How to Deal with Writer’s Block and Writer’s Burnout
I rarely get writer’s block. If I sit down to a computer to write, I usually am able to write something—it may be total gunk with shoddy dialogue and lame descriptions, but it’s something to begin working on. What happens more often to me is writer’s burnout, which is subtly different than writer’s block. In burnout, I can’t even sit down in front of the computer. The thought of sitting there and writing just fills me with revulsion. I have nothing left to give, and no thoughts to record. I have to do something else, no matter what it is, just something different.
Still, some of the techniques to deal with one are similar to the techniques to deal with the other. One effective approach is stream of consciousness writing. Basically, you sit down at your computer, open up a word processor and just start typing. Anything and everything that comes to mind goes to the computer. You might just start with garbage like “asd;faldkrj.” As long as your fingers keep moving, it doesn’t matter. Eventually you’ll start putting words together, then sentences, then before you know it, you’ll be typing something not unlike a diary entry, ranting at the universe and raving at God.
On the whole, the techniques of dealing with writer’s block involve putting something on the screen. Whether it makes sense or not, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t like typing gibberish, take a piece of dialogue from someone else’s novel, or a section of narrative, type it into your computer and start tinkering with it, seeing if you can improve it. Or find a book on writing and just pull out an exercise and do it. Before you know it, you’ll be back on track.
Burnout is a little tougher as it usually involves a psychological revulsion towards all things writing. Even the stream of consciousness technique may be insufficient. In such a case, the best technique, and one that I am very poor at executing, is: do something else. Spend an hour exercising. Get your mind off writing for a while. Exercise is particularly good for burnout. I know this, and yet I still rarely employ it. That’s because my burnout is usually concurrent with depression in which I don’t feel like doing anything, least of all exercising. Sometimes, you might be forced to take a whole day or two (in my case, with depression it sometimes involves a whole week) and do something else. In such instances, it helps to have a back-up hobby. For me I use puzzles and chess to break the monotany.
I hope that helps.