Writer’s Block Isn’t Just For Novelists
Two innocent words when used independently, but put them together and anyone who puts words to page will shudder.
If you’ve spent any time at the Write Divas blog, you’ll recognize that we post articles every weekday—some are longer than others, but all involve some degree of writing. While some Divas are organized and have their articles written and edited beforehand, I spend many a Sunday night fretting over what I am going to write for my Monday “Divas on Writing” article.
This week was no different, and as I struggled with finding a topic, it occurred to me that perhaps I should use my writer’s block to my benefit. What better topic to discuss than something that is happening right this very moment? And so, today’s topic was born.
I dare say writer’s block happens to everyone at least once in a while. In this article from Charlie Jane Anders, The 10 Types of Writers’ Block (and How to Overcome Them), the author lists ten types of writer’s block:
- You can’t come up with an idea.
- You have a ton of ideas but can’t commit to any of them, and they all peter out.
- You have an outline but you can’t get through this one part of it.
- You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.
- You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn a hundred pages back, and you only just hit a dead end.
- You’re bored with all these characters; they won’t do anything.
- You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say your story sucks, and it paralyzes you.
- You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey in this one paragraph.
- You had this incredibly cool story in your head, and now you’re turning it into words on a screen and it’s suddenly dumb.
- You’re revising your work, and you can’t see your way past all those blocks of text you already wrote.
Some of that look familiar? Of course it does. I’m almost positive I’ve hit all ten at any given point in my career. But does identifying them help? I think so. Once you can put your finger on the reason you’re blocked, it may be easier to move forward.
For example, if you’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next, take a tip from Diva Lauren and skip to your ending. Write what you do know and fill in the blanks later. If you’re concerned about people hating your work, find yourself a critique group and get to work on fixing what you don’t like about your story. If you’re bored with your characters, go back to when they were exciting and rewrite all the boring parts out. Easy? Not in the slightest. But you can do it.
Unfortunately, there are also those blocks that are harder to push through. When you’re stuck without an idea—that’s a tough one to get past. That’s almost always my issue with articles: what do I want to write about, or what do the readers want to know about? When I’m really at a loss for an idea, I’ll read over older articles to see if something triggers an idea or I’ll read our list of possible article topics to see if something feels right to me. More often than not, I’ll add more items to the list of topics for future use.
If I’m still floundering, I may look to what I’m working on or what I’m reading for insight. What about the last three books I’ve read could be summarized for an article? How did my last three authors use settings to convey authenticity? What blog articles are the most helpful for building secondary characters in a series? Where should authors go to learn about the steps to self-publishing?
In all cases, no matter what I’m doing, I’m doing something. Whether it’s reading or researching or list making or writing something unexpected, I’m moving forward to get something written. I think the same process can be applied when you hit a block in the novel-writing process. Keep writing something, whether it’s what you expected to be writing or not. Read, research, and make lists, but keep writing.
Flavorwire has this very interesting article by Emily Temple, 13 Famous Writers on Overcoming Writer’s Block. No two authors offer exactly the same advice, which is just wonderful because it really is just everyone’s opinion. I tend to think along the same vein as Barbara Kingsolver:
“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” — Barbara Kingsolver
So the next time you find yourself blocked, see if you can identify the reason why. If you can, and that helps you to work past the the block, great. If you can’t identify the reason or if the reason doesn’t help, use some of the tried and true advice from some famous authors—which runs the gamut from “walk away from it” to “suck it up, buttercup, and write” (I’m paraphrasing, of course)—and see what works best for you. What works best for me? I keep moving forward, make lists, read, research, etc.but always keep writing.