Learn some ways to banish it, or at the very least, get past it no matter the size!
All of the other stumbling blocks in the way of your writing are bad, but none is so feared and dreaded as that which we call ‘Writer’s Block.‘ It comes to every one of us eventually and not always in the same form. The trick to getting past it, is identifying it. And if that fails, try every method you can think of until something works!
This post will cover some of the forms Writer’s Block can take and some ways individuals can get on the other side of it.
Step One: What’s the ‘Block’ Doc?
Sometimes writers know exactly what is standing in the way of their writing, and at other times they do not. But getting an idea of what is blocking your path and preventing you from adding words to the page, can go a long way in removing that block.
Blocks can come from all different places, external as well as internal, and be different sizes or possess different levels of stubbornness.
External ones can include things like a lack of time, a lack of somewhere inspirational or comfortable to write etc. these are usually easily resolved.
Internal ones are more difficult and can include things like a lack of inspiration itself, trouble getting back into a story once you’ve spent time away from it (So me…), tackling a project you feel is too difficult or you are not ready for (Me too…) etc.
The methods for dealing with these blocks are as varied as the blocks themselves and can be compared to how one might parent a child (in the loosest of terms, of course). Once you’ve determined what is plaguing your ability to create, then you can choose what remedy, from the below list of suggestions or elsewhere, might be the ticket to cure the block that ails you.
Step Two: Pick Your Poison (er…or ‘medicine’ as the case may be)
- Baby Block – There Will Be Diapers
While your first instinct when encountering Writer’s Block may be to run away or bury your head in the sand, don’t do it! The further you run from your writing, the harder it will be to come back to. So start by working ‘around’ your writing rather than away from it.
You might be lucky and only be in the midst of a ‘baby block’. These are the easiest to overcome, because you simply have to push through or hop over them. If you are able to write but you feel that writing is the equivalent of ‘a dirty diaper’ at the moment, write anyway. As so many say ‘a bad draft is better than no draft at all’ no matter how stinky! And they are right!
Who knows, it might not be as bad as you think and your vision is just colored by your mood or reluctance. If that’s the case, then when you go back to read the chapter you weren’t feeling but wrote anyway, it might turn out better than you thought. Or, at the very least, it might have some useful parts you can dissect to use in the next draft.
And if it turns out it is ‘an overfull diaper,’ then you can see where you went wrong and avoid that mess in your rewrite. Just getting something on the page, however fragrant or pungent, will keep the creative juices flowing and engaged, albeit forcefully.
- Toddler Block – Skip the Tantrums
Sometimes you encounter a ‘toddler block,’ a little bigger than a baby and more difficult (they don’t call them the terrible twos for nothing). This might be the case if you have reached a particularly boring or slow part in your story or are lacking inspiration for any other reason. When this happens, you can either deal with the tantrum (aka wrestle with your writing), or skip that ‘age’ all together (Yay!).
There are no set rules in writing, though we sometimes give ourselves some being humans who tend to do things in a ‘logical’ sequence. We’ve been taught to start at the beginning and then see things through until the end. But just because that is how we usually do things, doesn’t mean that is how we should always do them.
If you are struggling to write a chapter because more interesting chapters are coming and you are impatient to get to them, skip to those. There is no harm in writing the chapters you are excited about and then coming back to the chapter or chapters that are giving you trouble. You might even think of a way to spice those ones up in the meantime so that they bring you as much joy as the ‘fun’ chapters did. If it’s more fun to write, odds are, it will be more fun to read!
- Adolescent Block – It’s All Fun and Games (I Promise)
‘Adolescent blocks’ are again larger in size than their predecessors and need a little finagling to get by. When you encounter this size block, you might need to trick it, and yourself, into writing without writing. Like a child tricked into learning by making it a game.
Editing is one of the simplest ways to gain a little distance from your work without full on abandoning it. If you are finding the next chapter too hard to write, go back in time to the chapters before it. Get them sorted and to your liking by doing a full story edit or even simple corrective edits that don’t take a lot of brain power.
Sometimes a visitation to the past can shake loose the words and ideas for what lies ahead, and that’s all you need to get inspired again to continue. And the best part is, you were technically working on your project and improving it, so none of your effort, however small, was wasted (and you still have something to hang on your fridge).
- Teen Block – Playing with Independence
When the ‘helicopter parenting’ methods above have failed, put some more distance between yourself and your WIP (work in progress). ‘Teen blocks,’ like human teens, don’t like to be micro managed, so give them some space.
You can still work on your project without ever touching your draft. Do some research on the world building you have going or on any other aspects within your piece that could use more flushing out and depth. You can always reign this in later. But the more you know, the more real your piece will feel to your readers.
If the ‘teen block’ is still acting up, try reading other authors’ works. Ones in a similar vein to what you yourself are writing or are attempting to write. They may have employed a method to fix a problem you yourself are currently facing in your draft that is making the going tough. And if not, you can at least keep your mind in the right headspace/genre/feel so that when you are ready to return to your own writing, the transition will be easier.
- Young Adult Block – College Dayz
If a little distance doesn’t do the trick, put a little more between you and you WIP (send it off to college for a bit). This is the final step before moving on to another project all together.
Having reached this point, while you and your project are taking a break, it’s time to commiserate with your fellow parents (er…writers). This can be via an all writers group, like The Motley Writers Guild, one on one with a fellow writer or friend, or via social media (check out how to build your presence in this post).
Sometimes you just need to vent to those who understand what you are going through. And if none of these suggestions listed here worked for you, one of your fellow writers may be able to share what worked for them when they encountered writer’s block, no matter the size or type.
Distance often times makes the heart grow fonder, so when you are ready, invite your WIP back into your home (mind). Its room is still there, you just need to let it occupy space again and go from there, now that you’ve had a bit of a break.
- Adult Block – Empty Nest Syndrome
If yours is a stubborn headed ‘adult block’ insistent on making its own way in the world and refusing to listen to anything you have to say, let that WIP go. Not forever, just for a while. Say goodbye, turn its room into a craft room or gym, and simply let things lie for a bit.
There is no harm in moving on from one project and tackling another. Concentrate on your other children (works) that you can help and improve at the moment, instead of beating your head against the wall trying to get the uncooperative one to listen. If you don’t have another project waiting in the wings, do some writing prompts, even if they are entirely unrelated to your stubborn WIP. Keep your creative juices flowing and work on the projects that excite you or welcome your input.
Though doing this might feel like giving up, you have not failed. You have simply gone your separate ways for a bit (remember, there is always Thanksgiving and Christmas). Goodbye doesn’t have to be forever, just until your state of mind is such that you are in a place to live with your project again.
Whatever your block type or size, don’t despair. Like humans in different stages of development, different block types need different kinds of parenting. Sometimes you need to be a helicopter parent dogging your WIP’s every step, and at other times you need to be a hands-off parent, letting your WIP live on its own for a while. You can always reunite, but sometimes relationships, like writing, can’t be forced no matter how hard we try. Respect the block and tailor your approach to fit!
–A.D. Moseley of The Motley Writers Guild
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