How to Overcome Writer's Block | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare
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4 Lessons (24m) View My Notes
    • 1. Introduction

      0:43
    • 2. Define Your Problem

      6:35
    • 3. Try These Solutions

      15:33
    • 4. Conclusion

      1:16

About This Class

Have you ever felt that you want to write but can’t? Do you wonder how to get your creative juices flowing again?

Many of my creative writing students tell me that they experience this dreaded thing called “writer’s block.”

And you know what I tell my students?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. The term is too vague to be helpful and too general to get to the deeper reasons for this inability to write.

There are different reasons why we feel that we can’t write and different ways to address these different reasons. And that's what this class is about.

Whether you have experienced writer’s block or simply want some new ways to spark your creativity, check out this class. I think you’ll like a lot of the approaches we are going to discuss.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: how to overcome writer's block. Have you ever felt that you want to ride but cannot? Maybe you tried to get back into writing, but simply can't many of my creative writing students tell me that they experience this dreaded thing called Writer's block? You know what I tell my students? Writer's block does not exist. Writer's block is a term that's too vague to be helpful in too general to get to the deeper reasons for this inability to write. There are some common problems why we feel that we cannot write and different solutions to address these specific problems. Let's take a look at some of them, starting with the most obvious. 2. Define Your Problem: All right, let's get started. Before we solve whatever it is that's causing your writer's block, let's figure out what it is. So let's define the problem. One of the most common issues that my students are often discussed with me. It's procrastination and specifically, procrastination is it has to do with writing and procrastination itself has other issues or other reasons behind it. Why aren't you writing If you feel that you want to, Let's take a look. One reason could be very riel. Its lack of time or that lack of time could be a perceived problem. So maybe you have three jobs and four kids, and you're trying to get a college education. So then maybe you really do not have the time to write. Or maybe it's an issue of priorities. They could look at your daily schedule and decide what is less important than your daily schedule than writing, And it doesn't have to be hours and hours. 15 minutes a day would be enough. Think about it this way. If you write a page a day, which is a little bit more than 15 minutes, probably, but still, if you write a page day By the end of the year, you're gonna have a 365 page book, so that's pretty impressive. So think about that. Lack of time, lack of physical energy. If you start writing at 11 o'clock at night after being absent six in the morning, it's probably not going to work the well. So maybe it's not writer's block. Maybe it's just basic tiredness. So get some sleep, take a nap and maybe try writing earlier in the morning. Again, as I said, we're starting with the obvious things. But these obvious things are often overlooked. The future of being criticized and that happens even in the face to face class. When the students know each other, they're afraid to share their work with one another, even with their close friends, because they're free that somebody's going to think they're stupid. They're not good enough. The writing is not good enough, and that's that's a real fear. But, um, it most of the time my students in class realize that people are nicer than they had expected them to be, doesn't quite apply to the Internet necessarily. But that's feel that here Israel one way to overcome it is a take a logo on Amazon. They could look at the book by one of your favorite authors and look at all the one started views tried. This author survives, so you will survive as well. Self doubt. So maybe you're looking at that favorite author looking at at the writing style, their books. And you're thinking, Oh, my gosh, this person is so great and I'm not, and you're can ever be that great. Well, a couple of things to consider here. One is this author you're looking at. They were not born great, right? They developed writing skill. Nobody is born with a talent for writing and then inborn ability to do it. So we all have to to learn it, and you can learn it as well. So even if you're not Aziz, good as these people are now you can develop your skill, you can improve, and the only way to improve it is the right not to sit in and wonder about it, right? Fear of failure. And that's a common fear, of course, for for anybody in many of the things we do in our life. But think about what do you define this failure. Most people haven't even attempted to right. So if you're attempting to write your already accomplishing more than they are, if you're thinking of writing an international best seller that's going to be read from next 1000 years, maybe you're setting your goals a little bit too high. I'm not saying they're not accomplish a ble, but don't start with such high goals. Start with lower goals. Maybe you'll. You'll define success as just writing for 15 minutes a day that it's easier to accomplish. And then you can reevaluate your goals. Lack of ideas. That's an easier one to solve. Sometimes you just need this some creative writing exercises. Little creative writing prompts to get your imagination going, and sometimes the problem is not lack of