As I mentioned in my last post, I’m penning a series of suggestions for writers. Also, I’ll be answering some of your writing questions.
Many people have written to me asking about writer’s block. Writer’s block refers to the phenomenon of not being able to write. For a writer, this can be frustrating as well as alarming.
I have some suggestions for how to deal with writer’s block.
First, recognize that all writers suffer from writer’s block at some point.
Don’t view writer’s block as a personal literary failing. We all encounter it at some point. The important thing is to address it and not to accept it as insurmountable.
Second, determine the scope of the block.
Are you having trouble with a particular scene or chapter? Or are you unable to write anything in your manuscript?
If you’re having trouble with a particular scene or chapter, my short term advice is to move on to another scene or chapter. You don’t have to write your novel in chronological order. If there’s another scene or chapter that captures your imagination, write it. You can go back to the scene that was causing trouble later.
If you’re having trouble writing anything in your manuscript, my advice is to ask yourself why. Perhaps you’ve written yourself (or your characters) into a corner and you can’t see your way out. Perhaps you’re unhappy with the turn the story has taken. In these cases, the solution to your problem may be a revision or a rewrite. Attempt to do that and see if the words flow.
If you just can’t seem to write anything, my advice is to take a break. Stress and pressure are poor motivators, especially for creative works like writing. Go outside. Get some fresh air and some physical activity. Have sex. Give your mind and your Muse a break from writing and allow your mind to focus on something else. Then come back to your writing. It’s possible your activities will have loosened up your imagination and you’ll be able to write more easily.
Third, write your way out of the block.
As I suggested above, the way to combat writer’s block is to write. Sometimes you need to write something else and then come back to your problem passage. Sometimes you need to give your mind and body a break and then come back.
Sometimes you need to write something completely different to “cleanse the palate.” If you’re writing prose, try writing a poem. If you’re writing in first person, try writing in third. I’m not suggesting you spend a great deal of time on this secondary project. But sometimes you can motivate your imagination to be more cooperative if you begin listening to a different Muse entirely. And sometimes you discover that you have a very interesting secondary project that you’d like to explore at a later date.
Fourth, be open to change.
If writer’s block continues to plague you after you’ve gone through these suggestions, it’s possible you need a change either in your schedule, your environment, or even your story. Perhaps the timing is off and you need to write in the evenings rather than the mornings. Perhaps your writing space is cluttered with people, pets, and/or paper and what you really need is a monastery. Perhaps the reason why you can’t finish that chapter is because you’re trying to write something that is out of character for your protagonist or won’t work with your story.
Try making small changes in these three areas (one at at time) and see if that helps.
Fifth, recognize that there’s no magical cure for writer’s block.
I’m hoping you find these suggestions helpful. Perhaps you’ll find that something else entirely solves the problem. Please let me and others know what your strategies are for dealing with writer’s block in the comments below. I welcome the suggestions.
Good luck and don’t give up,