Take Action Against Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is kind of a controversial notion among writers and normal people alike. Some scoff at the idea that it’s “real” and some blame it for the reason they can’t finish projects. Writer’s block is a fancy term for “getting stuck.” Getting stuck happens in all areas of life. People get stuck on how to decorate a room, how to build a storage unit, how to take care of a litter of orphaned puppies.

In the above examples, the most common reason anyone might get stuck is because they don’t have enough information to proceed. I certainly can’t begin to know how to build a storage unit so I’m stuck—until I research it.

 

The same is true in writing. Most times writers get stuck because they simply don’t have enough information to proceed, and production comes to a grinding halt.

DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Fill up on as much information as possible so that you can proceed. Even if you think you’re collecting ideas that aren’t appropriate for your project, those will lead you to better ideas. The more ideas you have, the more information you have to move forward with your writing.

WRITE ANYWAY.

Leave it and come back to it later, work on another area of your project. The worst thing you can do when you get stuck is to stay in that place and worry about it. You have a whole book, essay, article that needs attention. Your story might be pressing at you from other characters, subplots, ideas. Don’t leave those unwritten just because you can’t figure out how to set up/develop/fix one area of your book. Jot down or type in TBD and move on.

You may find that you’ve ended up with multiple places where you’ve scribbled TBD and they’ve been there for 3 or 4 drafts. It’s okay. You’re a writer. You will figure it out.

DON’T LET THE FEAR GROW.

Writer’s block becomes dangerous when we don’t take action against it. If we sit there and suddenly obsess over the fact we don’t know how to get out of the corner we wrote ourselves in, the block gets worse. It gains power over us and then it preys on our confidence.

Loss of confidence only makes such blocks worse. It is also true that self-doubt can breed these blocks, turning this into a Catch-22. You’re feeling insecure about your writing abilities, hit a shaky point in your book, get blocked, and now your fears that you aren’t a very good writer have been proven. So you stay blocked.

I discuss this phenomenon in book 3 of my guides for writers, A Handbook for the Confident Writer, where I delve into a writer’s psyche and explore ways that a writer can outwit such blocks.

coaching handbook for writers

A WORD OF WARNING.

Do not mistake laziness or lack of interest in your book for writer’s block. If you find that you are regularly getting “blocked” and putting aside your manuscript for long breaks while you conduct “much-needed research,” there is a deeper issue going on. It could be that your book concept isn’t strong enough. It could be that you’re writing at the wrong time of day. It could be that you lack the belief in yourself. It could be that your habitat is flawed.

While writer’s block is a real thing, it really doesn’t pose a serious hazard to writers who love what they do, who have a solid handle on their projects, who believe they can be successful, and who are willing and enthusiastic to work despite any push-back. Such writers figure it out—because writing is a driving force in their lives.

Take some time to thoroughly and objectively assess your state of mind regarding your book. It’s okay to admit that you don’t have a great book idea. It’s okay to realize you’ve set up a habitat that was bound to fail. If writing is a driving force in your life, fix these issues and get back to work.

Have you suffered from writer’s block? Do you believe in writer’s block? What is your go-to method for getting un-stuck and back to your writing?

Have a writerly day!

 

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Take Action Against Writer’s Block

  1. Pingback: The Care & Feeding of Creatives – K. L. Schwengel

  2. I hit writers block when I don’t have enough balance in my daily life. That is, if I sit and stare at the screen, I’m doomed. BUT if I get up and do something, anything, different than writing, the words flood into my brain. I’m sure there’s a psychological reason for that, but I think it’s that words are just plain ornery things that like to cause you trouble. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love this observation, Ally. I think writing in general suffers when we don’t have enough balance in our daily lives. Rote activities are really great for getting our muses flowing with ideas again. Washing dishes or gardening or housecleaning always help me–anything that is physically active but doesn’t require thought.

      Yes, I would agree with you that words have a way with messing us. They are indeed ornery, bossy, and moody!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I find the hardest part is to begin. To combat that I often go back and read what I last wrote. Or I type something, anything, even nonsense. Now I have something to edit or a new idea will form. I have copied quotes onto the blank sheet and write about what they mean to me. Whatever trick you use, the result is you now have words on the screen which often becomes a torrent of words. You simply need to create the crack to release them.

