Dealing with Writer’s Block
First rule: Relax. Everybody goes through this. Although everybody thinks they know what writer’s block is, it might be helpful to review its pernicious forms.
Forms of writer’s block
Can’t put anything on the page. This is the classic one. You sit down at the laptop and all you’ve got, or are getting, is a blank screen.
Everything you write is junk. In this case, you can write but you are convinced not a single word is worth the bytes needed to create it. It is DELETE FILE territory (by the way, don’t do that—at least until you’ve read the rest of the post).
You know you are unfitted by talent, temperament, or inclination to write. This is the worst because, if you reach this point, it doesn’t even feel like writer’s block—it just feels like a self-evident principle of the world.
But honestly, they are all forms of writer’s block.
But what if it’s true that I can’t write?
I think most people can write creatively at some level if they put the energy into it. Will they be world-famous novelists? Don’t know.
However, writing creatively is, of course, partly about imagination, but also about observation and mastery of the craft. I don’t know whether it is possible to train up creativity, but I know that it’s not only possible to hone observation and craft skills, but necessary to create a good piece of writing.
So why don’t you give yourself the benefit of the doubt and work on your craft and observation abilities? Somewhere along the line, the ideas will come.
Ways to deal with writer’s block
Put the piece away for a while. Sometimes, you need to just walk away for a bit. Literally take a walk or do something else which occupies you in a different way. You might need to stow it for a couple of days or even weeks. But don’t let it be too long—otherwise, your writer’s block is running the show.
Write drivel. There is a school of thought which suggests that you just put your fingers on the keyboard and type anything. And it does work. It can often kickstart you back to your piece.
Of course, there is a danger. I discovered a clever way (well, I thought it was clever) to still avoid writing. This the drivel I’ve been talking about—basically writing about writing to avoid writing. Example: I love the way that the novel I just read unfolded. It was a total surprise at the end. See what I mean—you’re writing but not anything related to your project.
Start your engines, please, gentlemen. When I am stuck, I literally write this, followed by It’s 10:17. I will write for 30 minutes. No stopping, no games until 10:47. Doesn’t have to be 30 minutes, can be five. The point is that you spend the allotted time making progress on your idea. Can’t stop and can’t wander off during that time.
Last rule: Relax. Really, don’t get tied into knots about this. It is the ebb and flow of a writer’s life. Sometimes, it will come flowing through you and sometimes you are Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill forever.
Just keep writing.