Excerpt for Overcoming Writer's Block: How to Unleash Your Creativity and Inner Genius When Writing by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Overcoming Writer's Block:

How to Unleash Your Creativity and Inner Genius When Writing

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 Adam Savage


Writer's block! It's something we've all heard of. Even people who don't write are familiar with it: A writer sits before a computer or typewriter. Crumpled pieces of paper surround him or her. The writer stares at the page, eyes full of despair. They are ready to give up. They know they want to write -- they have great stories within them: novels, short stories, maybe plays, poems, or screenplays. But when they sit down to write, they cannot begin. Or if they do begin, they do so haltingly. They complete a sentence, maybe even a paragraph or a page, but quickly realize that the words don't live up to what they set out to accomplish. Nobody would possibly want to read this garbage. No publisher would give these words the time of day.

The writer deletes what he or she has written, returning to square one, and deepening the cycle of despair.

If you're reading this, you've probably experienced something like this yourself. Or perhaps you do know how to fill the page, but you're not content with your work. You want to expand the possibilities of your story. In either case, I'm going to teach you a method to break out of whatever creative writing slump you're in. It is an entirely new framework for viewing your writing, and it can always be relied upon as a starting point or as a way to get past any blockages you hit. I have used this method for many years. It has never failed me, and I have taught it successfully to many other writers as well. I will be showing you how to begin with it almost effortlessly, so you don't get discouraged or overwhelmed. I'll show you why most writers don't become professional, consistent writers, and how you can become a pro. Whatever your level of writing experience, this writing method can improve your output and creativity.

To begin, let's examine an image commonly held about creativity – about what it is and how it works. Many people regard it as something that occurs spontaneously, something that is almost out of the individual's control. Think of Archimedes having his eureka moment. The light bulb magically goes off in his head! This is an exciting image, and it takes a lot of the responsibility off of you to do any of the creative work. And I actually agree that a lot of creativity involves surrendering to a trance of some kind, putting the conscious mind aside and allowing something more powerful to work through you. But the eureka image of spontaneous creativity can also lead you to believe you either have this "gift," or you don't. In reality, it is an ability that everyone can develop. But it must be cultivated, and it is not a "gift." I will be teaching you how to put this ability to work.

To do this, you must understand the concept of improvisation. Before we consider it in the context of writing, let's look at musical improvisation. You have probably heard plenty of improvised music in your life. It could be jazz musician improvising around a standard song, or a wild guitar solo in the middle of a heavy metal song. But improvisation is also a verbal faculty. This is clear when you hear a rapper freestyle over a beat. And because this is a verbal ability, you can do it with your own writing. Doing this will open up an infinite amount of creativity that is always eager to be released. You will still have control over your text, but you will allow it to become more automatic, only interrupting to re-evaluate the direction the story is taking. There may be less plotting and planning, or no planning at all. You can allow the words to flow more smoothly onto the page.

When you can write like this, you will enter flow states. Flow states are mental states of great clarity, bliss, and creativity. When you achieve flow states, your writing will reach new levels and you will feel "unstuck." Writer's block will no longer be an issue.

Why doesn't every writer enter a flow state when writing? More than anything, it comes down to mindset. If you overanalyze every sentence you put on the page, there's no way you will enter a flow state. Editing and revising are necessary parts of the writing process, but they should not be done as you write. Save them for later. When you write, the goal is to keep going. Don't slow down, and certainly don't stop. In contrast, when your focus is on perfect writing, you will doubt every word and not get anywhere. You've read great novels, short stories, and so on, and you think your writing must meet that high standard from the very first word – otherwise it's garbage. What every great writer knows, however, is that it takes a lot of bad writing before you have good writing. Hours of practice and familiarity with the page is the only thing that will teach you your own strengths and weaknesses. You will understand your own style and the best places to improvise. But to discover this, you must have a regular writing practice, and you must be okay with doing some bad writing. This is what creates a space for you to experiment and develop the mental faculties focused on narrative. As with sports, writing is a physical and mental process. You can think about it when you're not doing it, but to really improve you must do it. This seems incredibly obvious, but most wannabe writers don't have a regular writing habit. A regular writing practice – even just twenty minutes a day – is the single biggest step you can take toward becoming a professional writer.

"But," you protest, "I still don't know what to write! That's the problem. That's why I have writer's block. If I knew what to write, then I could begin a regular writing practice."

And I'm telling you that no, you have writer's block because you're not writing. You're not regularly putting words on the page. You're afraid to put some ugly or useless words down, so you choose to write nothing instead.

Here is how you can always begin if you feel stuck: Get out your notebook or open a document (however you prefer to write). Get in front of it, pick up your pen or put your hands on the keyboard, and… fill the page. There are words passing through your mind's stream of consciousness. You can always fill the page with this inner monologue. The goal here is not to write The Great American Novel. The goal is not even to write a story. The goal is simply to reach the bottom of the page. You can make the sentences grammatically correct – but even that is not necessary. You probably won't use this material in a story (who knows?), but you can regard it as a warm-up. You can even do this exercise as your writing for the day. The point is to start writing every day. I recommend twenty minutes minimum, but even if that sounds daunting, you can start with filling a single page. Every day. Schedule it on your phone or calendar or to-do list, but get it done. I try to get my writing done as early as possible to get it out of the way. When you procrastinate, you lose ground to resistance.

Resistance is involved with any new habit. The newer the habit, the greater the resistance. Even old habits have some resistance, but things like brushing your teeth, paying your bills, and going to work are easy because you do them all the time. Writing can become as easy and habitual as any other habit. Steven Pressfield wrote a great book about overcoming resistance called The War of Art. The key idea is that you are literally at war to create your art. A thousand other obstacles may get in the way, and they are all forms of resistance. Until you do your writing each day, you are losing the battle. But once you've done your writing, you've won – for one more day. But the resistance will be back tomorrow, right on time.

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