When I was little the doctor used to prick my finger to test blood for something I didn’t understand. The prick never really hurt that bad, but the doctor squeezing my finger to get enough blood out into the tiny capillary tube hurt like crazy! That is what writer’s block is like.
The type of writer’s block I’ve had was more of a 10+ year paralysis. After college I wrote 1/3 of a novel. I decided to research the craft of writing. Great idea in theory. It was like drinking from a fire hose because I decided it would be a good idea to read every book that I could get my hands on. I had no idea there was so much to learn. I became overwhelmed and didn’t know how to implement ALL that I had learned ALL at once. So I stopped writing. Life got busy anyway. I changed careers, got married, had a child, moved a couple times. Ya know…Life.
When I turned 39, I realized life was slipping away and my time was shorter than it had been 15 years ago (duh!), because I know becoming a master writer takes time and practice. So I started trying.
Is it Real?
Some say that writers block is just a figment of our imagination or that it is just drama. Others say it is absolutely real. I’ve never had a horrible case of true writer’s block. Most of what happened to me was just life getting in the way.
I think writer’s block is real, but I’m undecided as to the cause because the cause is likely different in various situations.
There is certainly a natural ebb and flow of writing. Sometime the words just fly from my brain, through my fingers, and onto the page with very little effort. Other days I write and erase over and over. I think and mentally scratch ideas out in my brain. Each word comes agonizingly slow and excruciatingly painful.
In a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert at around 5 minutes she begins talking about how creativity was viewed in the ancient world. They believed in a muse that would visit the artist. Then if the artist (writer, painter, sculptor…) was successful in his/her endeavor they would not become narcissistic because they knew it was due in part to the muse. Then she talks about various ways artists have described their muses. Some talk to their muse. She describes Tom Waits (musician) who does this. I really like what she say immediately after. She is laboring at her computer morning after morning and the writing is coming painfully slow. She tries what Tom Waits does. She says that one morning she was laboring away at her writing. She (in a pit of despair) turned to her muse and said, “I am going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”
I believe this is the biggest key: Show up. Put your bottom in the chair and write. Keep trying.
If You are More Analytical Perhaps…
If you are not into blaming a muse for the lack of words, others have theorized that writer’s block may be due to your subconscious mind telling you that something with the project you are doing is broken.
You might be hitting a wall in your writing because in an earlier scene your main character did something out of character, so now, your character is on a wrong path. You might try going back and finding the root. Play with different scenarios for previous scenes and see if that can help you get unstuck on your current scene.
If your block is fear based, this is tough. I struggle with this myself. I wrote a whole manuscript (99k words) and told myself that it was just practice. That took off the pressure. Then I wrote half a dozen short stories, and with each one I told myself that it was just practice. I finished one short story and decided that it had some potential. I sent that off to a half dozen places and it finally got published. So perhaps you can try just practicing for a bit to take off the pressure. This also gets you used to throwing out large chunks of writing, knowing that purpose of those words was merely for the purpose of making you a better writer. (remember to save those story bones somewhere through, in case you can use them for something later)
“There will always be resistance; type through it, anyway.” Goins, Author Keep showing up and doing your part. Be persistent. Be brave.
Sometimes a break is necessary, but set an appropriate time limit to the break. If you don’t the break might just last forever. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the world missed out on the story that is inside you.
Further Listening & Reading
I love podcasts…as some of you may have guessed already. Here are some that address the topic of writer’s block. Also a few helpful websites. I hope that you find them helpful.
Writing Excuses: https://writingexcuses.com/tag/writers-block/
Write Now Podcast: https://www.sarahwerner.com/coffee-break-050-randal-greene/
Goins, Writer: https://goinswriter.com/how-to-overcome-writers-block/
This topic is so massive! I know I haven’t done it real justice, just threw in two cents worth. I’d love to hear from you. Have you experienced writer’s block? What did you do to push through it? Do muses respond to bribes of chocolate?