ideas. But again, you're doubting these ideas. Or maybe these ideas. They're not good enough, so I'm not even gonna try. I'm just going to discard them. That's not a good approach. Most of the time, people have ideas. It's developing these ideas that really makes a difference in the writing, and they're definitely techniques and ways to develop ideas. So again, just starting to write and then having some tools that you can learn from books about writing from creative writing. Classes of that can help you focusing on the final product. If it is you're writing, you're thinking too much about how this final thing, story or book going to look how it's going to feel, how it's going to be structured. If you're thinking about it too much, you're not focusing on the specific scene or sentence character that you need to be attending to at that moment. So you do need to focus on what you need to do at the moment and not think about the final product all the time. I'm not saying don't outline that's different. Just don't focus on the final thing all the time, writing to slowly if you stop. And if you start rethinking and correcting things as you go, you're going to mess up your idea flow, and you will not allow yourself to keep going forward. So don't worry about quality too much. Just keep moving forward. Get your ideas out. You can always go back and revise and edit, and everybody does. But the first draft does not have to be perfect, so speed up a little bit trying to compose in your head. You're walking around and you're trying to come up with ideas and you decide. Well, once I have a complete idea, I'm going to write it down. Well, what if you writing war and peace, right? You cannot have a complete idea in your head. You just have to have something that you can get started with and then start writing and the ideas will come right as you develop them. So have your notebook. Have your computer be a friend, help you retain those ideas, all right? 3. Try These Solutions: all right. Now that we have discussed some possible problems, let's look at solutions that can help you solve those problems. And the first thing to keep in mind as you embark on this exciting journey is that it will take some effort to change writing habits like any like change in any habits, right? It takes some time and effort, but the change will be well worth it. All right, So let's look at Solution number one, and my suggestion is, don't start. Don't start at the beginning. A lot of my students, when they start writing they spent, I don't know, 20 minutes trying to right the perfect first sentence or the perfect first paragraph, and that it's very difficult to do because they don't know what comes next. So my solution, the first paragraph is important. Of course. It needs to set the tone, introduced the problem. The characters get reader's interest. So right at last start with something that's easier and in a practical way, here's what you can do. Just try the line. First paragraph goes here, then write the words second paragraph and start writing at the second paragraph. Mark, right in a short story. You can start with a scene that that you know how to write or you know what's going to happen. They're just write that, and then later you can always reorganize it and you can always right at first paragraph. So it fits that scene, right? Use block riding. I don't know if you've ever tried this, but it's a really good approach that helps you organize your writing. It has helped you become more effective and also helps you overcome writer's block. So what is blocked? Writing? You will need a timer for it, or or no time on your on your phone. This fine divide the riding time in blocks. So, for example, if you decide I want to write for an hour and maybe it's too much for you, maybe you haven't been writing for a while. Maybe you're going to divide that our in ah, 3 20 minute blocks. That's let's say right. That's dividing that writing time and block and scheduled some breaks. So you're gonna tell yourself I'm going to focus on the process of writing for 20 minutes. I'm going to commit to it, and I'm not going to get up. I'm not gonna you know it is race everything. I'm not going to give up for 20 minutes. I'm going to sit in my chair at my computer for 20 minutes and then I'm going to take a five minute break and go, I don't know, check my email, have a cup of coffee. Whatever it is you do, right? So that's the approach. And there lots of benefits, the block riding. First of all, it's defined limits. You're not just saying I'm going to sit here and write until I come up with a masterpiece. That's, Ah, big goal. Nobody wants to do that. What you want to do is define it. I'm going to sit in my chair for 20 minutes and try writing right a little bit easier, much more manageable, and it gives you this artificial pressure. I'm sure you have commitments in life, right? You go to work, we go to school or you attend to some other things and you don't wonder. Well, should I go to work today, or should I do this? Maybe you do under hopefully not eso this block writing and gives you this artificial pressure. It's like a job you have to do it for your 20 minutes, right? A sharper focus for each block. You can decide that you're going to work on the specific scene or ah, you're gonna try to come up with ideas or just free, right? So you're going to be focused on that one specific task. You know, something's my students say I'm gonna go to the library study for three hours, and the most of the time do you think they really study for three hours? They sit there maybe for three hours, but a lot of the time is wasted because three hours is just too long of a stretch of time. Eso, um those dividing the trying time