January 23rd, 2013

Knock Your Block Off: How to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

Writers In The Storm is pleased to welcome a new guest blogger. I have the incredible pleasure of being in a local chapter with Kimberly Kincade and cheering her on as she swept the contest scene and then secured a fantabulous contract for her foodie novels. She obviously has a winning recipe so who better to talk about overcoming writer’s block? Help me welcome Kimberly to WITS! – Orly Konig-Lopez

Kimberly KincaidAs writers, we all know the scenario: You sit down in your trusty chair. It’s quiet, all the chores are done, you’ve got nothing on the agenda but to write. You’re all ready to go, fingers poised over the keyboard, and…nothing. Nada, zip, zero, nothing comes out. Writer’s block can strike swiftly and be oh-so cruel, but don’t worry! While they’re different for every writer, there are ways to jump-start yourself back into the zone. Here are a few things I do when The Block strikes.

Step Away From the Keyboard. Yes, I know this sounds counter-intuitive. You’re supposed to be writing! But that blank screen can give your mind the same idea sometimes, so don’t be afraid to do something else that will engage you. Watch an episode of your favorite show and watch how the characters interact. Go to Starbucks and eavesdrop a bit on people interacting. Or get out and do something solitary that will let your mind wander, like gardening or taking a walk (I have one writer-friend who swears she gets the best ideas ever while in the shower. Mine tend to hit while I’m behind the wheel). Whatever you choose, allow yourself permission to think freely. The sparks will follow.

Read. Read some more. Books by others aren’t just a source of oh-yes in the down-time department. They can be an incredibly valuable resource in getting our creative juices going. You might choose someone who writes very differently than you, just to see what options are out there. Or you might feel better reading someone similar to you, to “remind” yourself of your path. Whatever you pick, reading can be a great bribe for your muse!

Talk it Out. Some of my most inspired ideas have come from conversations that started with the phrase, “I need an idea for a book!” I’m fortunate enough to have five incredible critique partners, all of whom have said this, and heard me say it, at some point or another. Noodling things out with another person can flesh out ideas, and often offers up surprises as well as sparks. Sometimes I have no idea my hero had a dark past or my heroine wanted to open up her own cooking school until I hash out threads of ideas with my CPs. And once I figure it out, I’m off to the races.

Let’s Get Visual, Visual! Like many people out there, I am a very visual creature. I write foodie romance, and so the grocery store is a hotbed of inspiration for me (I’m reminded of the time I wrote half a scene in the middle of Costco because the bunches of bananas sparked a whopper of a story idea. Always keep a pen and notebook in your bag, people!) But your visual inspiration can come from anywhere. Magazine pictures, people in their cars at stop lights, stories on the news, all of these things have the potential to get your brain un-blocked if you really look at them.

The prototype Writing Blocks®

The prototype Writing Blocks®

Toys. My inner kid loves this one, and chances are, yours will too. Whether they’re designed specifically to shatter your writer’s block or they’re just plain fun to play with, toys can get your creativity out of a lurch. I won a set of Writing Blocks Idea Dice from the lovely Mia Zachary last year, and they are a fabulous writing tool when I’m stuck. They’ve got possible plot elements, conflicts, and character tropes on them, and you essentially roll them to come up with the framework for a story. You can use all of them if you’re just starting out, or just one or two if you’re stuck on a particular element. They’re tons of fun, and I’ve surprised myself more than once playing with them.

So tell me, writer friends! What methods do you employ to banish The Block? What works best for your style? And how do you keep those ideas flowing?

Bio

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She is thrilled to have collaborated on a Christmas anthology with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angel, titled The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, to kick off her Pine Mountain foodie series with Kensington this October. Her first full-length novel, Turn Up the Heat, will follow in February 2014. Kimberly resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.

You can find out more about Kimberly on her website – www.kimberlykincaid.com

On Twitter at @kimberlykincaid

And on Facebook.

No comments yet to Knock Your Block Off: How to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

  • Great advice, Kimberly! I see a set of those cubes in my future. 🙂

  • I can’t claim I’ve entirely conquered The Block. Well, I could claim it. But, it would be a BFL (Big Fat Lie). I’ve gone so far as to steam clean bathroom floors to avoid that next big scene. Shame. I never monitored whether I came back to the computer with fresh ideas. It’s hard for me to keep track of myself.

    Perhaps it’s a good sign that my bathroom floors haven’t seen my Shark for a while? Yes?

