We all get it some time. The dreaded Writer’s Block. It’s like a disease no one wants to talk about. Or it gets all the blame when we can’t produce.
Many times writer’s block is just an obstacle like my cat…
Moonlight often decides when I have been at the keyboard long enough, and plops herself down in the most obtrusive way possible. Usually its lunchtime. I don’t mind this kind of block so much. If not for her, I’d forget to eat. So this kind of writer’s block can be good even if it comes with claws and hair.
There are other kinds of writer’s block. Kinds that are insidious and often devastating to us poor creative folk. Not just writers but any kind of creative occupation. Art, music, writing, they all come with their own blocks.
First there is Waffling…
I can do this! Well, maybe not.
This kind of block comes from fear. Fear of failure or fear of success. Our society measures us by our successes and no one wants to come up short. We worry so much about what others will think about our writing or painting or song that we never actually get to the work. Creating something from nothing is hard enough without worrying about what everyone will think of it. We pour our souls into our work and that is a hard thing to just hand off to a stranger and let them judge it. So we block ourselves in an effort to keep our souls safe.
How so you get past this block?
Well there is an adage in the writing world….Write drunk and edit sober. Now I’m not advocating alcoholism but sometimes just that bit of liquid courage will do it. Do I drink and write? No. I unfortunately have to stay sober. I have kids. But it might work for you.
What works for me?
Stop thinking! Just sit down and write. I don’t care if it is a list of reasons why you should be writing or just nonsense. The only way to get past this kind of writer’s block is to just sit down and do it. You can’t worry about whether it will be a best seller or not. You can’t worry about how it will feel to get your thousandth rejection letter. None of that has happened and it will never happen unless you actually produce something. There is no sense in worrying about things that haven’t happened and may never happen.
SO HOW TO GET PAST WAFFLING WRITER’S BLOCK…JUST DO IT! JUST WRITE!
Second kind of block is Originality…
Once upon a time… nope, been there, done that.
So much of the writing world is based on “SHOW ME A NEW TAKE ON AN OLD THEME” If you think about it, every story has been told in one form or another. You think you have an idea then you find out it’s already been done. So you get blocked. Look at the vampire genre! Holy Cannelloni! You wanna talk about been there done that! And now we have sparkles and nano bugs from Atlantis mixed in. Discouragement is so easy to let in the door when you are faced with trying to come up with a new idea.
Then you get the industry itself making our lives complicated. “We want description, but don’t use adverbs!”, “We don’t want to see conversation tags, but tell us who is talking.”, “Never start slow, but never start fast.” What is a poor author to think?
How do you get past this block?
First, relax a bit. You already have a new take. It’s called your voice. You have a unique voice already. It is a culmination of all your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There is no one that will write your story like you will. It’s like taking a writing prompt and giving it to ten different people. There will be ten different stories. Our preconceptions built by our lives will give us each a different story.
If you need a new idea, look around. There is always something going on. Take a walk. Talk to someone. You never know when an idea will pop into your head.
How do I get past this block?
Sometimes it is a matter of telling the story from a different point of view. For example, telling Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s POV. (Hey it worked for Disney!) Try changing the tone of the story. Make it a comedy with a tragic heart or make what should be funny slightly evil. Or my personal favorite, play the worst case scenario game with your idea. What would be the worst possible thing that could happen right now? It doesn’t have to be horrific just farthest from the norm. For example, I had a writing prompt “He Never Saw it Coming” It was about a kid in a fast food restaurant. He sees a lizard that is going to climb up a man’s leg. From there just think about what is the worst that could happen? I can see your writer’s block moving out of the way already…
SO HOW TO GET PAST THE ORIGINALITY BLOCK…RELAX, TAKE A WALK, LOOK AROUND, GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE.
Third is the hard one…Uncertainty.
This nasty little form of writer’s block comes from the black hole that is uncertainty. We don’t know what is happening in our story. Why did Bubba Joe drive to the shack in the woods? What are my villains doing while my heroes are trekking across the continent? Who the Hell is my character?
Readers don’t realize that we authors not only have to know the story, but we have to know every bit of history and every thought of the characters we create. Sometimes the character profiles and histories end up twice as big as the actual book! It’s all backstory and we have to know it. Otherwise we won’t know how our character will act or react.
It is often hard to know someone you just created out of the thin air between your ears. Some authors write our interviews with their characters, some will list out every trait and every event in their timeline. If they are real enough then they will be easier to write what they would do in whatever situation you put them in. Then you can ask WWBJD? (What would Bubba Joe do?)
Sometimes just talking to someone and getting their perspective will jog something loose in your own head. They give you food for thoughT and then you are on your way again, the block is moved.
How do I get out of the uncertainty block? I often work backwards. I know where I want my characters to get to, so I plot out a sequence of events that will get them there. I often write tons of backstory material including maps and plans of buildings. Anything to give my characters a solid place to cavort. I also play the worst case scenario game with them. It’s not always pretty, but the story keeps moving on.
SO HOW DO WE GET PAST THE UNCERTAINTY BLOCK…PLOT, PLAN, AND TALK TO SOMEBODY!
Fourth is the all devastating Procrastination…
Oh, tea sounds lovely!
This one just plain nasty. It can be terminal. It is so easy to fall victim to procrastination because any of the other forms of writer’s block are in play. It’s hard to get past the block so why not go and vacuum or sort the magazines on the table. Everyone knows that organizing last years taxes is a way better occupation than facing the dreaded blank page or worse the half written one. Suddenly half your life is gone and you haven’t worked on anything in years!
DON’T DO IT! DON’T FALL VICTIM TO IT!
You must learn to sit down and do the work even if it is hard. You can’t dig a hole without picking up a shovel. Organize your life and set aside time to work. Turn off the internet. Facebook and Twitter will live without you. It’s ok.
Now, I’m not saying that all time away is bad. It can be really helpful. Writers often need to ruminate on the idea and suddenly it’s all there ready to go. So taking a walk once in a while or going to get some coffee is fine, just don’t make a career out of it. You can take time for other things. I am sitting here writing a blog when I want to be writing my novel, but I’m still writing so it’s ok.
How do I get past this one? Practice and organization. I try to treat my writing like a job. I work at it on most of the days my kiddos are in school but there are sometimes when I have to do my mom responsibilities. I try to keep them separate. There is a time for everything. Am I always successful? No. Sometimes I suck at it, but that is where the practice comes in. I have to remind myself that it is time to write not to look up songs on YouTube.
SO HOW DO YOU GET PAST PROCRASTINATION BLOCK…WORK AND DISCIPLINE AND LOTS OF PRACTICE.
In short writer’s block is not a fatal disease, it’s just creativity that is stuck. Sometimes the obstacles that stop us from creating are just big fuzzy things that plop right down on our lap. Sometimes it’s us avoiding what we don’t want to do for whatever reason. Either way it is something we can all get past. No block will stay forever.