The blank page. The blinking cursor. We all hate not being able to write. But how do we overcome Writer’s Block?
Personally, I think we should drop the term. There are many reasons why one might not progress with their writing and one should figure out what that reason is and try to find a solution instead of staring at the sunset saying, “It’s okay, I have Writer’s Block. I don’t need to write because I have Writer’s Block.”
Broadly speaking, this reason you can’t write can be one of two things: you don’t have the right attitude, or you don’t know what to write. Both are entirely different problems and neither can be solved by taking a walk on the beach unless you’re doing research for a setting.
You have an attitude problem
You’re being lazy
Maybe you just can’t be bothered writing. Have you actually tried?
If you’ve spent more time telling people that you have Writer’s Block and less time writing, then sorry, pal, I think you’re just lazy. If you want to get something done, open that Word doc and get to it, even if you don’t feel like it. Especially if you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised to find that after five minutes, you start to feel like writing again.
You lack confidence
Is anyone going to like this story? Is anyone going to like my writing? I’m terrible at this. I’m a fool. I should just give up.
How about you focus on getting the book written before worrying about whether or not people are going to like it? Self-pity won’t improve your writing, writing will.
You’re suffering from a creative burnout
This can happen when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in a creative project over a short timeframe. Forcing yourself to write when you’ve emptied your creativity vat is not going to help. Take a break.
*Note that you can only suffer a burnout if you’ve actually been creative recently. Spinning around in your chair, staring at a blank Word document and Googling how to get over Writer’s Block doesn’t count.
Your writing is so terrible that you’ve become unenthusiastic
Sometimes your writing can sound like such absolute garbage that you wince with each word you type. It sounds horrible, and it sounds even worse when you re-read it. It’s so bad that forcing yourself to write even a paragraph is draining. You press on because you’re still passionate about this idea and these characters, but eventually you just can’t do it anymore.
The solution might be quite simple. If your passion is still there, then the idea might not be the problem. What might be the problem is your connection to the idea.
How well do you know your characters? Many writers don’t know anything about their characters before putting fingers to keyboard and characterisation just happens as they wing their way through their first draft. But perhaps this kind of approach isn’t going to cut it for this particular project of yours. You could be so far away from understanding your characters that you can’t connect with their journey; thus, you struggle to write it.
Instead of wading your way through the swamp that your story might turn into, try to do some character development exercises instead (check out my Facebook page for a few ideas). Get to know your point-of-view characters. Learn who they are, how they think. Develop their voices. I found that once I’d discovered my protagonist’s voice, the narration practically wrote itself.
You don’t know what to write
You have no ideas
Ideas are like midges: they’re everywhere, they’re seemingly infinite and they lack the consideration to stop flying around your head when you’re trying to work. I have difficulty answering the question “Where do you get ideas?” because finding them has never been a problem for me. They just pop into my head. Even Google has about 800 million search results for “story ideas”, which is a few more than I have.
The trick is to find something that you’re interested in or you’ll get bored. This is why I don’t particularly like writing prompts and plot generators. They’re fantastic for character development exercises, but they’ve never given me and idea that I’ve felt. Ask a lot of What If questions. Surf the net. Do some self-exploration. Think until something sticks. And if nothing does, then don’t write. If you really love writing, I’m sure something will come eventually. I’ll tell you one thing though, ideas don’t come from staring at a blank screen.
You have an idea, but you don’t know how to start
Sometimes you can’t just sit in front of a laptop and expect an entire story to spill out from a What If question. You have to develop the idea to some extent. Brainstorm what kind of scenarios your idea can make, what different angles you can look at your idea from. Once you’ve refined your idea, think about what kind of people might be involved and what they might want.
In my opinion, a character goal is the key to starting a piece of writing. You don’t have to come up with their long-term plot goal, but try to give them something to work towards so that you’ve got something to write about from the beginning.
When it comes to the actual writing, don’t try to start with something spectacular. Just start. Start with And so it began … if you have to. You can edit it out later. Just start writing.
You hit a wall a few chapters in and you don’t know what to do next
Is your idea really working? Sometimes ideas just don’t work and the best thing to do is put them away for a while and work on something else.
If you’re stubborn like me, you won’t accept this, so what do you do? You brainstorm. You plan. You go back to the beginning and look at your entire story analytically and figure out what went wrong. Then, you brainstorm ways that you can fix this. This isn’t Writer’s Block, it’s just part of the writing process. I doubt much comes out smoothly from start to finish for anyone.
What you shouldn’t do in any of these situations is moan about having Writer’s Block if you’re not doing anything about it. If there’s something in the way of you writing your story, move it out of the way. It’s not going to go away on its own.
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