Dear OAbby is a new feature on Operation Awesome where we answer your questions! It's an advice column by writers, for writers, chock-full of information about writing, querying, the publication process, etc. If you have a question you'd like answered, just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions may be edited for clarity and/or space, and will be posted anonymously, with no identifying information.
I am currently on submission with my first novel (yay!) and playing the waiting game is nerve-wracking (boo!). Everyone says I should be working on my next book to distract myself from being on sub, but I'm finding that impossible. Every time I sit down to write, all I can think about is my book on sub, whether it'll find a home, and what it'll mean if it doesn't. I stare at the blank page and wonder if I'm a 'one and done' author, since I can't seem to put words on the page anymore. Meanwhile, my agent wants to know what I'm working on, and I know if I'm lucky enough to get an editor call, he/she will want to know the same thing. Help!
Around the Block
Dear Around the Block,
Ah, writer's block. The bane of every writer's existence, at least from time to time. The first piece of advice I'll give you (in all caps, because it's an important one) is DON'T STRESS YOURSELF OUT FOR BEING BLOCKED! You're dealing with enough stress already, and adding this one is like having insomnia, then worrying so much about having insomnia that you keep yourself awake even longer. If you're blocked, accept it. Don't beat yourself up. Then, try some of these tactics to get past it.
Advice about writer's block is kind of like advice about getting rid of hiccups. Everyone has pointers, and virtually none of them work for anyone else. Still, they're worth a try. For example, Kara has blogged about #ahundredordie. I find that doing word sprints with other writers helps (I'm really competitive, so I can't fathom having others finish their words if I don't). Some people will set aside a short amount of time (maybe ten minutes) to free-write, even if those words are unrelated to your work-in-progress. It might be a good time to try outlining your project, if you're not feeling the drafting process at the moment.
And if none of that works, give yourself permission to NOT write for a while. Do a lot of reading instead. Critique manuscripts for other writers. Write in a totally different genre: if you're a novelist, try your hand at short stories or poetry.
Above all, DON'T STRESS YOURSELF OUT FOR BEING BLOCKED. The block will lift, eventually. And when it does, you can look back on this time not as The Writer's Block Era, but The Time I Spent Reading/Writing Poetry/Critiquing/Word Sprinting/etc. Change writer's block into something you enjoy, and it'll probably go away on its own!