Most Common Writer’s Block Issues And How To Overcome Them
Not to generalize, but when it comes to writer’s block, it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. However, I don’t believe in the existence of writer’s block per se – if you are struggling to write, a myriad of problems could be the cause. Lack of inspiration, direction or fresh ideas could all be what’s weighing your writing muscle down. The solution depends on the problem, so to cure a writer’s block, you must first ask yourself: where am I getting stuck?
At the beginning
If you find yourself staring at a blank page, not a single word written, the solution is one of the simplest. Leave the keyboard/pen and go do something else! No, I am not advising you to stop writing altogether, but if it’s a lack of ideas you struggle with, the best place to find inspiration is elsewhere. This is the advice you’ll run into most often when it comes to overcoming writer’s block: go for a walk, listen to music, read a good book, do what inspires you.
Where your perception might hinder you
However, if it’s fear that’s blocking you, the problem is more complex. Often we’re not aware of it and have to dig deep in order to realize it. But you needn’t worry about other people’s opinion of your writing yet. Recently I talked to a friend, also a writer, who said something that resonated with me. I’ll paraphrase: “Writers are jerks. If you want to, you can over-analyze and pick apart anything, but that’s not what writing or critiquing is all about.” I agree wholeheartedly – attention to detail and analysis can help, but if you tend to overdo it, just forget about it until your first draft is done.
So get to work to figure out what it is exactly that you fear, as the cause can be different for every one of us. This fear is what you need to overcome, and until you do, forcing yourself to write will only be counter-productive and result in confirming your fear instead of defeating it. If you don’t “give yourself permission to suck”, your writing will inevitably fail in quality, summoning thoughts such as: “Maybe I’m not cut out for this writing thing,” or, “Other writers do this differently and they’re better,” etc. But let me ask you something: If the thought of quitting writing makes you miserable, why would you do it?
Stuck in the middle
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost interest in a story I was writing somewhere in the middle. Most often, this is a “technical” issue, and has roots in bad planning or lack thereof. I wrote before about outlining and my lack of faith in pantsing. Whatever your opinions on the matter may be, you have to admit that outlining prevents this problem.
Back when I wrote mostly short stories, I did not bother with outlining, because, hey, short stories. Of course, I suffered from frequent “writer’s blocks”, while in fact, I just did not have any idea where I wanted to go with a story. If this is what happens to you, my warm recommendation is to outline your piece. It can be a rough outline, but you should know what the bones of your story are to prevent problems.
What if you made a mistake along the way?
There’s also the issue of getting stuck in the middle due to losing interest in the plot, or taking a wrong turn somewhere. Even with the most detailed of outlines, during writing you may realize that your choices don’t quite work. Obviously, something needs to be changed in that case. Instead of dwelling on it and risking a block, I just acknowledge it and move on. When the draft is largely done, I go back and fix the issue, knowing where I want it to go.
This tactic holds a different risk, and that’s getting from A to C without knowing the B. That means C will probably require some (ok, a lot of) editing. It works for me, because I edit the whole piece to oblivion anyway, but if you suffer from first-draft-perfectionism, you might be better off outlining the whole B and C from scratch before actually writing it.
Wrapping it up
Endings are hard, but not in the expected sense. What I mean by it is that life often interferes, separates you from your writing until you lose the connection with it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to you often, or you haven’t had the experience, but if you have, you might have experienced difficulties when you finally came back to your manuscript.
You no longer felt connected to your characters, or you forgot what was so important to you about that idea – there could be a million reasons for you to feel your piece has lost its appeal. Sometimes, that can’t be helped, but I try to prevent the issue altogether by keeping a file with all the ideas and images that led to the creation of my piece. Think of it as a scrapbook or a collage and aim to capture whatever it is that drives you to write in them. That way, even if you lose connection with your piece, you can find it again by reviewing what inspired you in the first place.
Also, you simply may not have an idea how to end your piece, which could be a symptom of the above-described getting stuck in the middle. Sometimes you don’t realize that there is a problem halfway through, or force yourself to keep writing regardless – and write yourself into a corner towards the end. In that case, same advice applies: review and rewrite.
What are your thoughts on writer’s block? Does it really exist, or are we just merging a whole bunch of writing issues into the same mold, and what are your preferred ways of dealing with it? Looking forward to reading your comments!
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