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Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Give Yourself Writer's Block

I get this question a lot: "How do you get over writer's block?"

But I decided to do the opposite and write a blog called "How do you create writer's block?" It occurred to me to write this because I was feeling creative, about to do some work, and then managed to completely kill it.

So here are some tips on how to stifle the creative juices:

-Read reviews, of your own books perferably, particulary negative reviews, although positive cans freak you out, too. If somebody loved one of your books, it means that your next book has to be even better, because nothing's worse than taking somebody who loves you and turning them into somebody who hates you. Oh, and confuse your books for yourself. When somebody says, "I didn't like this book," they really mean, "I didn't like you, the author, and I think you, the author, are terrible and awful and this review is totally personal."

-Read reviews of other books (or films or poems), especially your favorite books. Find a really scathing review of whatever book you consider to be the greatest book ever written, and then realize that if somebody hates the GREATEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN that much, what chance does your book every have?

-Read glowing reviews of fantastic books, and realize again, that there are truly, insanely, almost painfully brilliant books that exist in the world, and yours will never, ever, ever, EVER be anywhere close to that good, so why even bother?

-Check your sales rankings. If they're low, obsess over why they're low and fear what that means for future books, your career, the college fund for your children, and any other plans you'd thought of making for the future now that you'll have to find a new job and everyone will laugh at you for being a total public failure. If you're rankings are high, assume that it's either a) a glitch, or b) your rankings can't stay high forever, and soon they will plummet, and so now you begin to panic trying to come up with ways to sell books well forever, when in reality you never even really knew how you sold any in the first place.

-Think about money. How much you have, how much you don't have, how much soliders and teachers make, how much money is wasted on crap things, how much spent on a pair of flipflops at Walgreens and then you didn't even wear them because they were uncomfortable, and there's people in Africa that don't even have clean water, and millions of people die every day from starvation, and you put on 2 pounds last week, and the whole world is completely terrible and awful and you're not doing enough to make it better.

-Check Facebook. Not for anything particular and most of the stuff you see will annoy/irritate/bore you, and you don't even know why you're looking or why you're friends with a lot of these people, but you look anyway, compulsively. A few things amuse you, but most things won't, but you. Just. Keep. Looking.

-Go on Twitter. Twitter is better. You like Twitter because it's funnier, the links are smarter, and it's just generally a better experience. This cheers you up after you've thought about how terrible your writing is, how bad your sales are/will be, how the world is ending, so it's better than Facebook, which only depresses you. But just like Facebook, you check it compulsively and achieve nothing.

-Watch videos of Heath Ledger on YouTube. There really is no good reason to do this, but you find yourself doing it anyway, and getting sad remembering that he's dead, and then getting sad remembering that River Phoenix is dead, and getting sad remembering that Joaquin Phoenix is getting weird, and how everything changes and time keeps on  moving and people die every day and are you really accomplishing anything?

-Wonder if everything you do/think/feel/love is terrible and pointless, and even as you wonder it, you know it's true. In the scheme of things, all your obsessions and thoughts and worries are totally pointless, and in the blink of an eye, you'll be dead, and everyone you know will be dead, and in hundreds of years, they won't even remember you, and nothing you do really matters because you don't do anything that matters. You could, but you don't. And that should be liberating, and it is - a little - but then you get depressed again.

-Compare yourself to other authors. But don't stop there. Compare yourself to all kinds of people. Celebrities, Noble prize winners, doctors, presidents, sick kids, the poor, the rich, Kanye West, your mom, a kid you went to high school with, a cashier at the supermarket, a walrus, Juliet Capulet - it doesn't matter who it is, as long as you are comparing yourself to somebody and coming up lacking. And if you're doing it right, you can come up lacking against anyone. Sure, Hitler was evil and awful and slaughtered millions of innocent people, but he took over most of Europe and he was a vegetarian. You ate chicken nuggets and complained about getting up before noon today.

-For bonus points, assume that all other authors hate you, that everyone who has ever read anything you've written hates the words you write. In fact every one who has ever thought of you or knows of your existence thinks you're a joke and a hack and wants you to stop writing words.

Congratulations! You've killed all your creativity. Or if you haven't, you're a better man than I am, and let's face it, you probably are. 

It's also safe to say that since all of these things kills your creativity and also your will to live, that doing the opposite of those things will make you feel better. Don't read reviews. Don't worry about sales. Don't compare yourself to other people. Turn off Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

Better yet, don't be a neurotic asshole like me, and write anyway, cause who really gives a crap what anyone else thinks?

53 comments:

  1. Awesome post. I, um, have never done any of this stuff. *whistles nervously*

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  2. Hilarious. Channeling a little Diablo Cody?

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  3. Great tips Amanda, while I won't be following them you've definitely given me some insights on things that block my own creativity. Thanks. Second Andrew, this was funny.

