Beat the Writer’s Block: Try Something New

Writer's block sucks.
Writer’s block sucks.

Writer’s block is a pain in the pen. I’ve been dealing with it for the past 4 months or so, and it’s rather aggravating. Of course, I think much of the block came from the stresses of teaching and grading papers and all that jazz this semester, but now I’m relaxed and on break and have absolutely no excuse. None of my usual techniques are working at this point, and I’m starting to feel somewhat stifled, creatively speaking. So I decided to branch out…and that’s what today’s post is about.

As most of you know, I’m a fiction writer. My work is almost exclusively short story-based, although I have tentatively ventured out into the world of novel writing on occasion. The point is, I write creative fiction and not much else. So my attempt at branching out is a very strange and somewhat terrifying one for me: I’m taking a poetry writing class. I’m not much of a poetry reader, to be quite honest; I love my epic poetry, some Shakespearean sonnets, and any poetry by J. R. R. Tolkien, but that’s about it. It just doesn’t appeal to me. As a result, I have trouble writing poetry. It’s so technical and feels very restricted sometimes, even in free verse. I’ve written a few poems, but they’re not very good and it’s an agonizingly painful process. But I signed up for this class anyway, because why not? Might as well try, since I’m having no luck with fiction at the moment. The class doesn’t start until January, but the professor sent out a massive list of things we have to do prior to the beginning of the course. And strangely enough, the pre-class work is already starting to erode the creative wall I’ve been trying to knock down for months. I’ve had to write some new pieces of poetry in different styles, and practice writing a poem out multiple times by hand, pausing to think about what each line means or could mean. It’s an interesting experience, and it’s forcing me to think in different creative ways than I’m used to. Mind you, my poetry still sucks, but I’m learning, as well as forcing my way past my writing issues. I’ve even gotten some short story ideas from working on this poetry stuff.  And this is even before the class actually starts! I’m excited.

Tolkien wrote some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever seen.
Tolkien wrote some of the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever seen.

Branching out doesn’t necessarily require a medium change. You don’t have to try writing a novel if you’re a poet, although I would recommend it. It’s ridiculously frustrating but quite helpful. Anyway, trying something new in your writing can be much simpler than that. If you write mostly in 3rd person, try writing a short story in 1st or even 2nd person. Worldbuilders, take a break from all that complicated detail, and work on a character piece. Free verse poets can try writing sonnets. I think y’all get the idea. When you hit a creative wall, change your writing up. Try something that you’re not comfortable with or that you just don’t like writing. It may be frustrating, but you will most likely learn things. Such detours should help you reorient your brain and hopefully push you past the writer’s block. And who knows? You may even find that you like the  new element of your writing.

I’m the Narrator

I am the narrator.

Does anyone else have a “signature” point of view that they write in? And do you have trouble writing from any other POV? I certainly do. I tend to write from first person limited POV, and it’s extremely difficult for me to write a story in anything other than that. I have written a grand total of ONE good story in a non-first person POV (it was 3rd person omniscient), and it was extremely difficult for me to write. So today, I’m going to talk about why I’m so in love with being the narrator of my stories through first person POV, as well as some of the problems I run into while using it.

First person point of view is perfect for me because I’m a psychological writer. I like to get inside the mind of my main character and see what makes them tick. I love writing from the perspective of just one particular character because they have a unique look at the people and events of the story. I like not knowing what other characters in the story are thinking…it leaves me in the dark as much as the narrator. For all intents and purposes, I AM the narrator. I’m inside the narrator’s head, I see what he/she sees, feel what they feel, think what they think. Aside from what they experience, I have no idea what’s going on elsewhere in the story. I’m usually as surprised by plot twists as the narrator is, actually, because I get so wrapped up inside that character that I have no way of reaching out to my other characters. I can speak to them but I can’t get inside their heads. It’s fascinating and makes my own work as new and exciting to me as it is to the characters in the story because like them, I have no idea what the hell is going on. From a writing perspective, I become the character who is narrating the story, at least in my head. It also makes everything feel more realistic. In real life we don’t see what everyone is thinking and we don’t have control over how others act. First person POV is great in my opinion because it is just that one character…one set of thoughts, one set of actions. It makes the writing process either, at least for me. Jumping to any other  POV is difficult because they tend to either overwhelm me with the thoughts of more characters than I can handle or just shut me out from their heads completely. It’s very disorienting, really.

Of course, first person POV can be extremely frustrating for me as a writer because I do have only that one perspective. If my

Seeing one set of toughts is quite enough for me, thanks.

narrator isn’t present at some event, I can’t talk about it in the story unless one of the other characters mentions it. I have to stay with the narrator through the whole work no matter how much I want to go see what’s happening with Rachel, Sam, or any other random cast members. It’s also a little annoying not being able to tell what everyone else is thinking at times. Character development can be really hard when you can’t see anything past what your narrator sees. Still, those quibbles are rather minor compared to the overall picture.

Simply put, first person point of view is AWESOME. I love it. I get to narrate all my own work in a more personal way than most writers get to. It’s a little more realistic, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and it keeps me on my toes, so to speak. It’s not for everyone, but it definitely works for me, and that’s what I tend to write in 99.9% of the time. I’m the narrator, and it’s a fantastic job.