Friday, November 12, 2010

5 Causes and Solutions to Writer’s Block

Every writer experiences the dreaded writer’s block at some point in their career. Sometimes it’s a hiccup in the flow and sometimes it’s a mighty wall to surmount. Whatever it might be, there is a reason for it and there is a way through to the other side.

1. When self-doubt causes the block:
We may tell ourselves we aren’t good enough. We may think we are failures if we can’t get our first manuscript published. We may learn a new writing rule and try to apply it only to find our words sound worse, not better. All these damaging thoughts can fool us into thinking we’ve gone backwards without any hope of moving forward again. At these times we need to be kind to ourselves. We need to remind ourselves why we write. We need to remember the passion. And we need to keep writing.

2. When our characters cause the block:
Sometimes our characters will cause us trouble. They’ll refuse to behave in the story. No matter how much we wrestle with them they won’t budge. At these times we need to try to listen to what they have to say. We need to try taking them down the path they wish to travel. But keep writing.

3. When the hard slog causes the block:
Sometimes we might wonder why we put ourselves through the pain everyday. When we catch a free moment, rather than putting our feet up, we write. Rather than spending time with friends or family, we write. We begin to grow resentful of our writing career. At these times, take a break. Spend time with friends and family. Relationships are important. They are often our inspiration for writing. Yes, writing is hard work, but we need some play time as well.

4. When distractions cause the block:
As I mentioned in my last post, distractions will happen. When they become so great they cause a block in our creativity. We may have to pay attention to why we are getting ourselves distracted. If the reason is to avoid writing, then we have to get over it and refocus. If the reason is because we’ve hit a slow point in our story and we’ve grown bored, then we need to either jump ahead, or reassess what we have written. In these cases the key is to keep writing. Of course, if the distraction is the kitchen on fire, then I’d suggest the key would be to deal with that instead.

5. When lack of time causes the block:
At times we may have to face daunting deadlines or tight schedules. We may be to struggling to juggle all our commitments. At times like these we may have to prioritise and reassess our schedules. We may have to accept we aren’t superhuman and either ask for help with the non essentials like cleaning the house and cooking dinners, or reschedule so our goals are easier to reach.

Do you have any other techniques for breaking through the wall? What are the things that block you most frequently?

38 comments:

DEZMOND said...

I believe the last one, the lack of time, is everyone's biggest problem, in any other art not just in writing. This is why artist are usually lonesome people - they just can't always fit social life and family with their creative work.

Franklin Beaumont said...

Good advice. What I tend to do when I get blocked is just take a walk. Put some physical distance between myself and the work, and usually, by the time I get to the end of the road, the fog has cleared.

And I think your second point is especially important. We should listen to our characters. Let them dictate our story to a certain degree. Trying to shoe-horn reluctant characters into the mechanics of a plot will often feel forced.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Dez, I'm sorry but I don't have time to reply to you. Busy creating... giggle. But yes, you are right. Creativity takes a whole lot of time.

Franklin, walking or any physical exercise is a great solution to writer's block.

Helen Ginger said...

I think my main distraction wasn't to avoid writing, but that has become the result. I'm working on getting back to writing.

mshatch said...

Oh, I definitely agree with giving our characters free rein. If we've drawn them well enough they probably know exactly which direction to go in. And walking often helps me. Maybe it's the fresh air blowing the dust away...:)

great post!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Helen, good to hear you are working on getting back to writing.

mshatch, there's nothing like a bit of fresh air to revive creativity.

Valerie Geary said...

Good post Lynda! Great points, great suggestions.

"Um...honey? The house is on fire? We should probably go outside until the fire department comes." "Go away I'm writing." Now, that's some dedication. :D

Laura Eno said...

If I feel blocked, I'll read for a while to relax my brain. :) My characters can overpower me at arm wrestling so I've learned to listen to their input.

Unknown said...

I'm definitely #5. I just cannot find the time anymore. Any suggestions?

Lisa Gail Green said...

I love how you break down the different causes - not just the solutions. Nice!

Unknown said...

LOVED THIS! Great post Lynda!

My number one writers block is my own mind. I get too many ideas wrapped up in my brain and can't get them out. It's sad, only until I've shared all my thoughts (between notebooks and my husband) to clear it out and let it go.

Then I can write.

Melissa Gill said...

If I can just get started I sail right along. It's getting started that's hard for me.

Natascha said...

Ugh, the dreaded writer's block...so often do I have to deal with this problem. I'd have to say it's mostly my characters. In order to get through the block, I take a break. I can always trust my imagination to fix the problem over time.

Carol Riggs said...

I dunno. Talking about or feeling like you're having writer's block is a little like insomnia. The more you fuss about it, the more likely it gets or will happen. LOL

I suppose it does depend on which reason(s) that are blocking you. I don't usually have a prob with writer's block, though once in a while I have difficulty getting started on something if I've been away from it for a while. My distractions usually involve doing so many critiques for others I don't MAKE time for my own.

fire in the hooooole said...

hi..u have a great ideas and points posted, it's helpful.

