Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tools of the Trade to Beat Writer’s Block

By Kenn Crawford

JH: When we were doing the blog's redesign, the hubby pointed out that most of my guest authors were women. Nothing I'd done on purpose of course, that's just who agreed to post for me. So I'm happy today to share a man's view on writing. Kenn Crawford is here to talk to us about how he beats writer's block.

Kenn is a published songwriter and author of the Parsec™ nominated zombie thriller, DEAD HUNT. He wrote a weekly newspaper column and is the winner of the 2010 NFW Short Story Contest. He lives and works in his hometown of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, as a Blackberry Technical Support Consultant and Trainer. He is currently writing the follow up novel: DEAD HUNT 2: ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE and a vampire novel. For more information on Kenn, and to read some of his short stories, visit www.kenncrawford.com

Take it away Kenn...

Somewhere in a dusty little attic a writer is smoking too many cigarettes and cursing at blank sheets of paper. Across town in a quaint little apartment a computer sits idle as an author stares aimlessly into oblivion. Both are impatiently waiting for that "magic" to arrive just one more time. Inspiration eludes them as the dreaded "Writer's Block" grabs hold - squashing their creativity and numbing their senses. They believe there is little they can do except to wait it out. It's a common tale but it's one you can avoid. Every great artisan and craftsman will tell you that in order to produce your best work you need the right tools for the job and writing is no exception.

One of the most important tools you should have, second only to the one between your ears, is a writing pad or notebook. Never be without one! Ideas and inspiration have the uncanny ability to pop into your head when you least expect it. They also possess the nasty habit of disappearing into thin air even faster. Never lose a great idea simply because you had nothing to write on! I have an app on my Blackberry called “Documents to Go” that allows me to write down ideas should I find myself without pen and paper. In my car is a small digital voice recorder should inspiration visit while I am driving.

The first book in your arsenal of writing tools is the humble yet powerful dictionary. Mine is as old as I am. The pages are stained yellow with time and smells of must when I flip through its pages, but I like my old dictionary. It brings back memories of when I first started to write and more importantly, it still serves its purpose. A computer's spell check feature is a great tool, but an incorrectly used word is still the wrong word - a good dictionary is a must-have tool.

The next book sounds like it came straight out of Jurassic Park: a Thesaurus. It’s a great way to find a new way to say the same old thing, but please use it wisely. The new word has to fit the story and your characters. You don’t have to use words like loquacious, garrulous or voluble when all you really want to say is your character was talkative.

Every writer's toolbox should have an "Idea File". Simply put, it is a file folder for storing all those bits and pieces of inspiration you wrote down but didn’t use in your current story. Even if you think it is dumb, silly or complete gibberish, never throw anything out! This is so important that it's worth repeating: NEVER THROW ANYTHING OUT! Those cool lines you had to chop from a story does not mean it’s bad writing, it simply means they were no good for that story. The Idea File is a great inspirational tool: if your creative gas tank is running a little low, refuel it by reading your Idea File. Buried in that pile of forgotten lines are the makings of great stories. Yesterday's rubbish may have that one magical line just waiting to be rediscovered.

The only way to conquer the infamous "Writer's Block" is to simply keep writing. If the story you are working on is "going nowhere" then write something else or rework an old story. Write something silly, write something stupid, but KEEP WRITING!

The only way to write better stories is to write better stories. That's not just a play on words, it's a basic fact of life - write everyday and everyday you will write better! It really is that simple. Think of writing like a baby crawling around on the floor. One day, for no apparent reason, he simply decides to walk. He doesn't know why it's just something he has to do. Something from deep inside him makes him take that crucial first step and Wham! He falls flat on his diaper. Does the baby say, "I quit. I can't do this?” No, babies haven't yet learned the adult traits of "self-doubt" and "fearing the unknown." He simply gets up and tries again. The baby doesn't have high expectations of jogging down the street in his little Nikes and sweat suit after a few short attempts. Instead, he just takes it one wobbly step at a time. The following day he continues to walk and fall, fall and walk, until one day the baby is walking as if he was born to walk. If only life could be so simple. Well, it is. Sometimes you just have to look at it less like an adult and more like a child.

You have a desire within you to write but the self-doubting adult in you fears the unknown and stops you before you really try. The adult in you is too embarrassed you might fall on your "diaper” so you push writing aside as if it was nothing more than a childish dream. Phooey on you! Let the child in you come out to play. Write something, anything, and satisfy that hunger within you. Maybe what you write today won't be that good but it doesn't matter, tomorrow it will be better. And better still the day after that until one day you're writing as if you were born to write. If you have that little thing in you called "desire" then you have everything! You were born to write, so write!

About Dead Hunt
Off the coast of Nova Scotia on a remote island, a lonely scientist, a powerful computer, a simple mistake. Unleashes a new threat, somewhere in the hills of Margaree.

Dead Hunt is Kenn Crawford’s chilling tale of a desperate father’s undying love, a daughter frozen in time, and the small group of teens trapped in the aftermath.

“Everyone makes mistakes. Some are small, some are bigger. My father’s mistake, born of an innocent heart and fueled by sadness, was the greatest mistake. Some thought the death of his little girls drove him to the point of insanity; some thought he was trying to be God. But, this is not how it happened. The truth is, he wanted to save me. To give me life. And, in doing so, everyone was doomed.” ~Robin


  1. Awesome advice. Thanks. And the book sounds awesome.

  2. This was a really fun article. I like the baby analogy.

  3. "babies haven't yet learned the adult traits of "self-doubt" and "fearing the unknown.""

    This is awesome, and oh so true. There's more to "releasing your inner child" than running around believing in magic, and this is one of the greatest lessons we can learn from our small progeny. The whole article was beautifully done. Thank you.