I’m getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I’m starting in October to make sure I hit my goals because I’m a notoriously slow author. My son is going to write a novel also. That will add more accountability to the process for me. But he will have writer’s block. He always does. He gets paralyzed with fear of failure. One thing I’ve learned over the years as someone who makes a living from word-smithing is this: the only real failure is failure to write. What follows are five “writer’s blocks” you can use to build up your writing productivity.
Writer’s Block #1 : Prepare a writing space
I write at home in the same chair every day. I sit sideways in that recliner with my legs curled up, and l put my laptop on the armrest. My little mini Aussie climbs underneath it when I raise the footrest. I make sure I have everything I need and then I sit and write. Being in the same spot helps your brain to get ready to write just like when you open the freezer and look in the place where the Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream is and you begin to get hungry. It’s conditioning. You are Pavlov’s dog. Celebrate that.
Writer’s Block #2: Eliminate distractions
My biggest distraction is the internet, so I turn off my wifi for twenty to thirty minute blocks so I’m not tempted to play online card games or shop for . . . just about anything. I recently listened to the audio book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again. (The link above takes you to GoodReads so you can read a few reviews. Hopefully they will convince you to read/listen to the book.) Author Johann Hari explains how long it takes to refocus after a diversion to say HomeDepot.com to find a kitchen faucet installation wrench.
My second biggest distraction is when the dogs want outside. I go to open the back door, and I see the garden, and then I remember I have to water the garden, and then while I’m holding the hose, I notice one of the catmint plants is rather large, so I need to split it and move half of it to the front yard. And while I’m in the front yard, I notice some dried leaves have bunched up along the steps and they need to be swept up. And so I go to get a broom in the garage, and see the dog food kibble has spilled, and I don’t want mice, so I sweep up the dog food. I wonder if the mice have already been there, so I go to find a mousetrap and wonder what the most humane way to get rid of mice is, and I think I need to research that . . .
Anyway, find a way to minimize distractions. I’ve discovered my dogs sleep better and are less distracting after they’ve been exercised . . . which leads me to . . .
Writer’s Block #3: Walk or exercise before writing
You don’t need me to nag. You think more clearly after exercising. Breathe. Get the blood flowing to the brain.
Writer’s Block #4: Eat high protein meals and avoid sugar
I typically begin writing in the morning and end around three o’clock in the afternoon. During that time I eat no more than 10 grams of sugar. It makes a huge difference to even cut out milk because of the lactose sugar there. Eat eggs, turkey, avocados, chili, steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts or almonds. Beans on low-sugar toast or crackers. Munch on cheese or beef jerky. Try some paleo or keto pancake mixes and top with strawberries. Find whatever works for you, but remember brain power is increased when you don’t have processed foods or sugar adding to your brain fog. (A diatribe about the way processed food negatively affects the brain is in Stolen Focus too.) After you’re done writing, go eat a cookie, but just not before. Really, try it for a week.
Writer’s Block #5: Read the Bible and journal
I gave a suggestion to my son yesterday that his Future HIm wanted him to keep a journal so that when he’s writing in NaNoWriMo in 2042, he can remember who he was and what he was thinking in his college days. I gave him a Bible verse as a writing prompt. I don’t know whether he journaled, but I wrote some things down. It’s a recent discipline of mine; I don’t journal so much like I did in high school about all my emotions, but I do write down my thoughts about God and the Bible. I find those thoughts pop out of the mouths of my characters more often than not. It’s a way I’ve found to saturate my books with wisdom taken from Scripture. I used to just read my Bible and pray, but the act of writing everything down makes the thoughts come more alive-I can’t explain it any other way. Your characters can only be as authentic as you are.
Marianne Hering was a founding editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Since then she’s been writing for children and editing Christian books for adults. Find out more about the Imagination Station book series that has sold more than 1 million copies at MarianneHering.com. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. And she still hasn’t heard back from the publisher about her book series. Sigh and double sigh.
Looking for more writing resources? Check our Marianne’s review of Story Genius by Lisa Cron.
6 thoughts on “Writer’s Blocks”
I LOVE this!!! You contribute such fun and meaty (not sugary) ideas to our blog!!
Great post. Number 2 reminded me of “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”!
Great practical suggestions to get over writer’s block. thank you, Marianne.
Oh ha ha ha!!!! I could really relate to when the mint gets overgrown and I just HAVE to get out there and work on that patch. Te he he…this post makes me feel so refreshed and like I can do this!!!!!