Writer’s block – the bane of writers the world over. Just about anyone can have a dry season where the words just don’t come, but what’s behind the block?
It’s all very well that some writers like Tom Robbins can take months to hone a sentence – but sometimes getting stuck in perfectionism mode leads you down a thesaurus rabbit hole, or simply staring at a blank page tearing your hair out. Too much time taken on one thing can create a block. If you are feeling that way, move on to keep the flow going. Your re-write is where you can be more craft-conscious.
We’ve often heard the advice to write for someone; it can help you to pitch your words in a certain way. But be careful not to choose someone who you admire too much – you could get bogged down by what they might think. Then there’s the common question ‘What’s mom going to say?’ Wondering if you can swear or put in a violent or sexual scene simply because someone in your life might take offense can easily stop the creative juices in their tracks. Just go for it. If whatever you are writing enhances your story, write the words. You can deal with mom after it’s published.
There’s a bit of self-judgement involved here, but we all have crises that centre around the question, ‘who am I to say/do/be this?’ You started writing because you had something to say – your experiences and particular opinions and views on something are unique. So what if someone else is more qualified than you – they’ve got one perspective. Get over yourself and get down to it.
Writing about something that’s deeply emotional to you can be hard. Whether it’s a story of abuse or about losing someone you love, your emotion can bog you down. If you’re battling to express your own emotion, write your story as if it were fiction. You can change the story back to first person once you’ve got it all written down. So, instead of saying, ‘I felt deeply hurt’, rather say ‘Jennifer was deeply hurt’. If it’s hard to write, it’s probably worth writing.
Fear of the outcome
The outcome could relate to success, failure or rejection. Is fear of success a real thing? Well certainly if it’s your first book it is – because then you’ll be under pressure to write another successful novel and most novelists will tell you that it’s the second one that is the killer. But it’s important to define what success looks like to you. While not everyone can write a Harry Potter series, that may not be what success looks like to you. It could just mean having a publisher accept your book. Or if you’re a blogger, having your blog shared by another blogger – check your fear and see where it’s really coming from.
Failure also needs to be defined. If you’ve finished writing a whole book, well that’s a major feat and you should be proud. But what’s next? To be published; to have an old school teacher tell you how proud they are of you; your friends and family tell you they think you’re a genius . . .? What if nobody likes what you’ve written? What if you’re told you shouldn’t give up your day job? If you’re determined, take all criticism as a path to growth and keep going.
DID YOU KNOW: Rudyard Kipling was told by a publisher that he didn’t know how to use the English language.
Rejection. That’s something you have to get over. Back to Harry Potter – the first book was rejected by 12 publishers before it got into print. Don’t give up – your story might not be what the publishing world wants right now, but that’s not to say readers won’t enjoy it.
Other people’s success
No matter how old you are or what your experience, it’s almost a given that there’s someone out there who is younger or less experienced that has written a best-seller or an award-winning piece. Remember that you are unique and your story is told from your perspective, with your insights. Comparing yourself to others is definitely a creative blocker and will fill you with no small amount of self-doubts.
Writer’s block is a real thing and it happens to just about every writer. But the good news is that there are numerous ways to break through the block. The first step is in identifying what’s got you blocked. Then you’ll need to delve into how you can break through that particular emotion or circumstance.
I would love to hear from our readers the creative ways you overcome Writers Block?
Please share your antics in the comments below!
Here is a great book on overcoming your inner resistance.
When I battle-through Writers Block I often find myself remembering advice kindly shared in this great book by Steven Pressfield.