Just start typing. It’s a kind of advice that is helpful to beginning writers and often the solution offered when a writer suffers the dreaded curse of writer’s block. Writer’s block is the too common occurrence when someone who intends to write becomes stuck and unable to continue writing.
While just typing is great advice in most instances, it isn’t completely applicable to all situations and a poor choice with certain causes of writer’s block. Below are some steps a budding writer can take that will help prevent or beat writer’s block in three of its most common forms.
Erasing White Page Syndrome
White page syndrome is the kind of writer’s block that inhibits starting the writing process. Under white page syndrome, the author sits down in front of the blank page and nothing comes out or there are several false starts ending with the work in a state that is as good as blank. This is the kind of writer’s block that is helped most by the “just start typing” philosophy, but there are a couple of other steps a wordsmith can take in order to make this advice more effective.
The first is to indulge in media. One of the best ways to get initial inspiration is read books, watch movies, play games, stream videos, or listen to podcasts.
Another piece of advice is to get active. One of the major hindrances to writing can be a busy metal state. A way to fix this is to workout, run, briskly walk, and generally get the heart pumping. After a bit of exertion, the mind begins to clear and hopefully this will allow the writer to start writing.
A third precaution a writer can take is to fulfill basic needs. Eating, sleeping, and remaining hydrated are important for cognitive function and thus creative work. If any of these are neglected, it can dramatically affect the productivity of the writer.
Preventing the Halt
Sometimes the problem isn’t getting started. Sometimes the problem is continuing to write. For one reason or another the writer freezes and is unable to move on. This is the halt. Many of the tips given for white page syndrome work to recover from the halt, but it is often much more advantageous to prevent it from happening altogether.
Many of the activities used to prevent the halt are actually steps to take before the writer even stares at the blank white page. Through preparation a writer can stave off this monster before it even rears its head. There are three major issues an author should address before writing that will help prevent a steady flow of words grinding to a complete halt.
The first of these is to know your characters. Sit down, think about, and take notes on your major characters. Know their history, their goals, their connections to each other, their preferences, and their hindrances. Any method to systematize the personalities of your major characters will help against one of the causes of the halt. This cause comes from when the writer does not know how a character would react to a situation.
The second is to know the end of your story. One major mistake a writer can make is to start writing without a destination, going with the flow as it were. If you know how your hero will save the day you can backtrack and determine all the little steps it would take for the hero to move from where he begins and where he’ll end. Given a skeleton, the task then becomes a fine tuned process of fleshing out the story.
The third issue, knowing what is feasible, is all about setting. The setting can be thought of as another character in your story and should be as well developed as both the protagonist and the antagonist. You need to know how big your world is. You need to know if your world obeys the same laws as ours. If there is magic or technology that isn’t like that of your reader, make sure you know enough about it that it is internally consistent.
If all of three of these has been followed the halt should occur less often. If it does happen simply dropping back to pre-writing can help develop any of these factors enough to carry on and resolve the halt.
Burnout is close enough to the other forms of writer’s block that it can be lumped in with it. In the case of burnout, the words stop flowing due to a general malaise or tiring of the writer. This comes from writing too much of one thing for too long. There are three approaches one could take to combat the stresses that lead to burnout.
The first of these is to break up your work. Attempting to write a work entirely in one sitting will lead a writer to becoming frustrated with the feeling of turning through a Sisyphean task. Even writing a thousand words without the occasional break can feel daunting and should be avoided. One approach would be to set a word count goal for the day and try writing a little toward that goal at different points throughout the day.
The second way to stave off burnout is work on more than one thing at a time. By mixing up your work you can provide yourself enough variety that even though it is all writing, it does not feel like a long continuous labor to slave away at.
The last way to prevent burnout is to not write, or rather take breaks. Schedule time for yourself that isn’t writing. In this period take care of yourself, experience things, and enjoy media.
While many of these tips are directed to a writer of fiction, they can be adapted to other forms of writing. An excellent example is honestly this how-to article. From the first sentence “Just start typing” to pre-planning and dividing up the work, this piece is the result of every tip contained therein. Following its example, any writer should be able to successfully break writer’s block and create works of beauty.