Yeah, yeah, this has been done a million times before.
But not by me! 😛
Today I’m talking about Writer’s Block, this enigmatic phenomena of when your creative brain hits a wall in a juicy explosion of frustrating glory.
And you have to somehow piece your gray matter back together again.
And mop up all of that juice.
And make the slop coherent enough to put words back on the page.
Of all the writer’s block articles and blogs I’ve read, there’s this constant debate as to whether this marvel of marvels actually exists or if writers use it as an excuse to…you know…not write.
I think it’s a little of both.
Sure, we all get stuck. We sit there and stare at that panic-inducing blank page, a slow fury brewing inside us at that blinking cursor of DOOM, and you’re not going to make your word count—Christ, you haven’t even written a single word yet—and you’re angry at your verbal impotence and you just want to throw your freaking computer/notebook/whatever out the window and say, “Take that, you mother[CENSOR] piece of [CENSOR!] [CENSOR!!!]” and then you flop back down in your seat and cry because you just destroyed a very expensive piece of machinery.
Not to mention you just lost the 27K words you actually managed to write.
I’m sure this has happened to everyone, yes? No? YES.
So when we get into this situation, our behavior becomes a little, shall we say, avoidant. Naturally. Flight is much easier than fight. “I’m blocked,” we say, unable to face our sad lack of performance with a lowered head and hunched shoulders.
Here’s what I’ve decided is going on when this happens to me (of course, everyone is different, and it’s important to recognize your own cues):
- Either the scene is just not working, or the story has taken a turn that I subconsciously don’t like.
- The scene is, well, boooooriiiiing.
- The scene is terrifying to write and I fear my execution on said scary scene.
Here’s what I do to resolve it:
- Skip it and move on to the next one. After all, you can’t edit a blank page, AMIRITE?
- Throw in a giant monkey wrench, something outrageous, something that has to make it exciting at least a teeny tiny bit.
- Put my fingers on the keys and just plow through it, word by agonizing word.
Some of us can’t afford to be blocked, especially when we’re under a tight deadline. Or when you work an obscene amount of hours during your day job, or when you have a house full of OUT OF CONTROL children, or when fate just slaps you in the face with health problems, family issues, generalized anarchy. Your time is scarce and precious—everyone’s time is. You don’t want to stare at that blank [CENSOR] page and that stupid [CENSOR!] cursor and your muse is being a freaking [CENSOR!!!]. You can’t afford this waste of precious seconds, minutes, hours, maybe even days.
So what do we do?
We whine about it. Woe is me, I have writer’s block.
Shift to something else. Pick up another story you’ve been working on, write a new short, something to chip the rust off those creaky gears. Flash fiction. Try it, why not?
Go for a walk, run, hike, a nationwide expedition. Scuba dive, bungee jump, sky dive (nothing like jumping out of a plane to give you some perspective!). Sit at the end of a bar and listen to those crazy drunken stories. People-watch like a creepy mother[CENSORED]. Listen to music, and I mean really listen. What are they singing about? Why? Watch movies or TV shows, but actively watch them—listen to the dialogue, study the plotline, why does it work, what’s so cool or damn stupid about it? Read books! Poetry! Use the same analysis. Fill that creative well with all of that brain juice, and when you’re ready, pour it onto your keyboard with a delightful cackle.
In sum, walk away from it for a while (but not for too long) and do something different. Come back to it with fresh eyes and a heel-clicking song in your heart. Maybe you just need to change the POV. Maybe one of your characters needs to die (maybe they ALL NEED TO DIE). Maybe you need to just add some zombies, man.
And if it’s still not working?
Scrap it. Kill your darlings. However many words, the whole file, whatever—slush pile it. Start over.
Because you can’t edit a blank page. And when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, you can’t make progress on something that doesn’t work for you.
So find something that works. And write it. No excuses!
Have any suggestions on how to beat the block? I’d love to hear them! Maybe you can help cure someone’s verbal impotence. 😉
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When she’s not verbally impotent, L.D. Rose writes about love and monsters. She also happens to be a doctor by day, which also involves love and monsters. Her debut dark PNR, RELEASING THE DEMONS, has some really badass monsters…and okay, maybe some love too. To learn more about her work, visit www.writerldrose.com.
Good suggestions! I like the monkey wrench approach myself. It’s amazing what suddenly introducing chaos will do for your plot!
Absolutely agree, Kathy! Thanks for stopping by. 😀
Reblogged this on L.D. ROSE.
I don’t get writer’s block. As in, I don’t get the notion, and I don’t experience it. Maybe because, to me, writer’s block means a full on STOP. Cessation of all writing. Being unable to put fingers to keyboard and make words happen. I’ve been STUCK on a scene, but a switch in POV is usually the culprit. Switch it up, done. Move on. Easy peasy, eh? 😛
It’s all in the mindset. Modesty is for suckers, baby, but I have to at least pretend this shit is hard sometimes, right? Hehee!
I’m totally with you, Terri! I’m currently stuck on my WIP myself, but I’m using the “moving on to the next scene” approach. I can always come back to it later. 😉
And you make everything writing-related look easy, I can’t even stand it! 😛
Some great suggestions. Writer’s block is why I usually have at least two works-in-progress on the go. Usually three and in different genres. That way, if I’m stuck on one, I’ll work on another. Characters from the first project get jealous that I’m spending time with others and they scream, “Come back, come back. We promise to play nice.”
Either that, or I pour myself a double Baileys on the rocks and crash in front of the television until I’ve forgotten why I was blocked in the first place.
Great strategy, Nancy! On both counts. 😉 Baileys solves all writer’s block, haha! Thanks for stopping by. 😀
I just move on to the next scene. Keep the babble I’ve written and put it aside for a bit. Something usually (not always ) hits me sometimes days or weeks later, at about 3:20 in the morning. The time my eyes pop open and to get back to sleep my mind drifts to my characters, who seem to have been scheming behind my back and have come up with something that just might work.
If said characters haven’t found a solution, then there’s wine…. 🙂
I do the same, Debbie! Either that or it hits me when I’m in the shower or driving. 😛 Also, wine tends to solve writer’s block pretty well too. 😀 Thanks for stopping by!
Yep, I’ve found that writing cures writer’s block. As long as you write it, you can fix it or delete it as necessary. Great post, Linda. You hit all the nails on all the heads. 👍😀
Glad you enjoyed it, Maura and thanks for stopping by! 😀
When I have writer’s block, not often, but as a matter of fact right now. My solution is to stop, drop, and roll. Instead of writing by the seat of my pants, I spend a day plotting forward and try to reach my end game. If you can grasp the next set of twists and turns in your story, you’ll be able to figure out how to get there. Then I come back to that blank page and force myself to put words on the page. I never worry about slow periods of not reaching my word count, because other times I exceed my word count. The most important thing is to keep writing.
Thanks for sharing, laughed through the whole damn thing.
Writing as Belle Ami
Sounds like a great plan, Tema! I should try that as well. 😀 Thanks for stopping by!
Fun post. I take a long drive. Usually opens up some ideas. Or I switch to a different project or genre. Or I read something rather than write. Distraction I guess. I always have a lot to do, and the inertia paralyzes me more than the block.
Totally agree with you, Carole! Thanks for the suggestions and for stopping by! 😀