One of my author friends messaged me on Facebook, asking how I deal with the dreaded writer’s block. I’ve also had students (both creative writing and essay writing sorts) ask the same question. My answer is usually lame (yes, I can admit that). I personally force myself to write through those moments, and, in fact, many of you might be surprised which books I’ve written that way. That doesn’t speak at all to the books but rather to my state of mind when I wrote them, and if you’re dying of curiosity which ones I wrote when severely blocked, I’ll list them at the end of this post.
There are lots of “remedies” for writer’s block, but it comes down to forcing yourself to do something that, for some reason, you’re having difficulty doing. It could be fear, procrastination (due to fear or something else), interest in other things…but, bottom line, if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Sometimes, just putting together a schedule, setting some goals, and staying on task is enough to break through that wall. Other times, a little self-analysis will do the trick. Oftentimes, it’s knocking something loose (figuratively, mind you) inside your head to get going.
Again, probably lame answers, because they’re a little too pat. Here’s the problem: only you know why you’re blocked. You might not think you know why, but deep down you probably do. Usually, there’s a reason why you don’t want to write. I know—sounds crazy, right? But that’s often the case. So I, the writing teacher, can’t really help, because we’re opening up a huge can of worms that has little to do with actual writing. Usually, it involves motivation and things of that sort, and I’m not always the best motivator.
That said, I’ll give you a few ideas and they might help.
- Force yourself to write, whether it’s one word, a sentence, a paragraph. But make yourself do it. Every day. Condition your brain, your hands, your heart to write every day. Yes, every single damn day. It’s a habit, just like any other. Make it a habit so that when your heart’s not in it or your mind’s distracted, you can do it anyway.
- Force yourself to instead write something else. Maybe that big project is daunting and that’s part of why you’re afraid to tackle it, so why don’t you write a poem or an email or a short story or a song instead? See if you can write something different and then go back to the beast.
- If it’s still a huge project that’s blocking you, why don’t you try writing a piece of it? Instead of picking up where you left off, find a different part to write. For example, maybe I’m writing a novel about a young woman who falls in love with a toxic musician and their journey together, but I’m stuck and having a hard time writing the scene where they first meet. Maybe jumping ahead and writing their first argument will help knock something loose and then I can go back and pick up where I left off.
- Try other writing exercises. There are lots of them available online for free, but I have also been working on a book full of writing exercises that will get the creative juices flowing. I’m not sure when that will be available, so that’s no help to you right now. That said, there are hundreds of resources online. Just search for “creative writing exercises” or even “help with writer’s block.” You’ll be amazed at all the resources out there!
Best of luck. I’ve found that, for me and my students, persistence and patience is key. The main thing is to forge ahead, no matter how tough it is! And know you’re not alone—lots of us have felt the pain known as writer’s block.
Okay, as promised, books I wrote under the grip of “writer’s block”: Madversary, Rock Bottom (Bullet #2), Fake (Nicki Sosebee #9), and Seal All Exits (Tangled Web #3)