Guest Post by Tim Baker: Writers Block (uggg…)

If you were to ask 100 writers how they deal with “writer’s block” you’d get 200 different answers.

You’ll even get those who insist that writer’s block is a product of the writer’s imagination (the ultimate irony). I don’t buy that…there are times when you just don’t know what to write, it’s that simple.

Real or not – I’ve heard a plethora of solutions, but I don’t give them much credence because they remind me of those old home-remedies—one in particular…

I was about seven years old and I had a foreign object in my eye. Even though it was probably no bigger than a grain of sand, it felt like a rock the size of a baseball to me.

A friend of my mother’s, who happened to be visiting at the time, insisted that I lay on the sofa with a wet tea-bag over my eye.

Sure enough, thirty minutes later I was back in action, the perceived life-threatening injury nothing but a memory.

To me, the so-called “cures” for writer’s block are not much more than a “tea-bag on the eye.” Surely, there is no documented proof that a tea-bag will cure anything, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that, like the tea-bag, most cures for writer’s block work because we believe they will.

I know I believed the tea-bag would work.

Whether it’s listening to a certain type of music, taking a walk or hitting a heavy bag, every writer has their own personal method for getting over the block. At a certain point – either during or after their ritual – they get back to writing.

In my opinion that is the answer.

They get back to writing.

I had a professor for Architectural detailing in college who would expect us (a bunch of know-nothing kids) to conceive of, and then draw, solutions to complex construction problems even though we hadn’t the vaguest idea of even where to begin.

Call it “drafting block.”

When he got tired of the blank looks in our eyes, he told us the secret;

“Just draw something. Don’t worry about getting it right. Just draw it, then look at it, decide what’s wrong with it and fix it.”

Using this same technique is how I avoid writer’s block.

Whenever I find myself staring at a blank screen with an equally blank mind I just write something. After awhile, I look at what I’ve written, decide what’s wrong with it and go about fixing it. Whether it’s a couple of lines of dialogue or three chapters at a critical plot point.

My writing style could be classified as dynamic improvisation, which basically means I’m making it up as I go. I have a general story outline in my head, I know where it’s going, but I prefer to hammer out the details as I write. Others won’t even turn on the computer until they have every character, plot point and detail outlined and ready to go. Then there are dozens of degrees between the two. It doesn’t matter what your style is, just write something. You may end up trashing it all – but at least you’ll know what you don’t want to say.

This is my “tea-bag on the eye.”

I won’t say that it’s fool proof, but it keeps me moving in a (mostly) forward direction. Sometimes what I write is good, other times it’s nothing more than typing practice – either way I rarely come up completely empty.

Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of everything is shit.”

You never get it right the first time…but fixing something that isn’t quite right is much easier than staring at a screen full of nothing for hours on end.

Give it a try and see what happens. What have you got to lose except for some time that would have been spent worrying about how to get over your writer’s block?

And if you’d rather stare at the blank screen until the muse shows up…have a cup of tea while you’re waiting.

Tim Baker 

Author of “Living the Dream” and “Water Hazard.”

Ron Knight

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