Spare Parts to End Writer’s Block

I’ve actually stopped subscribing to all by one physically printed and mailed writing magazine. In part I stopped because of all the wasted space covering poetry. If you want to ensure a book with multiple millions of dollars in marketing effort sells fewer than 500 copies, choose a poetry book. Not a book of naughty nursery rhymes ala Andrew Dice Clay, but what poets cal poetry today.

 The main reason I’ve chose to stop letting trees get slaughtered is the constant stream of articles covering “writer’s block.” I have heard every whine and snivel there is for writer’s block, and the bulk of it is fresh and steaming from the back of the bull.

 For those who don’t write, writer’s block is a term given to writers staring at a blank screen. Rather than actually fixing the problem, they will stare for hours, sometimes months, at a blank screen wallowing in self pity and loathing. There are countless theories on it. In short, it is both your work ethic and your writing ritual. Writing ritual can be as simple as “I write during the hours of x-y each day”, “I only write in my office”, “I have to have my special (insert object here)”. Add to that a work ethic which demands you meet your deadlines, either real or self imposed, stir with some imagination, and presto, you have a prescription for all sorts of weird psychological disorders.

 The vast majority of these blocks come from the simple reality that you have something else you need to write to clear your head so you can write what you are supposed to be writing. These needs have various ways of ensuring you pay attention to them. They will sit in the back of your mind making you feel comfortable about how your current work is progressing while they quietly steer you into a dead end. You got so comfortable and wrote so much “good stuff” over the past few weeks you have now come to the reality you spent many chapters veering so far off topic there is no obvious way back. The thought of shredding all of that work keeps you frozen.

 Sometimes they place themselves like a boulder in front of a car on a narrow mountain road. There is simply no way around writing it, yet you refuse to get out of your car and sledgehammer that boulder into gravel. You have a work ethic which demands you finish what you started before you write this blog post or short story which could very well be the best thing you ever write.

 How they present themselves doesn’t matter. You need to pull the pin and run. Most of you cannot do the math and prove to yourself you will be much farther along on your deadline if you waste half of today writing that piece. You all think you are going to get around it in just a few minutes after a walk around the block, fresh can of soda, etc. You are all wrong.

 While most people think it is stupid, the ones who have tried it have found it to actually work. What you need is a stack of cheap keyboards you carry around with you. I’m not talking about expensive keyboards. I’m talking about things you find on clearance for $8 or less. I’m talking about ancient PS/2 and Compaq keyboards your company or clients are probably tossing out because nobody wants to use them and they have enough newer spares.

 You need to ensure that each keyboard you keep is significantly different from the others. A loud, clacky mechanical PS/2 keyboard. Compaq’s first attempt at a soft touch membrane keyboard. Big backspace vs. small. Large return key vs. slim. Small footprint vs. original XT/AT full size.

 Why? Two reasons.

  •  The re-learning helps break up the monotony of typing and it causes you to use a different part of your brain for a while, or at least use more of it.
  • The physical act of switching the keyboard gives you permission to work on something else, even if it is simply free typing to get familiar with the keyboard.

 Personally, my netbook has been the biggest help here. I’ve owned many laptops and notebook computers. When I’m actually at home I use a kick butt quad-core desktop, but my netbook has really helped with writing while away from home. I haven’t had a decent sized or powered laptop since my 486SX with DOS on it. Those big screen laptops inhale batteries like construction workers inhale beer.

 I’ve always wanted to take my laptop out on the deck or off to another farm to sit in the sun while writing, but the sub 4 hour battery time and noise of a portable generator kept me from it. With the 8+ hours I can get running Linux Mint 13 KDE and FocusWriter, I actually can and do write anywhere.

 Let me caution readers against writing in bed though. It is a good way to end up celibate even if you don’t choose lead that life.

Let me also say that just because I can write anywhere doesn’t mean I don’t keep my extra keyboards handy. You’d be surprised how many can fit into a backpack with a netbook sleeve.