April 26, 2020: Surviving Writer's Block
Writer’s Block is a real thing! It is defined as “A condition, primarily associated with writing, in which the author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown”.
While most writers have experienced some form of writer’s block in their career, it can vary in length and strength. I am currently experiencing a case of it.
I believe that not all writer’s blocks are the same though. I think there are three categories into which this situation can fall. And the solution for each must be different.
- Paralysis – brought on by fear and/or stress.
This is when you have no desire to write, or when you sit down at the keyboard or with a pen in hand, your mind is literally blank.
Perhaps you are in the midst of a stressful situation or event, or perhaps you are filled with self-doubt and wonder if your work will ever be good-enough.
In both cases, you need to be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. This too shall pass.
If it is stress, do whatever helps you destress. If it is fear of writing badly- take time to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. As we know about human language acquisition: being able to listen and understand language comes before being able to speak it; reading great works comes before being able to write great.
As author and agent Rubin Pfeffer once said, “If
You can’t be writing, you can be witnessing.”
- Producing Trash- brought on by being overly critical.
At least you are producing! That is the first step. Remembering that drafting is not supposed to be polished and that the work of writing is during the revising stage, may help. It may also help to read articles or books on the craft of writing. Sign up for a webinar or on-line class on a specific aspect of writing. This will give you something on which to focus and help will ultimately strengthen your skills!
- Lost Interest- brought on by lack of clear direction.
This is when you just don’t know what comes next. You are no longer passionate about the story or the project.
For this kind of block you may need to go back to the planning stage of the project. Do you need to do more research? Do you need to rework your outline or add more backstory? Are your characters interesting enough? Maybe they need to be re-crafted.
Of course, a great sanity saver during any type of writer’s block is simply to write. Obviously not the project that has induced the block, but some other project or type of writing. It may also help if you have other projects in other stages, and can maybe devote some additional time to them.
All writers should also journal, but there are many different types of journaling. Any type will do. Is yours a diary? An idea journal? Pull it out and write.
If you are a writer who also has a blog, this may be the time to focus on getting some pieces for that written. Go back and reread your past blogs. Jot down ideas for new ones. Begin the prep work. Read others’ blogs. Then write.
If you have an idea that has been rattling around your head for a while, this might be the perfect time to begin to plan and research. This gets the focus off actually producing a piece of work, and allows you to give your attention to building the foundation of a work. Which can help you feel productive…which can help with writing.
- Revising other pieces
If you have any completed pieces, even those you already have revised, take some time to relook at them. Undertaking revisions can help to stretch those writing muscles and may help to unblock your creative juices. Maybe you had some past pieces you stuck in a drawer because you thought they were unworthy. This might be the time to pull them back out and see if you can do some revising to make them better.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that this too shall pass….