So I’ve always wanted to be one of those superior writers who don’t believe that writer’s block is any more than a devilish combination of laziness and facebook. I guess it just gave me a good feeling inside when I could silently chuckle while listening to another writer complain about their most recent case of writer’s block. But whatever the case, I never wanted to acknowledge that it was a thing.
Okay, so I’m not always as bright as I seem.
Anyway, I’ve done enough writing over the past couple of years to learn better than all that. Writer’s block is real, and it’s disastrous. But I’ve also learned something else: it can be defeated.
(Note: Many moons ago I wrote a post about running from writer’s block, but writer’s block still haunts the writing community, so I guess I’m not done posting about it. Hopefully this post will help those of you who caught in the middle of writing block’s clutches.)
There’s a lot of differing views on what writer’s block is or isn’t. This leaves it free to be a myth to some and an excuse to others. Writer’s block is hard to define because, by definition, it can’t be written. All the same, let’s give it a try.
What it’s not
Writer’s block is not:
- An excuse. It’s not some made up fantasy writers blame when they just don’t want to work.
- A lack of inspiration. Lack of inspiration is lack of inspiration. Writer’s block is something else.
- Some complex ancient ritual which all writers are cursed to suffer through in order to finish a novel.
- All things to all people. It may have many different faces, but it isn’t transcendent of this reality.
- The final word. Unless you let it be. Then it is.
What it is
Writer’s block is:
- An enigma. (Great definition, I know.) Writer’s block has no physical mass or location where it resides. It doesn’t technically exist. We’ll get back to this.
- A vacuum. It is a particular nothingness in which writer’s wonder with no way out.
- A discouragement. Not an excuse. Not a frustration. Writer’s block is one of the few things that can get a writer to question if writing is worth their time. If they’re any good at it. Or if they should just quit. Therefore:
- A problem.
How to fix it
If you’re still reading it means that you have a problem with writer’s block. It seems nearly all of us do. Defeating writer’s block has been an often discussed topic around the web. (If you don’t believe me, google it.) But I’m hoping that our definitions above might give us an edge on the crafty old villain.
First, (I told you we’d get back to this) we need to remember that writer’s block is an enigma. For sure. There is no physical writer’s block. It exists only in a writer’s mind, which means that that is where it will have to be defeated.
Second, it’s a vacuum. More specifically, it’s a vacuum of words. How do you fill a vacuum? With things.
Finally, it’s a discouragement, and discouragement is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re going to win, you’re going to have to keep moving forward with your head held high.
I don’t want to be the guy who says that the key to beating writer’s block is writing, but there’s some truth to that. The only way to fill a word vacuum is with words. So here’s the play:
1. Get ready for the battle.
Make your decision, right now. You’re going to sit down, and you’re going to write. Don’t let yourself get distracted, by facebook, or your sibling watching TV, or your friend texting you or anything at all. You’re writing. Respect that.
2. Set an achievable goal.
You can’t write forever and you shouldn’t expect yourself to. Have a hard-set goal, but make it something you can accomplish. Not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
3. Just do it.
And don’t let writer’s block confuse you by tempting you to think that you can’t connect with a character, or that you don’t know where the story is going, or that you don’t know how to get your hero out of this situation. Write one sentence. It doesn’t have to be a good one. If Jonny needs to jump through a window, then write ‘Jonny jumped through the window.’ Boom. Just like that, you’ve worked on your novel for the first time in weeks.
4. Just do it (again.)
You’ve a goal, right? Go get it. Show the writing world who’s boss, you or the Block? You’re not going to let some block defeat you, are you? After all, the only thing it can do is sit there and wait for you to fill it so full that it pops.
And then you’ll be writing your way to victory.