I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel prepared to work on my novel. When I’m unprepared, I feel like I have writer’s block. Sometimes I don’t feel physically prepared and sometimes I don’t feel mentally prepared. And sometimes I suffer from lack of physical and mental preparation. Please, tell me I’m not alone. 😉
When I don’t feel prepared to write, it’s nearly impossible to do so. It doesn’t matter if I’m physically or mentally unprepared or what caused my unpreparedness. When I don’t feel prepared, writing is HARD and writer’s block sets in.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to recognize what causes me to feel unprepared. I’m often able to fix and even prevent it.
Many of these causes and cures will resonate with you. But if they don’t, hopefully they will guide you to identify your own causes and cures.
Writer’s Block: Preparing Physically and Preparing Mentally
Causes of Physical and Mental Unpreparedness
I often feel physically unprepared if I did not get enough sleep the night before. Mornings are my favorite time to write, but if I’m too tired it’s never a productive writing session. I also feel physically unprepared if I’m hungry or thirsty. Trying to write when I am sick is also very challenging.
It’s harder to identify what makes me mentally unprepared. Some reflection has taught me that I can become mentally unprepared if I’ve overworked myself on a particular project. If I’m stressed about or thinking about something else. Distractions such as Facebook or my phone can also cause my mental focus to wane.
When I feel physically or mentally unprepared I diagnose myself with writer’s block.
Curing Physical Unpreparedness
Feeling physically unprepared is pretty easy to fix. If I’m tired I can often wake myself up with a hot shower, a little bit of exercise, or—worse comes to worst—a nap. I’m not much of a napper, but if it helps me feel more prepared to write, I’ll permit myself an occasional nap.
If I’m hungry or thirsty, I make myself a snack. I try to keep my water bottle at my desk so I can keep hydrated while I write. Drinking water can also help me feel more awake.
Curing being unprepared because I am sick is a bit harder. Next to never do I take medicine. Sometimes a box of Kleenex can help me power through, but being sick can merit a day or two off to recover so I’m physically prepared when I return.
Curing Mental Unpreparedness
It’s a lot harder to cure my feelings of being mentally unprepared. However, I do have a few tricks I’ve found useful. If I feel burnt out from a current work in progress, I often take a step back. Instead of trying to write words in my actual novel, I might spend my writing time strengthening my outline or adding detail to a character sketch.
Or I might do a writing prompt that will help me better understand my character or novel. Maybe I’ll write a scene from a different character’s perspective or make a playlist of 25 songs my character has on his or her iPod or Spotify account. I may not be writing my novel, but I’m still working on my novel and getting to know my novel better. Sometimes these exercises are the only writing I will do that day, but sometimes they are enough to motivate me to spend some time writing my novel. They mentally prepare me for the larger task of writing my actual work in progress.
If I have something else on my mind that is causing me stress, I occasionally tell myself “right now is my writing time. I will think about this and worry about this when I am done writing.” Giving myself permission to write and not worry is hard, but sometimes successful. When it is not working, I will take five or ten minutes to think about the issue—why it is worrying me and how I can fix it. This often makes me feel much better and enables me to focus on writing.
If I am distracted by Facebook or people sending selfies using their favorite Snapchat filter, I have to completely close out of Facebook and put my phone on vibrate (or turn it screen side down).
Preventing Physical and Mental Unpreparedness
Consistently getting a good night’s sleep, taking a shower and eating before I sit down to write, and making sure I have my water bottle at my writing desk help me prevent myself from feeling physically unprepared. Eating healthy, washing my hands, taking vitamins, etc. can keep me from getting sick.
I can keep myself mentally prepared by not overworking a project. Often I take weekends off completely. I take time to plan and balance the rest of my life so that it doesn’t stress me out when I’m trying to write. Resisting the urge to check Facebook or my phone while I’m writing also keeps me from being mentally distracted and unprepared.
Preventing myself from becoming physically or mentally unprepared also prevents me from feeling like I have writer’s block.
What causes you to feel unprepared and how do you cure it?
This is the second post in a series on writer’s block.
Part 2: Writer’s Block: Preparing Physically and Preparing Mentally