Everybody knows Writer’s Block. It’s that overwhelming structure that finds a way to wedge itself between you and absolute greatness. It’s miles high, infinitely wide. There’s really no way past it save tunneling right through it, and that can’t be for the faint of heart. To do this, there are tons of tools and recommendations available:
1) Have an interview with the characters
2) Add somebody new. Or a mysterious call.
3) Blow something up. Or kill somebody off. Unexpected heart attack. Car crash. Whatever.
4) Write another section and then see if you can come back to that earlier one refreshed.
5) Engage in some creative writing exercises that put unusual elements together and see if that kick-starts your imagination.
If you’d never tried any of those… No thanks necessary! Enjoy. Hope it helps.
But that’s not what this topic is about. There’s dozens of topics on writer’s block. I even wrote one last year: Breaking Through
This topic is about something far more insidious, and something not frequently talked about. This is something that has the potential to get worse every day, and as it gets worse it will cripple not just your immediate writing, but all the writing you will ever do.
I’m talking about Writer’s Gap. Writer’s Gap is the stretch of time between you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard… whatever). For some lucky few, maybe it’s hours. Most of us it may amount to a day, the rest of life that crowds in between writing sessions each morning (or night). As long as you keep a regular schedule, you know exactly how far that gap is, and you are prepared to jump it. You know exactly what equipment is needed to bridge that gap.
But what happens when you miss a day? Go on vacation and miss a week? As the gap grows, so does what it takes to get over it. You lose touch with your characters. You lose your train of thought. Your words look like they were written by somebody else. When getting ready to edit, this might be a good thing but in the middle of a draft, it can be a death sentence. You focus wanders, and as you sit down to work on your masterpiece, you realize that there are things you want to change or do. You realize you can’t write in the same voice. You drift. And you put off writing another day.
And then another.
Pretty soon, you’ve gone a month without really getting anything done on the writing front. This has happened to me (and did for the month of February, and has threatened to for March as well). From the number of times I’ve read to keep a schedule in books on writing, I’m guessing this has probably happened to you as well.
I’d like to offer some tips to avoid and recover from Writer’s Gap.
1) Write Every Day.
Sounds obvious, and it’s the thing I read about all the time, but I think it bears repeating. The easiest way to not get into the “can’t get around to it rut” is to write something, anything, each and every day. Keep the gap something you are familiar and comfortable with getting past.
2) Finish What You Start
This is my problem. I have so many ideas floating around in my head that I start them. Add to the mix the list of competitions and magazines that are constantly pulling in, and pretty soon I’m stuck in a soup of stories. The problem is that as I hop from story to story, I’m not really making progress. I’m re-living the story I’ve written, and get to the same point in my head that I got to when I quit and moved onto something else.
Resist this urge and keep working on the same story.
3) Don’t Edit
Let’s say you didn’t keep to your schedule, and then after you didn’t write for a day or ten, you also started wandering topics. Now what? Pick one and get back to it!
But don’t re-read everything you’ve written. Skim it if you must, but resist the urge to edit while you do so. Your goal is to get back to the writing. So find the end of what you’ve gotten to (or pick a scene somewhere else in the story), but get the ball rolling again.
4) Don’t Judge Yourself
As you dive back into your story, maybe you read what’s there and holy smokes… You’ve got Pulitzer material right there. Guess what? What you start right now isn’t going to be. Like any job you haven’t done in a while, your first trip back to the ring is probably not going to be your best work. It may not even be something you keep. Write it anyways. It is more important to get back in the habit. I promise you’ll shake off that dust quickly and be back on your (future) award-winning story in no time.
5) If You Must Switch, Make It Short
While it is better to stick to the same story for consistency, it is more important to make sure you are at least writing something (as opposed to staring at the cursor and thinking how much you should be writing). But be careful with this… It’s a slippery slope. So when you do write, make sure it is something you can write (and finish!) quickly. Maybe it’s a blog post. Maybe it’s flash fiction. Whatever it is, write and get it over with quickly so you can get back to your masterpiece.
Those are my tips on Writer’s Gap. Let me know if those help out at all, or please share some of your own!