Writer’s Block and How to Beat It

This morning, Neil Gaiman reposted some advice on beating writer’s block. He advises writers to turn off their internal editor while writing. You need to find a way to silence or ignore that inner critic, because the most important thing is to finish your writing. Of course, this isn’t new advice from Neil Gaiman. I’ve had this image bookmarked for a while now.

I’ll admit that my inner editor is a very loud and very insistent person/thing/demon. It’s hard to keep pushing towards your daily word count when all you hear is “That’s crap. No one will read that.” And you make bargains with yourself, like, “It’s just the first draft. Of course it’ll be crap. I just need to keep writing.” But that doesn’t mean it gets any easier.

To me, writing can be like running a race. And yes, that is a bit of cliche, but bear with me. Running sucks. At least for me. It’s exhausting, it can be boring, and I end up sore and sweaty. That’s the editor, giving you reason after reason to stop writing. But, when you do finish a race, it feels great. All the pain is forgotten (for a moment anyway). And finishing a story can be like that too. You feel great when you finish. You need to remember the pleasure and try to forget about the pain.

The race metaphor works for beating writer’s block too. When I run, I need to bring my iPod, so I can listen to music and ignore the pain. I need that distraction. Similarly, when I feel writer’s block coming on, I put my current project aside and work on something completely different. Short story stalling out? Work on the novel. Or even better, work on a article for a newspaper. Exercise a different part of your brain while your unconscious figures out a way to make your stalled writing work. Maybe it’s a little bit of ADD, I don’t know. But for me, working on a variety of projects is a great way to distract that inner editor and overcome writer’s block. Call it what you want–it’s something that’s stopping me from writing. And while I can be quite creative in finding ways to procrastinate, you need to be that creative in finding ways to keep your butt in the chair writing.

Of course, when you finish a race, after you feel euphoric, reality sets in, and you feel your knees, your ankles, and your hips. You feel wrecked. That’s what submitting and dealing with rejection feels like.

And on that cheery note, what do you do to beat writer’s block? How do you keep writing? How do you turn off that inner editor? Let me know.