Writing is a skill to be practiced. But sometimes we are at war with ourselves. The creative side is literally in one side of your brain, while the editing/revising side is in the other hemisphere. Both are essential to good writing, and both need the other side to shut the heck up while they're working on your masterpiece. It's a lot like switching hats, gears or whatever writerly voodoo you might practice.
Sports have similar superstitious practices, like rewearing the winning pair of socks. What do writers do in such instances? I'll leave that for another blog at another time.
Writing is such a mental exercise, it's easy to get side-tracked and lost down the hallways and passages of our mind. Even easier is the trap of getting hung up on something, or simply beating ourselves up over ridiculousness. In such cases, I think it's a matter of payback from your warring creative self and editing/revising self. They must have gotten together while you weren't looking and paid someone to trip you up. Knowing you as well as they do, well, they used the cheap solution: YOU!
I might be exaggerating a tad.
When you find yourself staring at the blank page, the blank screen, etc. it's time to step away. Get out of your own head. Go read a book, or spend time with family, friends, and recharge your creative well and your editor's well with soul-nourishment. Writing is an art of capturing what is real and true in life. If you hole up and spend too much time writing, and not enough time living, you'll get off balance and shoot yourself in the foot.
Having a bullet lodged in your foot doesn't make for good writing. FYI.
Diving back into the stream of life is a good start, but it's often not enough. When this happens, it might be time to dust off writing prompts, or poetry exercises that can help reawaken your muse. Brainstorm new project ideas, outline plot points, fill out a character analysis worksheet. K.M. Weiland has a great one on her Wordplay Blog. Sign up for her emails and get a free pdf book download, "Crafting Unforgettable Characters." It's a great way to see how your character's flaw can be used in developing a story that resonates with your reader. And, it comes with a multi-page worksheet to fill out for each character. Don't miss it!
One of my favorite writing exercises takes me back to my college days, where I wrote poetry with friends in a group called The Wooden Nickel. We got together in any writer's paradise, the school library (bookstores ranked a close second), and we all got out paper, wrote for a set time (say five minutes), and passed our papers to our peers and continued writing. You can allow yourself to read all of what was written before, or just the last sentence, or even the last line to get started. Once you've mastered this technique, go full out, and write without knowing what was written before.
My writing friends and I were often amazed at how the creative energy in the room led us to discover poems and ideas that wouldn't have existed otherwise. And, we wrote some surprisingly good poems. One of us might write about the beach, another a hike in the woods, another a relationship, etc. When the poem came back around to the writer who started it, they would read the whole thing and add a finishing line. Then, we'd share what we wrote. Tons of laughter often ensued.
But, it helped us to avoid that nasty writer's block curse. If you are going to do it with a story, make a list of words everyone must use in their story, which might be particular objects or vocabulary to incorporate, and pick a genre. Write a story using a loose structure based on the selected genre and with the mandatory words/objects, and see what happens. Try a fairy tale, a soap opera or even a murder mystery. Anything goes, just agree and write.
Finally, when you're back in the writer's saddle again, celebrate the place you're at. Don't let your editor/reviser have access to your writing when the creative muse is at work. Tell your editor/reviser, he'll have his turn, and back off. Give the creative muse full access to writing down everything he likes, and write as fast as you can so you don't miss anything. When you're done, and you've let it sit for a few weeks, then your editor/reviser can have at it. They're in separate parts of your brain for a reason. Keep them divided. Enjoy each stage of writing. And, feed your soul the food it needs so you don't wind up with a blank page or screen before you.
Panic doesn't make for good writing. Refill the well and relax. Happy writing!
I welcome your thoughts, tips and suggestions on how you overcome writer's block, and what you do to keep your muses amused.