The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

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Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Writing While in a Creative Slump

I’ve been in a creative slump.

For the most part, I try to write as often as I can. It’s what I love to do. Sometimes I write for hours, every day, for a week straight. Sometimes I write for twenty minutes on only one day of the week. It all depends on how much time I’m able to carve out for myself. It’s all about carving out time, making it work, doing what I can.

With doing anything creative, there needs to be a balance of creativity coming in and going out. Refilling the creative well is important: soaking up from all sources (books, films, art, television, life), taking in inspiration and creative energy in order to focus it and use it to produce, to let it flow out. Whenever I’m in a creative slump, and nothing else is working, I know I need to fill the creative well.

But the last few weeks, I’ve been incredibly busy with work—the small business I co-run launched a new product, so we’ve been busy promoting and making the product and sampling at stores a lot. I haven’t had much time to work on anything else, especially writing. I’ve had to make choices with my time and writing hasn’t been winning the time slot. A few times, I carved out a bit of time to write, but sat down and couldn’t get it going—and I knew it was because my creative well was dry, that I was in a creative slump. But I barely had enough time to read or watch anything, let alone write.

A few times, I could’ve carved out more time to fill the well or maybe even try to write, but I chose to do something like getting other work done or spending time with family or watching a few YouTube videos before going to sleep instead. One such YouTube video was by my favorite author, Victoria Schwab. In her video, she talks about when a writer is at their computer, they’re really just transcribing and that writers write all the time, whenever they think about their work—plotting, creating, building. That’s all writing, too. And that had me thinking about my writing time.

So what do I do when I’m unable to carve out writing time and unable to refill the creative well? There’s one thing I know I can do:

Not write. Or, I should say, not transcribe. Seriously. I just don’t do it. I don’t sit at the computer, I don’t pick up a pen. Because sometimes it’s not feasible to do so. I’m not a full-time writer, it’s not my job, so I don’t need to do it. So I don’t.

And that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. Because no matter how busy I am, how hectic life is, my brain is always with me. I always have a few stolen minutes to think while doing mundane tasks—showering, driving in the car, lying in bed at night, walking the dog. I always have time to think about the story, the characters, the world—and maybe jot down a note or two. And that keeps it going. Even when I don’t have time to sit at the computer and type out the actual words, just keeping the wheels turning is all I need to do—it’s still being productive, it’s still writing.