Ellie Garratt said...

Great advice. You're so right with number four!

Golden Eagle said...

Great advice on getting through writer's block! Number 2 usually gives me the most trouble.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Distractions usually get to me the most. The more time I spend away from my manuscript, the harder it is to get back into it. The best thing I can do is try to work on my story everyday or every other day and keep it fresh in my mind.

scribbleandedit.blogspot.co.uk said...

I can identify with many of those and ofcourse blogging is so addictive, it is a huge distraction.
If you get a mo' come see my guest author interview with Annie Sanders :O)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Lynda, I can identify with all the points. Currently I am undergoing that phase. I try to reassess what I have written earlier and try to brainstorm ways to bypass the block which has become my best friend now.

Toyin O. said...

Great tips, thanks for sharing.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Valerie, sometimes, when I'm in the 'groove' it can be a bit like that. My husband could drive a truck through the place and I wouldn't notice ;)

Laura, reading is a good relaxer AND it helps our own writing.

Chary, time is a difficult thing, but if you can write even just two sentences, then you've moved forward.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Lisa, thanks

Jen, husbands are great sounding boards :)

Melissa, yes! I can relate.

Vegas, writer's block is often an indication of not listening to the characters

Carol, you have a good point. By validating it, it gains power over us.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Fire, thanks

Ellie, ah, yes, distractions. They can drive a writer crazy ;)

Golden, yes, characters need to be heard or they'll find a way to be heard and usually it's not so pleasant for the writer ;)

Cindy, spending time away is SOMEtimes good, but yes, it does become difficult to return.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Madeleine, blogging is probably the thing that takes up most of my time next to writing.

Rachna, brainstorming is great to get the creativity flowing again.

Toyin, thanks :)

Jai Joshi said...

When I find I'm blocked I take time off. Nothing makes it worse for me than forcing the writing. I take time off and do something that makes me happy. That normally balances things in my mind and I'm able to get back into the flow much faster.

Jai

Carolyn Abiad said...

Suffering from #3 a bit at the moment...so I'm reading instead.

Susan Fields said...

Usually if I'm having trouble getting words on paper, it's because something in the story isn't right. Maybe I have a character acting contrary to her personality, or a setting that isn't clear in my own mind so I can't make it clear on paper. When I figure out what's not working, I can take a step back and fix the root of the problem. That usually gets me going again.

Anonymous said...

You are so right about being kind to ourselves! When writing, I sometimes find that difficult.

alexia said...

Hi Lynda. I sent you a message, but in case it got eaten by cyberspace, I wanted to let you know there's an award for you on my blog.

Paul Joseph said...

Great post; I couldn't have said it better myself. I think I get blocked the most when I'm not in love with what is happening. I know sometimes you have to write junk to uncover the good stuff, but it is hard to remain motivated when the words don't excite you. A trip to the gym or relaxing dinner out can sometimes help. I also find I can unlock inspiration by reading the success stories of others. It makes me want what they have, so I figure I better get to work!

The Words Crafter said...

More great advice, thanks. I'm running into things that I know nothing about so, to finish nano, I'm just bluffing my way through and during editing and revision, I'm going to get into research.

I got discouraged at all the stuff I found that I need to research. I knew there was quite a bit going in, but now I have even more! Woohoo!

Anonymous said...

I have three ways to break writer's block:

1) Find a different place to write--e.g. local coffee shop. Outside.

2) Write a chapter by hand.

3) Go for a run.

Toyin O. said...

I hope you are having a good day;just wanted to thank you for your visit and gracious comment. Have a blessed week:)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Jai, yep, sometimes a break is essential for our mental health :)

Carolyn, reading wil definitely help recharge the creativity.

Susan, the story often has a way of telling us something isn't right... and yes, that usually comes out in the language of writer's block.

Kelly, yep, it can be difficult sometimes to be kind to ourselves, but it's so important.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Alexia, it may have been eaten by cyberspace... but thanks so much for the award!!!

Paul, you make a good point about reading the success of others. That's a great way of regaining motivation.

Words Crafter, many authors wait for research until the editing stage. I think that's a good move otherwise you can bog down too much. I'm doing the same for NaNo. I've written up a list of things I need to research in December ;)

Liz, I like your three great ways to break writer's block. Effective :)

Toyin, thanks. Hope you had a great weekend :)

Jamie Gibbs said...

I'm guilty of lack of time and distractions that stop my with my writing. I'm one hell of a procrastinator, which in turn means I have less time to write (damn you, vicious circles). Good advice though, sometimes it's hard to find a way out when you're stuck in your lack of writing rut :p

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Jamie, we should have a competition: who can procrastinate the most? No, wait. That might not be a good idea -- I need to finish NaNo first ;)