On average, I can write about two chapters without having too much trouble with fluidness, but when I hit that third chapter, something breaks down. Sometimes I'm tired and my brain seems to refuse to work, or I just have to sit back and think about what I want to come next. Sort of a "you can only see so far in the headlights" moment. However, that action of stopping my fingers on the keys brings my thinking brain to a halt, and unless I have a really good feel on where I'm going, I get hit with writer's block.
What do you do in those situations? Well, one option is to walk away, give it a rest for a while and work on other things. However, is this really the right solution? Sometimes it is. There are times you just know you have to stop and take a break or you'll shut down. However, when I completely stop and walk away, I often lose my motivation to go back to writing, and that feeling can last for days. So the real question is, how do you know when to walk away and when to keep plugging along?
My advice: always take 5-10 minutes, or even longer if you prefer, to push yourself to keep writing. If you aren't already to the point of pulling out your hair but determined to give up then and there, this is going to make you lack in your discipline. Here are some suggestions when going the latter route of plugging away:
1) Using an example of the computer, since that's where I do my writing, don't even lift those hands off the keys. Someone wrote that simple piece of advice on a blog once (apologies I don't remember where!), and it stuck to me. I tested it out: the next time I had writer's block, I kept my hands on the keyboard and within just a few moments I was back to writing. The next day, I again hit a wall with the story, but this time I lifted my hands off those keys. Wham - motivation and inspiration gone; I felt tired and wanted to walk away. So, keep yourself poised on those keys (or around that pencil if you prefer paper) and simply wait until a word comes to mind that will get you started back into your great story.
2) Take a limited break. Set a timer, go do a quick chore, step outside for a moment, or grab some brain food. You might just feel reenergized to get back to that story.
3) Set a deadline. For me personally, being under a deadline adds pressure. I don't care for the feeling of the clock tick, tick, ticking away in my brain, screaming WRITE, YOU FOOL! However, I know that some people have the opposite personality and do their best work when given a deadline. Ask a friend to hold you accountable (you can determine on something like a set word count/number of pages or amount of chapters) and ask within the day or week if you met your quota. Knowing someone is going to ask you a specific question about your work will urge you to get the job done. (This is also perfect if you have a writing assignment for school or want to become a regular blogger.)
4) Remove distractions. Something drawing your eyes away from the pages? Remove it! If it's a picture of friends in a frame on your desk, reminding you of the hangout at the game you're missing, hide that frame in your desk drawer. If you're writing on the computer, exit out of or at least minimize those internet windows behind your word document. If you're phone keeps sending you text alerts, turn it off. Flee from temptation and focus on your writing!
5) Promise yourself with a reward. Hey, treats aren't just for dogs! If you come to a point in your story where you're truly stuck on a particular scene, whether you're not sure what should come next or a character is giving you trouble, determine something special to do after that scene is written. Try these suggestions if you're unsure:
-- You can't listen to your favorite song until you get through that scene.
-- If you get through that scene, take a quick break and browse some inspiring and calming pictures on pinterest.
-- You can take a break and go for a walk in the sunshine afterwards.
-- Go buy that new notebook or buy a cheap book for your kindle if you have one (yes, keep this money reward cheap - it is, after all, just one scene or blip, and I don't know about you, but I haven't been finding any extra money in the backyard trees of late).
Knowing for sure whether you need a break or need to keep plugging along doesn't have any definite answer to it. You'll often feel it deep within yourself whether you really do need to take a quick nap or if you're just being lazy and need to keep plugging along. Just don't lose hope and don't let yourself fall into the rut of bashing your work over one little scene. Everyone struggles at some point; you just have to climb over a few rocks to get to the peak.
What's your technique of staying motivated? Will you try any of these techniques? (If so, come back and share how they worked for you!)