I got asked the question in the title by a friend of mine a few days ago. At the time, I told him that there was no way to really avoid writer’s block, only a way to muscle yourself through it. When writer’s block does strike, I write through it, and I told my friend as much. When you feel like you’re writing crap, just keep writing more, I said. He accepted that answer, and did his best.
But, that answer really didn’t address his question. It was how to deal with writer’s block, not how to avoid it.
That got me thinking. Is there a way to avoid writer’s block?
I don’t think so. I don’t think you can do anything to ensure writer’s block will never strike. But I do think that steps can be taken in order to try and prevent it from occurring. Here’s what I do, and it has kept writer’s block to a minimum.
I set aside an hour and a half block of time each weekday for my personal writing. I work as a technical writer, so I do end up doing quite a bit more writing every day, but that little block of time is meant exclusively for my personal use. I find that doing so gets me in the mood for writing, and get a lot accomplished in that time.
But I’m not always working on a novel. Some may scoff at this, but I actually have several different writing “projects” going on during that hour and a half stretch. For instance, I write my blog posts. I send messages to my virtual pen pal. I catch up in my role-plays. Sometimes, I outline. I try to use the majority of my time to work on my novel, and some weeks that’s a success, other weeks not-so-much. But I am writing, and that’s what’s important. I’m cranking out over a thousand words minimum (on a bad day), and I can see my writing improve.
Then, during the rest of my day, I try not to think about writing. During work, I try to focus on the tasks at hand. I keep my mind off my novel and other writing tasks as much as possible. On the way home, I read, or play video games. I don’t make a conscious choice to not think about my novel, but I don’t try to focus my efforts on it either. I find that doing so gets me locked up. Or, too far ahead of my writing progress.
Many days, I won’t think about my novel at all again until the following morning, at the next scheduled writing time.
If I do end up thinking about my novel, such as a character conversation or a new plot point, I let those thoughts follow through. Sometimes I write them down, or I take that line of thought to its furthest point. I don’t refuse those thoughts, but I don’t force them either. The only time I force them is during writing time. Otherwise, if I want to ponder Bayonetta in a Fox Suit (LINK), I will.
This may mean that my progress is slower than someone who obsesses over their novel. To be honest, I’m okay with that. I find that forcing myself to think about my novel all the time results in poor writing. Having other thoughts to occupy my overly active mind keeps the writing fresh, and makes the writing time all the more enjoyable.
And most importantly, keeps writer’s blocks to a minimum.
Do you have a method to avoid writer’s blocks?