Whether you call the phenomenon writer’s block or a dry spell, it seems most writers sometimes experience times when the creative juices are not flowing. We asked authors who write on the clean end of the spectrum “How do you overcome a dry spell and get inspired to write again?”
Charmain Zimmerman Brackett – I don’t know what a dry spell is. My path is different. I’ve worked for a newspaper for 32 years. I write something nearly every day. So if I don’t, I don’t have a job; I don’t eat and I don’t pay my bills.
I also have about five WIP. Some will never see publication. It’s easier to write when you are always writing. If I take a couple of days off, I feel rusty. It’s hard to get things churning again. Write, write, write.
Lea Carter – I went through an autobiography reading phase in high school and picked up this bit of wisdom: when you reach a problem you can’t solve, find something that will make you laugh. It may take a few tries, but that’s worked for me for a long time.
Ruth O’Neil – I think all writers have dry spells from time to time. I do. Whenever I get away from writing, I can’t stay away for long. If I’m in a dry spell, I purposely do other things. Maybe catch up on house work, tackle those big projects I’ve been wanting to, among other things. During dry spells, I try to keep busy, but not think about writing. It’s usually when I’m not thinking about it that a new idea pops into my head and from there, inspiration.
Arthur Daigle – When I can’t write, I go for a walk around the neighborhood. I go alone and bring nothing distracting like a cell phone. It’s just me and a plastic bag to pick up recyclables. Weather permitting, I take these walks daily and go for 40-60 minutes. I find this time alone helps my mind wander and come up with new ideas for my books.
Laurean Brooks – I When I’m stuck, someone will ask me what I’m working on. When I start telling them the story, it revs me up again. And sometimes that person offers a suggestion that gives me a different perspective, and I’m off again.
Debbie Brown – I go back and read some part before I got stuck… but I read it as a reader, allowing myself to climb into the story, and that has a way of creating momentum. If I look at it in a critical way, it makes it even harder to move on with it.
If it’s a new story that I haven’t really started, I’ll play out which ever scene I’ve got from the POV of each person in the scene hoping it sparks movement.
Frank Luke – I’m just coming out of a dry spell myself. It’s been a month of writing nonfiction, and the times I had to write fiction just moved like molasses. What I am doing to get out of it is looking over the WIP and seeing why I’m dry. Usually, it means there is a flaw that I can’t see or won’t see. For example, I had a scene in HIGH FRONTIER where a certain event happened. It’s how it was planned from the very first. However, once I wrote it, I couldn’t go further. The urge to write the story was gone. Oh, I could work on scenes set before it. I could work on later scenes that never referenced the events, but anything that depended on this crucial event would not come (and it would change the main character’s life). Finally, I started reworking the scenes related to the event and changed the event to the opposite outcome. Words coming.
Another thing I do when dry is look over the characters. If I need to write a scene with a certain character and it won’t come, it’s usually because I don’t have a good mental hold on the character.
Jessica Marie Holt – I don’t know that I have dry spells creatively. But I do come across plot problems I can’t seem to solve, and I write in order, so I tend to become paralyzed until I solve them. If I have the time, I back off the work for a while and hand the problem over to my subconscious mind. It works on it in the background, and then hits me with an answer like a lightning bolt when I’m driving, or in the shower, or vacuuming the carpet.
If I don’t have the time to wait, I find a trusted sounding board (someone who has good ideas and is good at troubleshooting and spitballing) and talk through the issue. Usually that person is my husband, but I also have go-to writer friends who are kind enough to listen and help. It really works wonders just to talk out the plot with someone. And, I always return the favor.
I would also add that it’s important to not panic, and not freeze up, because you aren’t going to be open to inspiration that way, and that’s what you need most. So, relax, hand it over to your subconscious, and do inspiring things. Walk in nature, listen to music, go to a play, read about history. Keep your hands busy with repetitive tasks, because that frees up your mind. Then, as you’re going about your day, the tap will suddenly turn back on again.
Jessica L. Elliott – It depends on the dry spell. If it’s with my particular focus project, I stop writing and read everything I’ve written to get an idea of why I’m blocked. Usually in doing so, I find a plot hole or just a section I’m not thrilled with. So I’ll mull over it until I figure out that problem and then I’m usually able to get a good flow going again. And if I can’t figure it out, I switch to a different project for a while.
If I’m unmotivated to write anything at all, I choose one of my other creative hobbies for a few days. I draw, paint, and do a variety of crafts. Sometimes stretching different creative muscles really helps me get back into writing easier. I like to create character sketches or landscape drawings that relate to the writing I want to do. Sometimes just having that visual helps me get back on track.
Joanna A. McKethan
3.Walk to the window or door. Observe.
4.Work on a re-edit. Yes, again. Allow new thoughts to break through.
5.Switch to a more visual art for an hour.
7.Rabbit Trail. Turn loose the rabbit. In a few minutes, turn the dog loose to chase him.
8.Indulge your fantasies.
9.Re-engage in a conversation you didn’t feel was finished.
10.Get rid of obvious research by working it into character viewpoint better, like making it less clear, perhaps.
11.Make up a thoroughly annoying character.