Writing Tip: Breakout of Your Block

This is that exciting moment where I learn how few people remember Breakout, and how truly old I am. 🙂 That said, I originally wrote Pong, not realizing I’d confused the two games. So apparently, I don’t remember either.

I find my writer’s block manifests in a few distinct ways:

Novice Procrastination

Everything else is more important than writing, or at least I want to get it done first. You know, that bill really needs to be paid, or if I just tidy up my desk the writing will go so much better…

Professional Procrastination

In order to write this scene, I just really need to research X endlessly. This one can be a bit dangerous, because I find research is incredibly valuable, both for accuracy and for idea generation. However, I need to tightly control it, because I can easily spend my entire writing time researching and never put down a word. If I’m really honest, some of that research was valuable but a lot of it was just procrastination.

Rarely does any of this have to do with a real inability to write. One common motive is that I have some tricky plot problem and I’ve avoiding solving it. On a few very rare occasions I’ve actually just been staring at a blank page wondering what my characters should do next, or what adventures they might actually have while they get from key moment A to key moment B.

When that does happen, though, it’s often because I’m buying into the idea lie: the belief that a good idea is more important than my writing skill. If I don’t have a good idea, I can’t write. This has been conclusively proven to be false. Apparently, Jim Butcher bet someone he could write a good story based on the two lamest ideas they could come up with. They said the Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon. His bestselling series the Codex Alera was the result.

So here’s the secret formula for smashing your writer’s block like an eggshell with a sledgehammer:


Write garbage!

Seriously. Sit down and write whatever comes. Don’t judge it. It can be terrible. Don’t like where it takes your plot? That’s okay. Don’t think it’s true to your characters? Let it go. Just write!

If it helps you, put your important project that you’re deeply invested in aside and write something else. But write. Write a letter to your significant other. Write anything!

Your writing is like a machine. And every time you sit down to write it’s like you’re tuning the machine. Greasing up all the gears and spinny bits, adjusting things so it runs just a little bit better. The more you write, the more often you write, the better the machine runs.

When you get up a good head of steam, go back to your trouble spot and get to work.

You never know, the silly project you make up to battle through your writer’s block may actually be you’re greatest contribution as a writer. If I remember right, it was Robert Asprin, while working away what he believed to be his great novel, The Cold Cash War, who decided he needed to take a break and work on something silly. His silly project, MythAdventures, spanned 21 novels and numerous best sellers.

So get out there and start writing! Feel free to tell me what you’re working on and how it’s going in the comments.


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