If you write a page a day, you’ll have a novel-length manuscript at the end of a year. But how do you overcome writer’s block and get yourself to start writing that daily page instead of doing other things?
The second secret to overcoming writer’s block is self-imprisonment. Yes, that’s right: self-imprisonment. When I was in graduate school, I noticed many of the authors I was reading had spent time in prison: Thomas More (who coined the word “utopia”), Dostoevsky; O. Henry; Voltaire who wrote over 2,000 books and pamphlets–a great example of overcoming writer’s block if I there ever was one.
Why do people in prison write? Because in prison you don’t have anything else to do. Stare at a barred window long enough, and you’ll find yourself wanting to do something else, and if you’re a writer, that something else will be to write.
I don’t actually lock myself in my study, but four or five days a week I make the following deal with myself: I will stay in my study for exactly one hour. During that time I will not do anything else except write. If I don’t have anything to write about, I will spend that hour writing about how I can’t write.
As you may have already guessed, it’s incredibly boring to write about how you can’t write. As I sit there typing about my lack of inspiration, I always recall that scene in The Shining when Jack Nicholson shows Shelley Duvall his “novel” which consists of hundreds of pages of the single sentence: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
However, in the end, it always pays off. Sooner or later if you imprison yourself in your room and write about how you can’t write, you get so bored that you overcome writer’s block and begin writing your novel. At that point, remember: don’t get up and leave the room.
Come back soon to The Writer’s Journey Blog for more secrets to overcoming writer’s block and starting your novel.