The biggest villain for any writer isn’t the one they write about in their works. It’s the one that lurks in the shadows and preys on the innocent. It’s a hideous beast that sucks creativity out of creators and inspiration out of artists. Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. I tend to have a flair for it, after all. Regardless of my wording, the sentiment remains. Writer’s Block is a beast that lives in dark alleys of the mind, and nobody wants to talk about it out loud. Mentioning it is akin to talking about a no-hitter in baseball. If you bring it up, you’re just tempting fate and jinxing yourself. Or so they say. Yet here I am writing a whole post about it, so that should tell you how smart I am!
So is it actually a real thing, or some mythical concept that mustn’t ever be spoken of? If it exists, then what is it? Where does it come from and what causes it? It really all depends on who you ask. I personally think most writers have experienced it in some fashion to some degree, but there are other writers who refuse to acknowledge it. It’s not some scary monster hiding in your closet or under your bed waiting to eat your brilliant ideas as you think of them, so no worries there. In reality, writer’s block comes from a creative lull or the inability to create original ideas. For whatever reason, sometimes people just struggle to be creative. Writer’s block isn’t some physical hurdle that one must overcome like a giant wall, but it is a mental obstacle that can be just as daunting. And typically, the longer it lasts, the harder it is to shake. The longer it hangs around, the more space it creates for self doubt to creep in. “Well what if I never think of anything original ever again?” “Maybe I should just give up.” And so on.
Why does it happen? This question needs a paragraph all to itself (since I didn’t answer it the first time I asked up above). There is a myriad of reasons why people find themselves tripping over the writer’s block pothole of life. (Sorry, I live in Indianapolis where potholes are always a clear and present danger.) Pressure: fast approaching deadlines, or trying to follow up success. Stress: changes in brain activity due to outside factors such as health, finances, or really any major life change. Motivation: maybe due to the lack of a deadline, or just generally not feeling inspired. I could go on and on with reasons and excuses, but I think you probably get the idea.
Let’s take a look at a sampling of responses on this topic with a few author friends of mine, shall we?
What are your thoughts on “writers block?” Do you think it’s a real thing? If so, how long does it usually last and what methods do you use to get past it?
Patrick J. O’Brian
For me, writer’s block is usually not knowing exactly where I want the plot to go next, or what I want the characters to say in a key conversation. There are those major turning points in every book, and I like to get them right, so I stew about it until the right scenario finally comes to me. That’s my writer’s block.
Writer’s block is an accurate way of describing the feeling associated with a lack of motivation. You could just call it a lack of motivation. For me I find having a deadline helps. Not a self-imposed deadline, there’s not enough shame in ignoring that. A deadline imposed by an outside party, particularly one that offers some sort of prompt. With both of those items in hand I can write.
What I refuse to beat myself up over is not writing when my non-writing-life prevents it. Writing is emotionally draining. The writer is constantly drawing from their own emotional and mental well for the sake of creating fully formed characters – even in non-fiction – and that can’t happen if the writer’s own life is in chaos. This too can be called writer’s block, but really it is just life.
Writer’s block is definitely a real thing. Personally, it can last from a week or two up to a few months. It’s really draining on my writing process and motivation. To get over it, I usually have a playlist of songs I feel my characters would listen to. Just getting into their head seems to help usually.
Adam K. Moore:
Definitely a real thing for me. Some days, it’s just not going to happen. I’ve sat and stared at a blank document for quite some time. Writers block is a real thing, though there are ways to cope with it.
So what is a writer supposed to do when they hit the wall with writer’s block? As you may have noticed from the quotes above, different people seem to use different tactics. Each method is effective for that individual, and that’s why they do it. Some may change the time of day to write, while others use music when writing. Depending on their normal tendency, maybe they opt for silence instead of music. Some might brainstorm about another project to try to get their creative juices kick-started, or possibly they’ll write an unrelated short story.
A strategy I’ve employed in the past is jumping ahead in the story and then coming back later to bridge the gap. When I was writing Crossroads I came to a point where I had no clue where to take the story. I knew where I wanted it to end up, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there for the life of me. One of my friends told me to start writing the next plot point and see if that might help me just get back in the rhythm of writing. It worked beautifully. As soon as I got re-engaged with the story I was able to go back and connect the dots rather quickly. That method might not work for everybody depending on your writing style and how much plotting you do before you start writing the first draft, but it worked for me and that will be my go-to strategy in the future as well.
Basically what I’m getting at is this: writer’s block is a very real thing, and every writer has to find their own way of dealing with it. There’s no one guaranteed method that’ll cure writer’s block for everybody. Try something that you think might work. If it doesn’t, then try something else. There’s no right or wrong way to get through it, as long as you keep trying.
Thank you, that is all.