in the blocks those blocks on give you sharper focus and another benefit is required dressed. You have something to look forward to, right? So even if you dread at the beginning of those 20 minutes of writing, you know that it's going to be over in 20 minutes, and then you have your little break and another benefit is you can set specific goals. You could say in this writing block, I'm going to focus on dialogue in C number two in the next block, I'm going to focus on descriptions, so that makes your writing more efficient. This while right. And it's always good to set specific goals. All right, let's look at another solution, which is a step by step process. But before you start writing, the first step should be that should be. But I think it helps pre writing. So think about your ideas gathering information that you need any notes in any, uh, anything that you did before. You need to start writing in your research, you have done possibly any images you need to look at. So anything that you need to do to get ready for writing step number two will be planning. So you have all your materials, or at least you think you have all the materials. Eso now try to figure out what is it that you're going to do exactly what What is What is your final goal? What is your final product going to look like? Maybe even write an outline. It doesn't have to be the middle school type outline with in the Roman numerals, but some kind of a sketch of what you're trying to accomplish. Ah. Then a step Number three is actually writing. You have your materials, right? You have a specific goal or a plan in mind. So now go ahead and write. And you could use those writing blocks we talked about earlier for that process. When you're done writing when you're done with the first draft and only one you're down with that first draft, then go back and start editing. You don't want to interrupt yourself and edit as you go because these air to their different functions, composing is more creative. Editing is more detail oriented, so don't make your brain to both at the same time composed first, then it it and then last stages proof reading. Make sure you're on your spell Check and make sure they're no typos. No extra words, no, were the sentences that end with without the period. You know, things like that s o do your proof Reading solution Number four is a free right, a solution. And the free riding means that you set the timer that you write fast. You write to generate ideas or maybe solve a specific problem, or to express yourself you could have different goals. But the main thing here is your right without stopping. If you run out of things to write, you just say it on the water, right? Repeat that sentence for a few times and magically, you're going to come up with more ideas. Right? And writing fast is important because writing fast prevents your brain from stopping and editing and question yourself. Right? Solution Number five is speed right? It's a little bit similar to free ride, but there are some important differences. Let's take a look. So speed writing. You need to focus on getting from the beginning to the end. In three writing, you're just saying I'm going to write for 20 minutes in speed writing. You are supposed to get to the end of your story in this allocated time to the end of the scene, to the end of whatever it is you're trying to accomplish. So the same thing, said a timeframe. Start writing and don't stop. Don't edit. Don't evaluate on second guests and try to get to the end of that scene. Even if it's rough and it will be rough, it doesn't matter. Just get to the end of it. Later, you can go on go back and improve things. Solution number six. Copy in. Right. And that solution works really well, if you're feeling that you can't quite get your language right or your words were not coming out the way you would want them. So what you can dio is Ah, read a paragraph or a page from your favorite writer from the writer that whose style you really admire and then close it and try to rewrite that same page, right? And if summer is not summarize but rewrite that same page in that same style like that Author wrote, You're not gonna use it for your story. Obviously, that will be plagiarism. What you're trying to do is just get into the mind, set off the tried cadence of the trade up writing style so you can try that solution number seven relief and make notes. And you can also say he look So, for example, I like I write a lot of historical fiction and, uh, right about Russia, and I think I know Russia. But of course I don't know everything, and I don't know all the details. And sometimes I forget even details of certain settings suffer me of the solution would be looking at the picture, for example, of a specific setting. And then, as I'm looking at it, or is Emery reading so to speak this picture, I'm going to write about it from the point of view of my character. I'm going to include that picture or that setting right in the scene I'm trying to create. It can also mean if you're looking at a research article writer, some specific information about what you're trying to write is as you're looking at this article or text or whatever this is. Start writing, making notes, making comments, writing descriptions, whatever it is you need to do for the type of thing they're trying to write. Try to someone, and if you're writing nonfiction, it could be you're going right to your friends trying to explain the issue. If you're writing fiction, then what you could do is write a letter from one character to another. You don't have to think about. Are they going to send this letter? It doesn't matter. But this is a great exercise to help you develop your characters to help you understand your