Depending on the writer you talk to, writer’s block seems to be either:
(A) Something writers’ dread
(B) Something they run into without warning
(C) Something they don’t believe in–an easy excuse people use to avoid doing the hard work. A way of letting fear get to you.
It can be easy to discount something you’ve never experienced. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. A number of years ago, there was a well known child behavior expert who confessed to not understanding why so many people had so such difficulty in applying proven child rearing philosophies to their kids. He had a system that worked and genuinely thought people were making it far more complicated than it needed to be. Until the day he was blessed with A Difficult Child. Then all of his proven systems went flying out the window and he had to scramble to come up with new ones. He was forced to admit that those parents hadn’t been wrong after all. There really was such a thing as a difficult child. It’s not a bad idea to keep that story in mind when declaring there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It is quite possible that you simply haven’t run into it YET. Life’s journey is long and you may still find yourself on a road you blissfully thought didn’t exist.
It doesn’t help that the term writer’s block acts as a general catch all, covering a huge variety of very real, frustrating, energy-depleting and wildly different set of problems. So today, I thought we could unpack writer’s block and examine eleven reasons people find themselves stuck, then talk about ways to get unstuck.
1. Nothing you write works and you’re getting nowhere.
This isn’t being blocked, it’s being stymied. You’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in the story and need to find your way back. In this case, step back and take a look at the big picture. Pull out your trusty plotting tools if you use them. Return to the last place where words were flowing. Look at the actions the characters take, the decisions they make. Were they forced? Cliche? What if they made a different decision? Experiment with a few different choices they could make and see if that opens up new possibilities.
2. Your characters aren’t cooperating and won’t DO anything.
In this situation, you’re often lacking the emotional fuel for the story. Go deeper into your character and do some journaling or writing prompts to discover their deepest feelings, motivations, and concerns. If you already know those, look for tangential ones—feelings and motivations that might even be hidden from the character. Another approach is to do a stream of consciousness journaling as to what they’re thinking/feeling immediately after the last scene you wrote. Or before the one you’re planning to write. You should find some breadcrumbs and ideas there.
3. You don’t know what happens next.
Usually the techniques in #1 or #2 will provide answers here, but if not, there are a couple of additional approaches. Do some worldbuilding to see if the environment will provide clues/plot ideas. Or research. Oftentimes plot solutions, surprising twists, unexpected angles can be found through research. Or consider doing some journaling from the antagonist’s POV. Map out the actions they’re taking to provoke/engage/block the hero. That, in turn, will give you some solid ideas of what the protagonist will need to do to block them, if not launch a counterattack. [Read more…]