    One method I’ve used that sometimes works, is to take my much-worn copy of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook from my bag to read excerpts of his advice and examples.

    I love the concept of those writing block die. WHERE can I find them? Work disguised as playtime? Perfect!

    Thanks for the ideas and a great start to my writing day!

    • Oh, Gloria, I *love* Donald Maass’s book! Looking at everything in pieces can really help knock writer’s block down a peg. Sometimes once you have one element in your head, the others tend to fall into place. Great idea!

      And the website for the writer’s blocks should be linked above, in the post, yes? Click on it, and it should take you there. They are so much fun!

  • What an awesome post Kimberly! As one of those CP’s (and probably the one you are referring to regarding shower inspiration), I would just say that Writer’s Block is one of those things that everyone gets… and everyone overcomes. If you keep that in mind, hopping over it becomes a universal struggle. Like laundry. 🙂

    • Hah, I did out your tendency to think of things in the shower 🙂 The best thing about The Block is that (while it doesn’t feel this way) it doesn’t last forever. Sometimes good old fashioned time is the best cure!

  • These are all great suggestions. I’m currently experiencing a “bout of the block” myself and talking it out has proved very helpful. Another thing that’s been successful is just to keep chipping away, sometimes a paragraph at a time. And of course, AVOIDING writing is always a highly enjoyable activity! 😀 Love the idea of the Writing Block Idea Dice! Thanks for the helpful post.

    • I’m so glad, Misha! And I recently went through The Block too, I feel your pain. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from Cherry Adair, who said, “It’s okay to let yourself write crap to get you out of a hole.” Sometimes, we get so focused on being blocked that we think the solution must be pretty and polished and perfect. But your advice to chip away is so good! A little at a time will get you going, and the ideas follow. I wrote some pretty ugly stuff, but it got me out of the hole!

  • Thank you for the article. It will be a “keeper” for me.

    I’m new at this, but I use the Writers’Digest book “Writers Book of Matches” to get my writing started if I have stalled out for the day. This is a book of writing prompts that are really fun. They wake up my muse and get her back on track.

    Thanks again.

  • pam

    I definitly pick up a high end magazine like Town and County, because the articles are well written, classy, and my characters are usually from the upper crust. I get inspiration from that. I love to get feed back from my friends too. But I love the idea of the writting dice idea too and will check it out.

    • I write foodie romance, so snapping up a copy of Bon Appetit or Food and Wine always gets me thinking. I think, too, that magazines are so glossy and gorgeous and visual, it’s impossible not to be moved by them a bit 🙂 Great advice!

  • Hi Kim. I always think it’s fun to see what other writers use to solve writers’ block. I might try the idea blocks. It sounds fun. I find watching TV as you suggested helps. Out of the blue a piece of dialogue or even just a couple words will slam into the writer block and I’m off and running. Sometimes I do my hated chore of ironing. The mundane task leads my mind to wandering and before I know it, the iron grows cold because I’ve abandoned the ironing board for my office. 🙂

    • I remember reading an article with the fabulous JR Ward where she said she gets great ideas on the treadmill. Talk about a chore 😉 But we do get them at the weirdest times and the the weirdest places, don’t we?

      • A lot of times when I’m stuck, I’ll get on the spin bike. My mind can go where it needs to and I don’t have to worry about becoming a hood ornament if I’m not paying attention. 🙂

  • I LOVE that your first suggestion is to abandon the BICHOK. A very successful writer once told me the lesson she has to keep learning is that if something isn’t going well with a manuscript, she isn’t likely to solve the problem staring at the screen. There’s a time to get your butt OUT of the chair. Yay, you!

    • It’s so daunting to look at that screen when the words aren’t flowing! And sometimes, when I come back, what I think was all chuck-worthy only needs to be revised. So the break can be a good thing! Just not, say, for four months 😉

  • Great post and really good ideas! I like watching movies and television shows or just getting out of the house when I have writer’s block. 😉

  • dianegaston

    Loved this advice, Kimberley! And how great that you mentioned the Writing Blocks Idea Dice!
    Mia Zachary is just gearing up to offer the dice in a bigger way. Look here: http://thewritingblocks.com/

  • Lea

    But Kimberly the cat won’t get off the keyboard So I can write. ;-P But seriuosly alot of times I get into a weird state of mind. I am getting better at it. Or the cat isn’t as needy. I also have authors who help keep me accountable.

