that you will get frustrated, that some days you will likely fall short of your goal. And that’s ok.  Life happens.  So don’t beat yourself up.  Give yourself some grace and take wise breaks. What matters is that you keep moving forward, no matter how small your steps may be.

·      Don’t give up.

The most important of all!



Hannah Lokos writes books and studies pre-medicine/biology.  You can find out more about her book here, or you can visit Hannah's website, or follow her on GooglePlus


Liz Fountain said...

Definitely needed that - thank you!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Most important, "Be forgiving." Writers are hard on themselves.

Big Mike said...

I have been very fortunate and never hit the wall, yet there are times I've been exhausted.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)