mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Robert's Rules of Writing #51: Take a Walk Around the Block

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

There's something ironic about the fact that I'm tackling Masello's rule #51 just after my college reunion. gnomi and I spent the weekend taking many walks around the block, going from one reunion event to another.

But the block Masello refers to here is something else: the dreaded Writer's Block, and how one copes with it.

Writer's Block is a concept that can inspire pages and pages on what it is and how to deal with it -- again, another small irony. I'm not going to directly address Masello's comments here -- again, I encourage people to go read his book -- but instead I'll share my own personal experiences with Writer's Block.

Which is to say that I don't think I've ever suffered from it.

Which is not to say that I haven't had my share of dry spells, or frustrations with fiction. But I've never had the experience that I've heard others discuss, where they sit in front of the keyboard and literally cannot type a single word.

So how does one deal with Writer's Block or a dry spell or anything of this sort?

Well, from my own experience, I have three thoughts. My first piece of advice would be to use an outline. My difficulties in writing have sometimes come from not knowing where I was going with a story. If you have an outline, then you know what you plan to write and you won't be sitting at your computer wondering where your story is going to lead to next.

Secondly, understand that your first draft is simply that: a first draft. I've been noticing other writers discuss this concept recently, so maybe it's something in the air. But when many of us write, we have an inner editor who tells us that the words we're putting down on paper simply aren't good enough, and so we freeze up. As a consequence, the writing doesn't get done. But if we can ignore that inner critic, and concentrate on the task at hand, we can get something done. (As a stage director once said to a choreographer who couldn't figure out what to have the dancers do, "Have them do something! Anything! Then we'll have something we can change.")

And third, sometimes you really do need to take a break. Sometimes stepping away from a piece and doing something mindless -- such as, say, taking a walk (ha ha) -- can shake loose whatever is holding you back.

Has anyone else out there had writer's block of a sort? How do you deal with it?

Copyright © Michael Burstein
Tags: personal, roberts-rules, writing-advice

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