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  4. Excellent advice, Amanda, and I just love the humorous way you get to it, well done!Indeed, you're so right, to write you need to turn off Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and the whole lot and never, ever compare yourself or your books to anyone else...

    Alas, it's easier said than done, especially if you're a self-published author (as I am) and need to do your own marketing 100% of the time because you haven't got a publisher. Ok, as self-published authors are quick to point out, the publisher may not do 100% of it either but at least 50% and every little bit helps to stay away from FB et al and stay focused...

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  5. OMF I LOVE YOUR POSTS SO MUCH.

    Sure, Hitler was evil and awful and slaughtered millions of innocent people, but he took over most of Europe and he was a vegetarian. You ate chicken nuggets and complained about getting up before noon today. -Amanda Hocking

    New favorite quote. You're the best, and I can't stop laughing.

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  6. Why can't Facebook just write this book for me? Shouldn't they have an app for that by now? ♥ this post. ♥ you and your books!

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  7. You have a lot of valid points here. It's also good to know that I'm not the only person who thinks Joaquin Phoenix is just plain creepy.

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  8. Your advice makes sense to me. Haha! I'll try them all and I guess I have to create a Twitter account too.

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  10. Yup. I think most people go through this regardless of what their profession is.
    Criticism in writing (or anything creative) is hard, because your work is part of who you are, it shows your level of skill and talent, and creating your work cost you something more than just the time spent doing it. You're putting your thoughts out there for strangers to enjoy-- or not enjoy.

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  13. You are hilarious. I was LOL-ing through this, loving that I totally relate. Even as I am writing this comment, I am in the midst of killing my creativity that I woke up with this morning. Ok, I'm going to go write now! Thanks Amanda, for being an inspiration to those of us who are yet-unpublished, and for always showing your human side!

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  14. I liked this first person narrative rant a lot!-so this is whats in that funny brain of your?-keep up the positive vibe!-

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  16. Hi, Amanda! I reblogged this post the other day, then, after several days of consideration, I decided it was high time I posted my thoughts on Art and Criticism on my own blog. As a fellow author, I thought you might enjoy reading it. And it was totally with your encouragement that I finally did so:) Also, just read J. L. Bryan's Jenny Pox--holy moly!--so good!!

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  22. Thanks for sharing, Amanda. Glad I read this tonight :)

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  23. This has had me laughing for days as I reflect on it. It has also scared me. Thankfully I haven't had writers block yet, but now that you mention the pressure of good and bad reviews...

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  24. Ahhh! *sighs* This was great.

    I have had BAD writer's block, and I haven't been able to figure out what it is. Feels like I've tried everything, but you've given some great ideas.


    Thanks bunches!

    Also, I just bought 'Tidal' from Walmart. I can't wait to read it ;)

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  26. Great post. Some people can't help looking at their sales rank or reading their reviews. Most reviewers could be harsh to their fellow humans, which kills the spirits of those
    who give life to their thoughts and imaginations.
    Every writer on the verge of quitting should stumble on your post and boost their confidence by believing in themselves even when no one does.

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  28. Writer's block sucks, but self esteem blocks suck even more! Hitler was a douche, but remember, in HIS MIND he was doing the right thing and he stayed his course until the bitter end. He never suffered from genocidal block. If your passionate about what your writing and the message your trying to convey, and you hit a block, wait it out. It will come to you. Like you said, dont let the negative self esteem killers block your path.

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  31. I came across this post a little late but could not stop laughing. All of it is so incredibly poignant, for me especially the part about comparing yourself to everybody you've ever met. Why we go on Facebook at all is beyond me (I ask aloud as I close the Facebook tab/window). I knew a boy in high school that said the writing for our English essay had "flowed out of his fingers like wine," and I still remember squinting my eyes at him in envy/fury.

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  32. Thanks for this incredibly timely post! I was getting so bogged down creating my own writer's block that I almost could not write this post! Thanks for the giggles and the dose of reality!

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  33. I quit Facebook and Twitter this week, and never check my sales rankings. I don't truly understand how they work so why bother?

    I do relate to the part about other writers thinking I'm a joke though. Haven't overcome that one yet.

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  34. Good lord, it was like you copied what I was thinking! Sales ranking hell, social networking diversions, and endless comparisons. Great advice on what NOT to do when you are trying to finish a manuscript!

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  41. haha. your post made me laugh a bit. yes, who gives a crap what others think. in the end, we all die.

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  42. I cannot even tell you how much this helped me. You've inspired me and I know you hear this a LOT, but I truly understand what you're going through (with the writing) not the burden of success, because that's only something I pray for right now. Nobody understands sadness. Nobody understands anxiety and why the emptiest feelings in the world can sometimes the only companions you have.

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