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11/16/2013
Breaking the block and writing on

By MARJORIE CLARK

Daily News Staff Writer

They really weren’t kidding about the "writing doldrums."

I thought I would be able to sink my teeth into making progress on my NaNoWriMo project this week and catch up on my word count since I, admittedly, did not put much energy into the first week. But man, was I wrong.

For those who think it’s a urban legend, writer’s block is a real thing. I thought it was difficult to motivate myself to sit at the computer for a couple hours every day, but I was not prepared for the challenge of actually sitting at the computer and not have words gloriously radiate from my fingers like songs from heaven. The worst.

An Internet search for "cure for writer’s block" yields hundreds, if not thousands, of results. Every link contains a list of suggestions on how to beat the block and get the creativity and words flowing again. A lot of the advice is the same: talk about the subject with a friend, write anything and revise later, remember the first draft is not the only draft, go do something else for a while, etc.

I caught up with NaNoWriMo participant and Ketchikan local, James Corrao, to find out what he does to combat writer’s block. Corrao is participating in his first NaNoWriMo this year and is going gangbusters. By Thursday morning, he had completed close to 30,000 words, and was right on track to easily finish the challenge by the end of the month.

His first strategy to overcome the "scourge" of writer’s block is to skip ahead in the story.

"Sometimes I get bogged down in the minutia of my story and leaving it behind to pursue another tendril later in the plot can help keep the words flowing," he wrote in an email.

His second strategy is to step away from the story and do something completely unrelated for about 10 minutes.

"I try to find something that has nothing to do with my story, or even writing in general, to stimulate a different part of my brain," Corrao wrote.

He said his original plan for NaNoWriMo was to wing it without much planning or research. But the plan to not plan failed — much to his chagrin — and he spent half of October pla­nning and researching. But, according to Corrao, the preparation has not slowed him down, and so far so good.

His healthy word count would suggest he doesn’t struggle with writer’s block, but I know better than that. Every writer has dry spells every once in a while.

Mark Twain said about writer’s block: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

Ernest Hemingway had a different approach.

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it, and your brain will be tired before you start."

In Corrao’s words, "Keep at it! Go team go! You can do it!"

Onward.

Catch me on Twitter @marjiebc or use #writealong2013 and #NaNoWriMo to follow the conversation.

***

Marjorie Clark is attempting to write a novel during the month of November as part of National Novel Writing Month.