Have you ever sat in front of the computer screen (or your notebook’s blank page) and felt like your mind has suddenly been thrust into in a whiteout blizzard condition? You might even be mid-sentence of how Timmy, after slaying the dragon is sharpening his sword. The mind just stops working. The words for whatever reason stop flowing.
If you haven’t been here congratulations! Don’t even consider that this might happen sometime in the future, stop reading here, bookmark this post maybe refer back after your project is finished. But for now, go on to something else. For the rest of us, what do you do?
Instead of sitting and staring at my screen for half an hour, scowling, frowning, pulling my hair out, or throwing things, I get up and walk, exercise, meditate, go do some gardening (weather permitting) take a bath, or maybe even take a nap. I will avoid talking to others, especially about the issue. I put it aside and do something else that requires little thinking. I maintain patience, the words will come. They will find their way around whatever has placed itself between my conscious and subconscious.
Sometimes, I find these ‘pauses in flow’ are my body’s way of saying, “Hey! Give it a break. I need to move.” It may take an hour or several, but the words generally start flowing again. In extreme cases, it might be best to focus on some other writing project for a day or two before sitting back to what I was working on. If after a day or two, nothing comes. I might backtrack a few pages, and begin reading. (Not editing mind you, just reading.) Often this will spark a new path. It might be that the original path I had followed was a dead end. The new path may lead me right past the stuck point and into new territory.
All the time I am in this mode, I work diligently to stifle, strangle, smother, and club into submission the thoughts of defeat, self-doubt, or fear. This is one of those times when that niggling little voice of doom can become the loudest. Instead, I accept that delays are inevitable. My plot may be worked out, the situation strong in my mind, but the stuff that goes on the screen might need a little more time to ferment before the words are ready to flow again.
If you find yourself tested with a blank page, feel free to take a five-minute walk and try again. Go get a coffee, a cup of tea, or a smoothie. Feel free to daydream in your character’s point of view. Play a game of “What’s the worst that can happen to my character?” Back up a few steps and start from there. The point here is to keep a temporary setback from becoming more permanent.