You’re left sitting before the best written “something,” but the inspiration that had come so swiftly and strong, left in equal fashion. Try as you might, you have no idea what to write next. You’ve hit the proverbial wall and want nothing more than to get your mojo back.
Here’s a secret: the harder you try to get back into that flow, the harder it is for it to return. The thing to do is similar to what Seymour Glass meant when he was trying to help his brother, Buddy, play marbles: “Could you try not aiming so much?” (from J.D. Salinger’s RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS AND SEYMOUR – AN INTRODUCTION). You see, sometimes we get in our own way when we focus too much on the results.
Which is good news. Because that means often, when we get out of the way, when we find a little distance and clear some space in our heads, the inspiration will come back.
Of course that’s all great and wonderful as theoretical advice. Putting it into practice, on the other hand can be a bit daunting. Especially when you don’t want to just sit and wait around for it to happen. So, as the title of this blog suggests, we’ve put together a few ideas for you to use to try to revive the ‘ole mojo. And here they are:
- Walk away from the manuscript (clicking “save” first, of course). Then busy yourself in the mundane, in something that requires a little bit of thought and focus. Do it for as long as you want or can with the sole intention of just doing that thing – not for any pay off, but to just do that thing. Rake leaves in the fall, clean your windows in the spring, build a birdhouse, play with LEGOs, whatever. Singer/songwriter Don Henley told Billy Joel “I’ve written some of my best stuff while unloading the dishwasher because you’re distracted — and yet you’re not.”
- Get back to the basics. What are you writing, anyway? Is it a novel or short story? If so, re-read what you wrote and see how it fits (or doesn’t) into the narrative arc of your story. If it fits, what does it propel? What does it cause the hero to do next? What does it expose about a character and how does that trait or secret create an impact on the story? Or does the scene plant a seed that will expose a payoff later, as Alexandra Sokoloff explains in her SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS book? If so, what is that payoff and how does it fit into the plot?
- Are you writing non-fiction? If so, do you need to check your facts? Can you research the subject further to see how what you wrote agrees with or differs from others on the subject? Similar to fiction, what does the scene propel – that is, does it cause any natural curiosity to see what happens next? Is it a cause for an effect that happens further down the road? If so, what is that effect and why is that important? Could things have gone differently?
- If taking a break and/or thinking on the structure of your writing does little to loosen the creative gears, maybe thinking on the people in your book will. Either fiction or non-fiction, ask questions about those people. The answers don’t have to go into the book, but asking the questions sometimes will re-ignite that creative spark. How do they dress? What kind of home do they live in? How do they relate or empathize with their peers? Are they kind to dogs? Do they eat in healthy ways? Do they have their own definitions of what “healthy” means? Why are they wherever they are in what you just wrote? Could things have gone differently? Where else could they be?
Those are just a few ideas to prevent a writer’s block. There are plenty more and we’ll be happy to share in future posts. And of course, if you have any, let us know! We’d love to showcase how other writers work through their writing.