  • Kimberly, thanks for a great post and so many ideas for breaking that block … like chopping up a block of ice with a sharp ice pick … I can get vicarious thrill thinking of that scenario. I usually play music or read … I might even work on something else or write a post for my blog. Anything that fools my brain into thinking I’m not on that track. I play a game with my own head:)

    • Music is huge for me! I love letting lyrics set the stage for a scene or a story idea (it’s how I wrote the first book in my series– I owe Matt Nathanson a batch of cookies for writing the song Come on Get Higher, which inspired the whole story!) Each of my books has a “theme song” now, and when I get writer’s block, I listen to it to remind me what the h/h are “like”. Great idea!

  • A yellow legal pad does it for me. There’s something about putting pen to paper that inspires creativity. Reading helps, too. It doesn’t need to be the same genre. Sometimes a single word or emotion will make me realize what I’ve been missing in my own writing.

    • I currently have a handful of legal pad pages on my desk. There’s something about that scrawl that does it for me too! 🙂 And how nice that we can read and call it part of the process!

  • Kimberly what a wonderful idea! I love the look of the Writing Blocks Ideas Dice too, so colourful and fun looking. Do you know if they’re available to buy in the UK?

    • Oh, look at you with the hard questions…I know you can order them online, but am not sure about shipping to the UK. Mia’s contact info should be on the site– she is the person to ask! I hope you can get a set. They are super fun!

      • Ah thanks Kimberly. They do look super fun. Fun and playfulness are what I find most helpful when blocked. I will have to find a way of getting some of these!

  • I have to go look at the writing dice. Generally, my muse keeps me busy by giving me the next story line before I finish the one I’m working on. But at the start of book #7, she gave me the last sceen and took a break. I went into full panic mode. Fortunately, one of my CPs talked me down, and I took two day break and tried not to think about it. Well, the muse didn’t like being ignored, so by day three, she was hopping again.

    Great post. I tweeted and reblogged.

  • Oh ,thank you! Aren’t CPs the best? I would be mush without mine 🙂 And funny, because one of my CPs called me today to hash out an idea. We do it all the time, and it really works!

  • What terrific suggestions! Especially those dice. I’ll be ordering those soon. Meanwhile, my favorite method for melting the block is a nice long soak in my bathtub, with a pen and paper close at hand. I very often begin scenes this way. I think the warm water opens up the channels of my brain. 🙂

    A writer friend uses the same method. She says she’s been known to sit in the tub for three hours at a time, just adding more warm water now and then. She even has a tub desk! How cool is that??

  • I tend to “write it out.” I just start spilling everything that comes to mind, including questions and such for my story. Sometimes it takes awhile but eventually I get back on track.

    • Yes! Bodies in motion stay in motion, and this is true for words too! There’s always value in writing, even if it’s nonsensical. Everything can be purposed or re-purposed! Such great advice 🙂

  • I’ve found the best way to conquer writer’s block is to make bread. I put my favorite Pandora station on and start kneading the dough in my hands. The ideas come flooding in. My android ends up covered in flour and dough because I keep putting the ideas into my “Notes” app

  • Nice post! I like to talk to myself in the mirror. It always works! 🙂

  • Excellent advice.

    I’ve always treated my creativity like water.

    Force water into one end of a pipe, and some comes out the other end. Suck water from the far end, and more sucks into this end.

    Being a voracious reader, and reading like a writer, along with watching everything, a broad awareness of everything that’s around me, keeps water flowing into me all the time. (And is sometimes maddening. Shut the hose off, fer cryin’ out loud! My wife accepts that I yell at ideas as they pummel my head.)

    Maintaining a constant stream of output ensures that things are always moving, the pipe is always clear. I write every day, whether it’s letters, or blog posts, or instructions, or the books I’m working on. But writing is part of my routine.

    So far, with 10 books and over 100 songs done, and 4 books in progress, keeping it flowing has prevented me from ever getting a block. (Much like jumping from an airplane ensures unhindered downward motion . . . except that abrupt stop at the end.)

  • I love eavesdropping at Starbucks! 🙂 This post is so helpful and timely. Thanks I’ve shared. Now I’d better get my fanny up outta this chair and do something productive besides staring at the blank page.

  • Love this post! Thanks for the great ideas 🙂 I am working on my first novel and have been stuck for a while. My current method of trying to get unstuck is reading and watching anything I can find with a similar story line. I am going to check out those dice, too!

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