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.
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.
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!