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    • I do this, too, but I have to be very careful I don’t spend too much time re-reading or else I’ll never get to the writing! I give myself just a few minutes to feel the mood of the piece, to remind myself where my characters and I parted ways, then I start writing something, anything, to get back into it. The more I do this, the easier it is to find my way. If I let the story control me too much, that’s when I’m in trouble. Writing nonsense inevitably leads to writing what belongs, so looking at this interlude as a warm-up (rather than wasting time) is helpful. Athletes and musicians warm-up before they can work/play at their best, and the same is true for writers.

      Thank you for swinging by and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great info. For me, the easiest way to avoid block is to have an outline, a direction to go in. It’s not set in stone, but it guides me. Others find different ways to overcome it. I like your mention of research too. I hadn’t thought of that, but not enough research could certainly lead us to a brick wall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, outlines help remind us the direction we want to go. There are so many ways to get around blocks, I could do a whole series on the pesky things! Research has always helped me get through a spot that has offered me multiple options (which can also be just as “blockifying” as those spots in our stories that seemingly have no options at all!). I also think that research is more of a proactive, concrete action we can take. Some writers have a hard time writing junk to just write something. This option helps them feel they are doing something beneficial to their story.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think some of my bouts with writer’s block happen when I subconsciously realize that something in the story isn’t working, but my conscious brain doesn’t want to admit it. I tend to break through it when I finally figure out what really needs to be happening with my characters and their story lines.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kate,

    You’re delivering up the solid 411 as per usual. 🙂 I completely agree with your advice to keep on writing anyway. Always keep on writing. And no matter what it looks like, you’re right . . a writer is gonna figure things out. Very true.

    Keep up your great good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Cayman! Writing anyway, no matter what, is always an option. We get ourselves into trouble when we think that writing anything isn’t helpful (or a waste of time) when we’re trying to work on a specific project, but sometimes we need to get the junk out to get to the gold.

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  7. Good tips Kate. Looking forward to reading your books soon. I always have a few projects on the go at once so if writer’s block kicks in, I move to something else for awhile. 🙂

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  8. Pingback: Write. Rewrite. Repeat. | onceuponmyworld

    • Take a walk, go to the beach, visit an art museum, watch a movie–sometimes we get a little intimidated by our work and we need to get clarity and space. Forcing ourselves onto our projects can hurt us more than help if we’re not careful! Glad you found this post helpful. Good luck getting past your block and thank you for swinging by and commenting. 🙂

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  9. Pingback: It’s Not You, It’s Me | Catching Fireflies

  10. Good point!!! I don’t call it writer’s block, either. I call it being stuck…or not being able to figure out the next plot point. Writer’s block is just too much of a general excuse…it’s not a thing. Writing is HARD, especially when you’re making up an entire fictional story out of nothing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many non-writers get all upset when writers talk about writer’s block–because no other profession gets to use that excuse! Writing is sooo hard, and of course we’re going to hit snags and write ourselves into corners, but that’s no different than any other profession that has to solve problems in their field. We probably gave it a label because that’s us showing off our creativity. 😉

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  11. I’m one of those jerks who doesn’t believe in the traditional writer’s block. Too often, I hear (especially young) writers say, “I never finished that story because I got writer’s block.” No, that kiddo never finished that story because they didn’t think the concept through or plan it out well enough. Or, they just got swept up in another idea that caught their fancy, and they left the old one behind. Because, you know, teenagers.

    Despite my disdain for the term, I do believe in the other reasons you point out for not moving forward on a project, Kate, and they are all spot-on. Fear, doubt, lack of information, distraction, even chaos of work-space or work-time are very real hindrances to our ability to create. The act of creating takes concentration and effort, and when we don’t have that, the creation itself suffers. It can be very hard to overcome any of those very real obstacles in writing, just like it would be to do in our day jobs, our home lives, or our social lives. The question everybody needs to ask themselves is how much do we want to overcome those obstacles? Where does our writing or other art fall within the larger sphere of our personal world? We have to make choices and sacrifices every day based on our answers to that question.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, yeah, well, not finishing a story for ANY reason doesn’t fly with me, much less the excuse of writer’s block. And if someone is truly feeling like they can’t write, then they need to rethink career or hobby options. Journalists are writers, but they can’t suffer from writer’s block because they’d be out of a job! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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