The Squirms

So, I have just started reading Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction which is a collection of her lectures on the topics of writing. In the first chapter she started talking about the dreaded, ‘writer’s block’ and the way it’s described just made me smile because it so deliciously perfect!

She says, “I call this miserable state, which all writers know, “the squirms.” It consists either of the inability to write anything or of the fact that your writing sudden;y comes out badly–it does not flow as you want it to and does not express your intention.”

This has to be the best description of writer’s block ever! This is exactly how I feel when I am really struggling with something in my writing. Now Rand suggests that this is because your subconscious and conscious minds haven’t quite connected yet with your idea and that is why you are struggling.

Think yourself out of that one.

Here are some tips I try to use when I feel like I’ve got a bad case of the squirms. (Really want to call in to work with that line now)

1. Use a Writing Prompt

There are a gaziilion and seven writing prompts (I counted them all). Some of my favorites are: Story Spinner, Seventh Sanctum, and Writer’s Digest Writing Prompts. Even if it means starting something new or adding something unexpected to an existing story, sometimes a prompt can reignite your creative juices and still your squirming.

2. Go on a walk/jog/swim/bike

Get outside, think about how your character would react to the things you see on your walk.

3. Go write in a different location.

Pick up your laptop, or notepad or whatever and go write somewhere new. Changing the scenery can make a huge difference!

4. Work on a different project.

I usually have 2-5 projects at a time, if I get stuck on one I  move to a different one.

5. WRITE.

Suck it up and just write. Even if it’s just ‘I have no idea what Sherry should do to keep alien cuddle bugs from eating her armpits.’ Just write something, keep your brain working. It might not work right that second but the only way to really get away from the squirms is to write.

Note, these are what I try to do, but I am a big time sufferer of the squirms and would love to hear more ideas on how to combat this illness. How do you beat the squirms?

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2 Comments »

  1. For me, #2 or #4 work best. Working out at the gym, or anything else that gets the blood pumping does wonders for coming up with new ideas. Working on different things (not necessarily writing-related) also helps get things back in perspective.

    The danger with working on several different writing projects at once is that you’ll completely abandon the first one, despite it’s merit. While it may definitely help you regain your enthusiasm for writing in general, it does have the danger of never finishing a project.

    A very good article on this is “Your first draft is always going to suck” by Alexandra Sokoloff ( http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2009/03/your-first-draft-is-always-going-to.html )

    • Judy Black Said:

      Oh yes, abandoning a project is a very real danger about working on several projecst at once. I try to make it a point to not ‘abandon’ any project for longer than a week until it’s at least done. Doesn’t always happen but it’s a good rule I try to keep up. Sometimes, when I am really stuck I like to play a game or read a book, something that is still creative to let my brain process everything and maybe get un-stuck!

      And thanks for that article. So, so true and really helpful!


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