Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What to do when the blank screen gets the best of you

Every novel, article, or non-fiction book starts the same way. As a writer with an idea in their heads, staring at either a blank computer screen or piece of paper, and every time we want to write something new we are faced with that same blank screen. Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they don’t. So what do you do when the blank screen staring back at you gets the best of you?

I’ve heard a lot of different things about what to do to get the creative juices, and words, flowing when you’re stuck. Here are some of my favorites:

Edit: I really like this one because I love to edit. Before I start writing something new each day I go back an edit what I wrote yesterday. This gets me into my story again, reminds me what was going on when I left off, and what I’m hoping is coming next. It’s a good way to reconnect with my characters and get inside their heads again before I try to take them somewhere new.

Pray: Don’t just pray in your head though. Write or type out your prayer. Just let the words come as you think them. “Lord I don’t know where to start today” is a great place to begin. Tell God about your struggles; pour them onto the page. By the time you’re finished you may find your story comes to you.

Read: I write fiction so when I get stuck sometimes I turn to one of my favorite novels. I’m not really looking for ideas, I’m just trying to get my mind off of anything that is distracting me and step into a fictional world. By reading for twenty or so minutes I can relax and get into the right frame of mind to be creative instead of worrying about the kids, the bills, and everything else on my plate.

Skip the scene: A good friend of mine suggested this and I have found this is the one that works best for me. When I come up against a scene that just won’t come to me I skip it and I write one of the scenes that comes later in my novel. One that I have just had burning in my head for a while, one that I know how I want it to look. Once I get that one out of my head I can usually go back to the scene I was stuck on and bang that one out as well.

Do some more research: Sometimes I have a scene in my head that just isn’t ringing true. If I am really stuck I will go back and look at pictures of my settings, check my notes on my characters, even go online and double check some of my facts to make sure I have everything right. This helps me to get the scene straight and will usually help the words to flow.

Find an accountability partner: Having someone to challenge me with word counts and actually being checked on to see if I have accomplished those word counts helps to get me moving when I am stuck and just want to zone out of Facebook.

Most of the time one of these technique will get me moving on something I am stuck on. Sometimes I have to do more than one, such as edit and research, or read and pray. The key is not to get discouraged. Find one or a combination that works for you.

I had the pleasure of meeting Heather at a writing conference a few years back. The thing that strikes me the most about Heather is her wit and her dedication to balancing her writing and her family without making undue sacrifices that would result in the neglect of one or the other, all while striving to bring honor to her Lord. -Jen

Heather Kreke is an avid reader and hopes to inspire teens to seek God’s will for their lives through her writing. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two young daughters.  

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