Tip #28: Know Your Enemy

True story
True story

Here is a breakdown of a writer’s greatest enemies. I will set out their basic stats, core moves and weaknesses so that when they emerge you can score a swift K.O.

Writer’s Block

This is the arch-nemesis of all writers. It can best be characterised as “drawing a creative blank”. You want to write, you could write, but the ideas just will not appear. At least, they might appear, but not in any form you can use.

The closest cousin to writer’s block is stage fright. You are conscious of your will to write and your need to get the story finished. This puts pressure on you, and your mind becomes an empty white space.

There are tactics, special moves, which may slip past its defences. Focus on a random object and try to weave a story around it. Switch genre and type out a short story. Scribble every nonsense thought you have and join the dots.

These are exercises to build your confidence and get the creative juices flowing again. When you feel ready, return to the main story.

Burnout

A similar phenomenon to writer’s block, burnout is a common feature of NaNoWriMo. You have been experiencing a creative surge, smashing out one chapter or short story after another. Then, your drive vanishes in a puff of purple smoke.

Your mind knows how to take your daydreams and put words to them, it’s built into your mental programming. The problem is when you run your internal CPU too fast for an extended period, the words are used up before your imagination dries out.

Creativity remains, but your capacity to express those ideas has been temporarily exceeded.

What your mind needs is to recharge its word supply. Read as much as you can of anything or write a bit of non-fiction. The good thing about these is that the book or subject matter decides what vocabulary and style you are exposed to.

Having pored your eyes over a variety of different prose variations, you have the ability to put pen to paper once more. Hopefully, you produce more than idle doodles of dragons eating cupcakes.

Overdrive

Some of these creative ailments affect certain people more than others. For example, writer’s block is rare for me. Burnout is occasional and overdrive is extremely frequent. To a writer with the dreaded ‘block, overdrive seems like a blessing. It can be, but not always.

Overdrive is where there are too many words, an endless fountain of ideas and not enough time in the day to get them all down. I have two folders, one is plastic and one on PC, and a notebook each stuffed with scraps of paper, scrawled memos and documents laying out the premise for a life’s work of novels.

That is saying nothing of this blog, with its 18 short story series all begging to be novelised.

You have to be strict with overdrive or it will never let you get a writing project finished. Once you start a piece, you have to stick with it to the end. Are you thinking that is a little too severe?

I started a novel set in Ancient Rome over the summer. It was an exciting project to work on, but one which sits unfinished at 27,000 words four months later. All it took was reading a novel, watching a couple of TV shows, and overdrive took the wheel.

My next book is over halfway done and the Romans sit forgotten by the wayside. So be sure not to let overdrive get the better of you. Keep focused, stay creative and let the words flow.

Let me know in the comments if this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?

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6 thoughts on “Tip #28: Know Your Enemy

  1. I always experience what you call “overdrive”..there’s just so much and so many to write..its difficult to filter…and obviously there’s not much time to write considering that I have other things to do…and like you I carry a small notebook wherever I go. it woudl contain scribbles, ideas, sometimes descent poems…
    because truth is if an idea pops out of my head I needed to write them down immediately otherwise it will vanish I thin air….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tend towards overdrive myself, probably because I just recently emerged from an extended burnout.

    Writer’s block isn’t usually too much of an issue but when it comes I use a few different methods to unplug it. Sidewriting like you described works well. I’ll also do fake Q&A sessions. I think up what questions people have asked me about the story I’m working on (and make up my own) and then answer them fully. It keeps me in the story and writing but there are little to no creative requirements. It also helps me flesh out backgrounds, characters, themes, plotlines, etc as well as finding holes that need to be filled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok not helpful or contributive (is that a word?) I am an over driver too. I have 3 notebooks: blog ideas, short stories and current novel. Files on computer: spreadsheets, research and multiple bookmarked websites. Brain exploding

      Liked by 1 person

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