Every bit of advice I have ever come across on beating writer’s block seems to boil down to two things. Read and write.
Just forcing the pen onto the paper even if it is nonsense does seem to help free the blockage. More of that next post. In this one, let’s concentrate on the reading side.
It is important to read authors to examine their craft. See what sentence structures work for you. How do they turn a phrase? What pacing do they use? Punctuation, page layout, literary tools – the list goes on.
I find an even better reason to read. It gives you ideas. Something they say will strike a chord with your own characters or set them off arguing in your head. An issue too difficult to raise will suddenly become clear.
The important thing is not to plagiarise. I often read over some of my work after rereading one of my favourite authors and see phrases or ideas coming almost straight from them. Of course I remove them, or quote the source, but this kind of mistake is very easy to do and I am sure some stolen words still seep through.
The other way to beat the writing blues is read a book you hate. Pretend you are their editor. Ask yourself, how would you fix the book so it is less annoying. Now go back to your own work with your editor’s hat still on. See how many times you have made the same mistakes. Reading aloud is the ideal way to do this. For some reason, a line when it is merely ink on the page seems to transform when read aloud. Sometimes, it becomes beautiful – especially poems and plays that are meant to be performed. Sometimes, every note is sour. Try it, read your work aloud and see what you think.