characters, and you'll probably learn something new about them, so writing a letter from one character to another within your story could be quite interesting and helpful. Solution. Number, line, right? Dialogue. A lot of times are scenes, and short stories require interactions between characters. And if you spend too much time describing your settings or describing this characters, first of all, you're going to feel that your story is not progressing. And secondly, maybe if you end up deleting that scene later on, it feels like wasted effort. So finally, what they learned to Dio is when I'm writing my stories, I write the dialogue scenes first, and I know I can go back right and and include those descriptions that I need there in my mind so I don't need to put them on paper necessarily right away. So writing dialogue can definitely help you. How? Move forward, Elizabeth Quicker. Another solution. This is a crazy one. But some of my students tried it and they said they liked it. So I'm gonna leave it up to you. If you're one of those people that likes to go back and edit and doubt yourself and question yourself of what you can do is strict yourself into not being able to do that. So if you're typing on the computer, just go ahead and turn off that screen type for I don't know, 5 10 minutes and then take a look and go back and see what you can correct right about writing. This is another interesting solution. What you're doing here is Ah, you're trying to understand yourself more and trying to understand the reasons. Why is it that you're having some difficulties, right? So right about how frustrated you are with that specific scene, or why you can describe something right about the process of writing in their problems in it, and you'll be pleasantly surprised, or maybe unpleasantly surprised at what you discover. But you will definitely be able to see the problems that you have, and then it will be easier to find a solution. Once you have a specific problem, you're trying to solve it another issue, and then the related solution is you need to know the format of what you're writing and on the basic love like in the school environment. It is well, what does the teacher want, right In the real world, it's more of ah, what is the form that you're trying to accomplish? Is that the roundup article, profile piece, opinion piece, flash fiction, Whatever it is you're trying to write, you need to know what that form is. So again, a school damn question is, what does the teacher want and the real of world questions? What template should they use? Right? Metaphorically speaking template doesn't mean that it's a formula. And here's an example. Shakespeare. Sonnet. Remember those 14 lines of Ryan Dynamic pentameter? It's a very rigid form, but they're great. Sahn, It's so temple just means no. In the form of a short story is different from an essay different from a poem, right? So which one are you trying to write? You need to know what you're trying to accomplish to be able to write it. Used writing prompts. You can find tons of them online. And, uh, just Google writing prompts and you'll be able to you'll be given something to start with, right? So you're not starting from a blank page. You're giving a little bit of a situation, um, prompt, obviously too, right. So definitely try those, and they can work off when you're just starting writing project or if you're stuck in the middle, keep a journal and this journal could be just the genital journal about any thoughts of your day. Then the goal will be just to help give you some informal writing practice. It could be a journal about the book you're reading, or it could be a journal or journal entries to solve a specific writing problem. For example, you're writing a restaurant scene and that you're trying to describe people in the restaurant. And maybe you're seen doesn't seem very natural to you. Something is off. So next time you go the restaurant observe. People, look at what they're doing, how they're interacting, what the waiters do. And then, ah, write a journal entry about it so you can remember. And then you can use it in your story later. And the last one is, do some research even if you think you know, sometimes you don't, or sometimes that research can help you spark new ideas or get some details that you were missing. And as I said, even when I write about Russia, which country that I'm supposed to know, right. Um, I, uh I look online. I look at pictures. I look at the people's opinions, facts, whatever this, and that helps me a structure my stories better and be more accurate, all right. 4. Conclusion: and maybe another solution to the writer's block and Teoh many problems in life is not to take yourself too seriously. That's why I chose this cute little cartoon character for the conclusion. Think about your writers oath and maybe even printed and put it in front of your computer. If I encounter writer's block, I will identify a specific problem and apply the right solution, right. I'm not just going to suffer in pain and in vagueness I will ignore my mood in my fear. Remember, if you're asking yourself to write for 20 minutes, you can do it. You can do anything for 20 minutes. I will focus on specific steps and self problems as they come. And what that means really is I'm not going to think about can I really? Right there? Seven volume? I don't know. Story set in medieval England. I'm just going to focus on the one seen at a time. And that's how I'm going to solve it. I will enjoy the process of writing. If you don't enjoy it. Why are you doing it right? You should enjoy it, and I will succeed. Thank you for watching. I hope you enjoy the class. And I hope to see you in one of my other classes. Um, something soon