Tip #2) Keep a journal with you at all times
The first two problems in overcoming writers block consist of: 1) coming up with compelling ideas to write about, and 2) actually writing about them. Sometimes the hardest challenge of all is just coming up with ideas. In another tip in this series, I will discuss brainstorming for now, but for now, lets talk about how carrying a journal with you everywhere you go can be extremely helpful.
For me, being a writer isn’t just something you do, it’s something you are. It’s a way of living in the world. Because I live with my characters 24/7, I need to have a way to write down any thoughts and ideas that come to mind, no matter when or where they arrive. If you’ve got a journal with you at all times, you can build up a reserve of good topics to draw upon as you need them. In this way, you’re working proactively to prevent running up against blocks in your writing.
Inspiration can come at any time, and often strikes when you’re not near your desk or actively working on a writing project, so all writers and creative people need to carry a journal for jotting down ideas at the moment that they arise.
Often I find that my journal has a calming and grounding effect on me. For example, I don’t stress out about waiting, like if I’m in a waiting room, or waiting for a friend to arrive because I can use the time as an opportunity to check in with my character and see what’s happening in her story.
Also, if I’m in a particular setting, sometimes I will imagine a scene in which my character is in that same setting, and I begin jotting down the details of the setting to use later when I am actually writing the scene.
Sometimes I will have a journal used only for that particular character. It becomes her journal. I can jot down story ideas and lists of concrete details, and also use it to store pictures that remind me of other characters in the novel, settings, or ideas for scenes.
Let your characters converse with each other in the journal. I have pages and pages of dialogue between my characters that never end up in the novel, but that doesn’t matter. The purpose of their conversations was to discover the story, to allow them to reveal themselves so I knew what was going on inside of them or what was happening around them. In that way, my characters write the novel for me.
When it comes to overcoming writers block, you may begin to see a pattern emerging. That is… writing is not something we just sit down at our desks and do. It is more like breathing. It’s happening all the time. Just like in meditation, when you focus on your breath, you inhale and exhale more deeply.
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