Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Overcoming Writer's Block

Writers simply hate this concept. It is that moment when you sit in front of your computer and all you see is a blank screen. What is worse, is when you know you have time to write (which is often very precious for writers) and nothing is coming.

This is normal for writers and we all have faced it before.

With that said, I did a little research on what some professionals have discussed on the topic. This information comes from the Purdue Online Writing Lab and, while this information deals with academic papers, I do believe the comments the writers discuss apply to every writer out there. I have tweaked the ideas a bit to more target fiction writers.


You have attempted to write your story (or the day's project) without doing preliminary work such as brainstorming or outlining.
Possible Cure

I am sorry to say this, but the best solution for this is plotting. Essentially, you are trying to go somewhere in your story but you have no idea where you want to go to. Trying to plot a course to a mystery location is impossible. Sure this approach is fun for creative free-writing, but when it comes down to writer's block, you need a little planning.

So, sit down and figure out where the plot is going. Don't focus on the scenes, but think of the next benchmark location in your story. Where are your characters now and what has to happen between now and then? Plot it out.

You are attempting to write something you have little or no interest in.

Possible Cures

Most writers who end up in this category are writing in a genre they simply don't understand. In many cases, these are the authors trying to write to the trends out there. These are also the authors that are obsessed with "strategies" they have heard that work and don't work.

Writers who are used to writing in 3rd person trying to write in 1st person is just one example of this (or visa versa). Look, if you understand and enjoy one style of writing, why are you trying to jump into this other area? If the market isn't buying that style right now, don't worry! Things will change and eventually that style will be back. Stick to your guns.

You are rushing the writing.
You are anxious about writing the paper...

Possible Cures

This is a simple issue of stress. The problem here is that you are focused only on the deadline or the completion of the project and not thinking about the story any more. Again, this may come back to the issue of plotters vs. pantsters. Because you didn't do that earlier work, you now find yourself worrying over the writing.

I know several of my Greyhaus authors will sometimes find themselves in this same situation. A deadline is looming and when they start thinking about that date instead of the writing, they struggle.

The solution is simple. Break the work down into smaller benchmarks. Just get through smaller sections and don't think about the big picture here.

Of course the better solution is to quit procrastinating.


You have worked it too hard and you're tired.

Possible Cures

Marathon writing sessions, or working on stories in small pieces of time in the middle of the night (3 am after a full day of work the prior day, for example) will create this problem. The simple problem is - You Are Tired! You are now asking your brain to be creative and really work extra hard. It ain't going to happen.

The solution is simple. Take a break! These come directly from the Purdue site.
•Stretch! If you can't stand up, stretch as many muscle groups as possible while staying seated.

•Try tensing and releasing various muscle groups. Starting from your toes, tense up for perhaps five to ten seconds and then let go. Relax and then go on to another muscle group.

•Breathe deeply. Close your eyes; then, fill your chest cavity slowly by taking four of five short deep breaths. Hold each breath until it hurts, and then let it out slowly.

•Use a calming word or mental image to focus on while relaxing. If you choose a word, be careful not to use an imperative. Don't command yourself to "Calm down!" or "Relax!"


You're self-conscious about your writing, you may have trouble getting started. So, if you're preoccupied with the idea that you have to write about a subject and feel you probably won't express yourself well...

Possible Cures

The solution for this is really simple. Talk to someone! You need a serious injection of positive thinking here.
There is a book I love going back to form inspiration like this. It is called The Pocket Muse. The author notes that everyone out there needs two critique partners. They need the one person who will tell you the truth and tell you your writing is a piece of garbage. But, you also need that person that believes everything you do is GOLDEN! Go to that person. Whine, complain and moan. They will talk you out of it.

I am sure all of you have other solutions. Share them here for other people.


1 comment:

  1. This is such a great litany of prompts! Thanks so much :-)