Last time, I went over some of the more time-intensive methods I have of getting past writer’s block. This would not have helped many of you under deadlines or other pressing obligations, so this post is for you poor bastards, with your strange lives still constrained by linear time.
Eventually you will ascend and commune with the fate-spiders outside of temporal existence, and then you will know true mastery of the two-dimensional holograph we think of as time.
Until then, I’m here to help you out!
Because you haven’t communed with the fate-spiders yet, you can’t actually time travel. But what you can do is follow these steps:
- Realize that you’ve hit a solid, impassable wall in your work.
- Weep uncontrollably while contemplating the void of your passion.
- Mix some cherry vodka and Pepsi; consume liberally. It makes you think of high school while slowly ushering you towards an inevitable blackout.
- Wake up the next morning to the grim realization that your project is still immovable, much like the shield in the paradox.
- Take an earnest, bleary-eyed look at where things went pear-shaped.
The first four steps are technically optional, though I wholeheartedly recommend them. It’s the last step that will actually help you, though, so if you are time-constrained you may just want to skip the others.
This has saved my bacon on at least three projects to date, and probably others that I’ve forgotten about.
If you’re stuck, it means that weird ego-imp in your subsconscious is probably telling you that there is something amiss. You’ve misstepped somewhere along the way, and you need to double back and figure out where you fucked up. The best way to do this is to go back a few pages and read the stuff that feels “right”, then start keeping an eye out for when things start to feel otherwise.
For me, this happened in two separate outlines (I recommend this technique in particular for outlines, because they’re a bit more malleable, though it can be applied to full-on prose if need be). I had reached the climactic encounter in both, and I was working furiously to get the outlines done so they could be usable.
But things just weren’t working. So in both cases I doubled back to a place that still felt right and worked forward until I started getting that twinge in the back of my greasy brain-stuff telling me that I was reading abject nonsense. At which point I lopped off the rest of the outline (which was an undesirable growth, like a wart or a racist YouTuber) and started fresh, tackling it anew. And both times it worked out vastly better than the original.
I even applied this to one of the stories in my work-in-progress sequel collection to Love and Other Impossible Things, except the main difference was that the point where everything went wrong was the first word of the story, so I scrapped the entire beast and took another shot at it from another point of view—you know, Jedi style.
The important thing in this case is to travel back along the timeline of the story or outline, get a sense of where things went wrong, and then to fix it from there. It relies a lot on your gut instincts, and if you don’t listen to your gut instincts then you should learn to. Your gut has seen a lot of shit in its day, and it knows better than you do.
The Juggernaut Approach
This is the simplest and most brutal tactic to getting through writer’s block that I know of. It doesn’t require analysis, like the previous suggestion, nor does it require time, like the items in the previous post.
In the X-Men comics/movies/cartoons, the Juggernaut is a dude who has a very basic set of superpowers, sometimes mutant, sometimes magical. He can regenerate his body—even when scoured down to his raw, bloody skeleton—and, more relevant, he can bulldoze his way through basically any obstacle so long as said obstacle isn’t made of adamantium plot-hax.
That is the spirit that you must embody. Fuck writer’s block. Fuck the wall that’s standing in your way. This isn’t the elegance of a drill or the maddening patience of an inmate digging their out with a spoon. This is pure, animalistic force. Make a mess so you can find the path you need, then go back and clean up the debris in post. Once you know where you’re going, you’ll probably have a much better idea of how the part that stumped you functions in the context of the whole. At which point you can utilize the first tactic in this list to make the necessary repairs.
Tithe to the Great Old Ones
Much as fairies must pay a tithe to hell every seven years, writers must pay a tithe to the Great Old Ones when writer’s block strikes. The best part of this option is that you can choose any one of a vast number of Great Old Ones to tithe to! There is Yog-Sothoth, who is the key and the gate, coterminous with all space and time. There is Azathoth the Daemon Sultan, the nuclear idiot god sleeping at the center of all creation—we are but its dream, and it is kept sleeping by the soothing alien pipings of servitor gods. Hastur the Unspeakable is another option, the most easily summoned by speaking its name thrice.
My personal favorite is Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, which is the grim forebear of which all fertility deities are but an echo. After all, what is writing but an act of creation, and what is writer’s block but a lack of creative fecundity? The Goat will help with this, for a price that will echo down through your familial line for generations and bring horrors untold upon your descendants.
When all else fails, remember that inspiration is a fickle mistress, but that Great Old Ones operate off alien but consistent laws. If you can comprehend these laws (even at the cost of your sanity), they can be bent to your will.
Those are my suggestions, grim and blood-soaked as they are. How about you guys? Any surefire methods for the quick defeat of writer’s block that I missed, or possibly specific thingsw that work for you especially? Leave ’em in the comments!