There are a lot of strong opinions about Writer's Block, whether or not it exists, etc. Certain bullies like to insist there's no such thing, it's a job like any other, have you ever heard of plumber's block (well, actually yes), pull up your big girl panties, etc etc etc.
It's a matter of semantics. Writers's Block is Burn-out is Depression is Exhaustion is Resentment is Disappointment is Passive Aggression is Professional Jealousy is .... Well, you get the picture. Throw any negative emotion that keeps you from writing and you can call it Writer's Block. Anything that makes sitting down in that chair feel like torture, anything that makes you stare at the blank page or the blinking cursor, type a paragraph and then delete it, write a page of garbage and then delete it, so simply go shopping day after day after day until your house is chock full of quirky clutter. In fact, so-called Writer's Block is probably more prevalent than people want to admit, simply because the very term is so scary.
I only copped to it once, and it came from exhaustion. I'd been pushing and pushing, I had a young baby and I was writing a Christmas book (FALLING ANGEL). Now I am someone who adores Christmas. I've tried to be a bit more curmudgeonly in the last couple of years. Give away one or two sets of my Christmas dishes (how many sets of Christmas dishes do you need?), tossing old broken ornaments which have no sentimental meaning (we have enough ornaments for a dozen trees), letting Richie cut progressively smaller trees, etc. But back then I would go into raptures about Holiday-themed paper towels (I'm not kidding). And I was writing a Christmas book about a quilter (I love to quilt). And a fallen angel, and God knows I've always loved Fallen Angels. What the hell was my problem?
But I stopped cold. With a deadline looming I simply had to stop and walk away from it. I think it only took a week before I was able to move on and finish the book, and it's won all sorts of prizes, including a RITA, I think (could be wrong about that one, but it was a finalist) and it made HQ and me buckets of money. It touched people's imaginations and hearts. And yet I'm still not crazy about it, because I tend to confuse process with product. (Which makes sense, considering how long it takes even the fastest writer to write a book).
But other times I didn't actually recognize I had the problem -- it was just that the books were going flat. I could still write, I could still come up with stories, but the fire wasn't there. Again, it was the result of putting too much out there without taking the time to refill the well, to do anything for myself (we had a family in crisis and there was no room to think about what I needed). So I wrote books that I look back on with mixed emotions.
For me, the difference was when I suddenly came alive again. When the writing began to zing, and I'd fallen in love with writing again. It was instigated by two things beyond my control. One, I fell madly in love with Japanese rock stars (and a certain actor) and two, Spike kissed Buffy.
I'll tell you about #one when I talk about Reno and Taka and Ice Blue, but for now I'll talk about Spike. I don't know about you, but my childhood surrounded having mad crushes on various actors and characters from books and weaving stories about them. I had a fairly torturous childhood and it was through reading and fantasy that I survived in one piece (my siblings survived broken). Think of the very best kisses you've seen in a movie or love scenes you've read in a book, and think about that delicious kind of clenching you feel in your stomach. At least I do. I can still watch the scene on the ramparts from Last of the Mohicans and melt, and you cannot imagine how often I've seen it. Or the kiss in Blade Runner. Or Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Long Hot Summer. When Rhett carries Scarlett upstairs (in the book, not the movie). One kiss, one scene like that and all my writing juices are flowing (we will avoid any vulgar remarks jokes on that subject -- I couldn't think of a more accurate way to put it).
Those kisses, those scenes leave me with a restless energy that I have to dissipate or I'll explode. Some women would grab their husband or their battery powered best friend. I put it all into story. I have to tell myself a new story around that kiss, or what happens after that kiss. That season of Buffy, despite the fact that it has the amazing musical episode and Tabula Rasa and a number of excellent ones, basically sucked. (If you'll pardon the expression). And yet for me it was the best, probably because there were all these long hiatuses and I had to write my own episodes in my head. And mine were always exactly what I wanted. I'd even rewrite what I saw, interpreting things the way I wanted. I was defending "Doublemeat Palace," one of the worst Buffy episodes ever, describing to Crusie all these great things about the episode, and she said those weren't in the episode, those were things I added to it (motivation behind looks that wasn't necessarily there, etc.). My favorite version of "Phantom of the Opera" is when I listened to the score (on cassette tape!) with no libretto, so I had to guess at what was happening. My imagination was even more powerful than the actual play.
Once Buffy and Spike started shagging I tore into writing with renewed purpose and energy. Finding a new actor who ignites your imagination and can play avatar in your book can do that - (oh god, I just thought of the kiss on the ferris wheel in East of Eden and got momentarily giddy with delight). Hell, it can be Captain America's ass in The Avengers, which is inspiration indeed. Fall in love with anything, and you're set. Anything unobtainable, that is. Then you can write it all out.
There are other, obvious tricks. Set the alarm clock and the coffee (and the bread machine if you're skinny and can get away with it), rise at the crack of dawn and write then. That's what Erma Bombeck did all her life (minus the bread machine). If you write on a laptop try on your desktop computer (assuming you have both). Move into a different room.
Move into a different house. (I'd go write in friend's houses while they were at work -- with their permission, of course). Go outside -- I find I'm most prolific if I'm sitting on a porch facing water.
Light a candle. Write longhand (preferably with a fountain pen and Clairefontaine paper but it's up to you). Write out of order. Bribe yourself with M&Ms or pretzels or diamonds if you can afford them. Or days off.
Take a tranquilizer or a glass of wine (not both, and watch what time you drink the wine and only one glass, my friend). Do not go back to cigarettes -- it's not worth it. Chew gum. Try not to fuel the writing with eating -- it will only make you torpid.
Anything to physically change things can trick your brain into becoming more enthusiastic once more. And go watch your favorite movie with the best kiss again.
That'll light a fire under you.
So, a cornucopia of goodies for you today. For one day only, both MOONRISE and RITUAL SINS are 99 cents at Amazon. LADY FORTUNE is $2.99 for another day, and SHADOW LOVER is $1.99.
And assuming I can find them in my mess of a household, I've got ten or fifteen "Joss Whedom is a God" bumper stickers to the most entertaining commenters.
And now I've got to get to work.