When your words are getting stuck somewhere behind your frontal lobe, and your fingers just won’t produce prose, there are options. Grab them.
1) Research is important. Dive into Google and look up stuff related to your novel. For instance, your 19th century dining room scene may need fleshing out with, well, flesh (on the plates) and napkin ring details. What WAS happening on January 25, 1874? What might your characters have been wearing? Before you know it you’ll have spent hours collating valuable information in your head, and probably taken in some fantastic cat videos to boot.
2) Listen to your muse(s). Some writers insist that their characters talk to them. So perhaps your inability to write is simply the voice of your muse telling you what you need to know. Your character doesn’t want to sit at a desk. Your character wants to go to Burgerfuel and eat a Hamburgini with cheese and a milkshake and maybe grab some doughnuts to eat on the way home. Yes, even if your character IS a vampire and normally unable to dine on anything but human blood. Listen to it. Listen to its voice! Feed the muse!
3) Get some fresh air: It’s not healthy to sit at your desk all the time, and a brisk walk in the outdoors is bound to kick-start ideas anew. Get out there into the nature. Marvel at the subtle beauty of a grey day. Splash in puddles. Get your socks soaked through with icy winter water. Go to the shop to buy new, dry socks to stave off any possible pneumonia or frostbite complications.
4) Read. The only way anybody learns to write well is to read a lot. If the words are getting stuck somewhere behind your frontal lobe then clearly you haven’t read enough. Read a book. Read twenty. Read a best seller AND a critically lauded new release. Compare. What features led to these books’ success? Read some old rubbish just so you know what really bad writing looks like. Read the Daily Mail. Feel superior to anybody who writes for the Daily Mail. Wish you could get a gig writing for the Daily Mail, which you know you could do better while drunk and asleep. Cleanse your Mail-tainted mind with a graphic novel or seven. Now watch the telly because you’re too tired to do any writing today.
5) Feed your mind. Those muses above (see 2) might be your characters talking to you, or they could just be manifestations of your body’s need for fuel. A hungry brain is not a creative brain. Your brain needs toast. No, wait. Your brain needs ice cream. Don’t stint. Give it the finest gourmet ice cream. Give it several kinds. Use the flavours to inspire you. Jot down descriptions of your ice cream for later. Who know when you might need a character to eat ice cream?
6) Artificial stimulants. Look, loads of famous authors took tons of drugs and/or drank like fish. Burroughs. Coleridge. Bukowski. Behan. They lived hard and they wrote hard. If it worked for them it will surely work for you, right? Take your laptop to a bar or opium den right now and get stuck in. (CAVEAT: none of these writers had access to the internet. It’s conceivable that if they had not been confined to pens and typewriters, they might just have been really good trolls.)
7) Exercise. Nothing makes the ideas flow like a structured movement class. I’ve been writing a blog post about my yoga class for MONTHS. It’s still in my draft folder and so far comprises the phrase “I should go to yoga more often”, but I’ll totally get round to finishing it one day soon.
For some genuinely useful tips on how to beat procrastination and other writerly woes, check out Susie Lindau’s Wild Rider Magazine.
* I said tackle. I didn’t say CURE.