This week I asked my fellow bloggers to share ways that we deal with writer’s block.
Since I’m used to dealing with several different issues at any given time, I’m often faced with the inability to write when I have the time, or “on command” as it were. And right now, available time to sit and write is at a premium. I’m dealing with packing up my household in preparation for moving to a new home. We’ve been here for thirty years, so there are lots of memories here. I have lots of decisions to make as far as what to keep, what to sell, and what to give away or toss.
Fortunately, our decision to move was not a sudden one. I had time to get used to the idea, and while we began our search, I took the time to write an outline of what the next story would be about. I’m definitely a plotter when it comes to writing, so having story details nailed down helps a lot.
Another thing that helps me is having writing friends who get together on a regular basis just to write. One of my writing groups has regularly scheduled Zoom meetings three times a week during which we check in at the top of the hour, declare what we’re going to work on, and then turn off our microphones and cameras while we work. We check in again at the top of each hour to share what we got done and what we want to do next. I’ve managed to get a lot of writing done during these meetings, although lately I’ve been using the time to work on my blog post or plan the university class I’ll be teaching in the fall. In addition to checking in, we use this time to brainstorm solutions to plot problems or unruly characters.
I’ve also put out calls on social media in various writers groups or even or sometimes to the people who follow my author page, asking for someone to help me solve plot problems and often had productive discussions that resulted in my being able to continue writing.
Despite all the available willing helpers, there are times when I just need to figure things out myself. A few years ago, I attended a workshop given by my good friend Elizabeth Meyette. She’s been a guest here at Four Foxes, One Hound with her mystery series. In her workshop, Elizabeth gave several great ideas for dealing with the dreaded inability to figure out what comes next in our stories. But the one that stuck with me – and the one I’ve used more than once – is the trick of writing the question that needs to be answered with my dominant hand and then putting the pen or pencil in the other hand. I was extremely skeptical until I tried it. At the time, I was working on my historical novella Lost in Lavender and I needed to figure out how my hero, a landscape architect, would meet and spend time with my heroine, a milliner. What would be the impetus for starting their relationship? At the workshop, I wrote the question with my right hand and then put my pen in my left hand. And then, in very shaky penmanship, I wrote He has a poor sense of direction. Aha! Problem solved. My hero, James Benton, repeatedly got lost when walking from one place to another, but for some reason kept finding his way to her hat shop. From there, the story flowed. I realized he was a lot like my true-life hero in that he would become lost in his thoughts and forget where he was.
Since then, I’ve used this technique a few more times. If it didn’t take so long to write longhand, perhaps an entire book could be written left-handed!