I have two secrets– that aren’t actually secrets– for avoiding writer’s block. And they’re both simple. Although, they each require diligence, which isn’t always so simple.
Read to avoid writer’s block
On average I only write for about three to four hours every day. The rest of the time I’m working, I’m reading. Reading is critical to the writing process. I read articles, books … pretty much anything I can get my hands on.
Reading gives me ideas, inspires me, and allows me to come across different approaches to writing that keep me creative and motivated. It’s also a form of therapy for me. I tend to be more ornery on the days I don’t read that much. It affects my brain.
In fact, the only times I have truly ever encountered writer’s block were when I also wasn’t reading much. My mind essentially went dormant because it had nothing to reflect on or reinvent or challenge, etc.
In short, to avoid writer’s block, make reading a part of your daily writing habit. It can’t be something you skip. Personally, I try to split my time fifty-fifty. If I write for two hours, I read for two hours.
Keep writing to avoid writer’s block
Another way to avoid writer’s block: keep a daily writing habit. And stay diligent.
Write for the same amount of time every day, around the same time of day. If you typically write in the morning, stick to writing in the morning every day. If you can only write for an hour or so at night, then keep that habit of writing every night.
If you want to keep writing, you need to keep writing. Don’t skip days–not unless you’re genuinely taking a vacation for a few days or enjoying the holidays with family and friends. And even then, you probably still won’t want to skip days to write if writing is part of your lifestyle.
One thing I have learned over the years is that writing isn’t a job, so it can’t be treated like one. I don’t care what all the articles tell you. Being a writer necessitates a certain type of lifestyle, a commitment. You don’t clock in and out. Even when you’re not writing, you’re writing. You’re reading about things or experiencing things to write about– constantly. And this should be an enjoyable and thrilling lifestyle if you’re a writer.
Writing isn’t something you can just pick up whenever you want and leave off whenever you want. You wouldn’t go to the gym once or twice a week and expect results (hopefully), so you can’t expect to write well if you write sporadically, without diligence and practice.
Writing advice from Stephen King
I know I quoted Stephen King in a post the other day, but the man has great advice for writers. If you haven’t read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, you should.
“The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate– 4 to 6 hours a day, every day –will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things.”
“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.”
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
“I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever. Also, I didn’t want to sound like a workaholic dweeb (just a workaholic, I guess). The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday (at my age you try to ignore your goddam birthday anyway). And when I’m not working, I’m not working at all, although during those periods of full stop I usually feel at loose ends with myself and have trouble sleeping. For me, not working is the real work.”
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