It’s kind of funny. I never thought of published writers as being capable of suffering from something as mundane as writer’s block. Obviously, they’ve pumped out gazillions of words and keep doing so. They can’t possibly have those moments where they sit in front of their computer and nothing happens!
The truth is: It’s something all authors deal with. Those who publish many books during their career are just better at it than those who don’t. If you look online for solutions to writer’s block, you’ll find all kinds of advice, some useless, some interesting and, at times, some of it thoroughly distressing.
The tough love versions usually claim that you can’t afford writer’s block if you plan to make money with writing. Though I do subscribe to something along that line, I think it is a bit unforgiving…especially considering that writers form part of the artist community – a bunch of emotional weirdos who need to feel all the feelings.
The other end of the scale offers all kinds of soothing solutions. I often find them wishy washy and that they really just lead to distractions, that lead to more distractions, that lead to more distractions… You get the idea.
What I have to offer falls somewhere in the middle. To my mind, they are more practical and offer real solutions. In fact, I no longer feel like writer’s block is too much of an obstacle.
Solutions to writer’s block
- Planning/developing your plot
Planning/developing plot is a writing activity that is constructive and it often leads to the very solution you needed to get through the writing that caused the block in the first case. Look at where the story is going; what the characters and antagonists are doing; what the characters and antagonists want out of life/this adventure/this moment; what has happened and what it implies for the resolution of the story. You may discover that your main character actually wouldn’t be doing what they are doing or that the timeline is out of sync.
- Writing on a different part/scene/chapter of your story
I sometimes find that I don’t know how to move a scene forward or just don’t know how to get to a satisfying resolution. That is when I look around in my story for another scene or chapter that I already have ideas for. Maybe I use what I’m writing now, maybe I don’t. What I do often end up with is a piece of dialogue I really enjoy or I realise that there is foreshadowing that I’d like to edit into the beginning.
- Write on a different story
Some people call this chasing plot bunnies. I sometimes write on a different story just to get my brain juices flowing again. Having to deal with a different set of characters refreshes my creativity and I often find that it helps me get over the block.
- Write through it
Type whatever comes to mind. It’s going to feel terrible. What you are writing may be terrible. Writing through the writer’s block is not about pretty prose or creating a charming turn of phrase, it’s about discipline and maintaining momentum. It can be equated to breastfeeding through mastitis. You won’t want to do it. It will be unpleasant and downright painful. You may want to give up all the way through. But, if you stick with it, you will get to the other side and you will be stronger. In fact, I think this is the solution the tough love writers are actually suggesting.
Things that may feel like solutions but aren’t
- Go make coffee.
Unless you are thirsty or need caffeine, this will just send you to the bathroom more often.
- Tidy your house/office/room/desk.
It has been proven that tidying up makes it easier to think because of the symbolic cleansing of your mind. But this is time consuming and won’t get writing done.
- Take a walk or exercise.
Stick to a standard exercise schedule. Shoving it in because of writer’s block will just provide you with more distractions.
- Take a bath.
Hopefully you are a water-wise individual and you know that bathing more than once a day (especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle) is wasteful.
- Watch a movie.
These false solutions are like drugs. When you start out, they feel good and you want a hit only now and then but, soon, you end up doing it all the time. You start coming up with lists of excuses for not writing. You stop writing for weeks on end.
This post is based on my experience. I have tried all of these solutions, good and bad, and I hope that you benefit from what you read here.
Feel free to leave a comment!