Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Steps to Deal with Writer’s Block

Some authors claim there’s no such thing as writer’s block. They say with conviction in their heart that all you have to do is write through it and it’s gone. I’ll tell you now, for me writer’s block is real. It’s usually born from a deeper root than simply being unable to come up with a fresh idea, or imagine the characters with enough clarity to make them sing on the page. Writer’s block is born from that deep dark place we don’t like to talk about—the dark alley of our minds where Courage is cornered by Fear and Doubt, along with Stress, Boredom, Frustration, and Pressure.

Let’s look at the first bad guy: Fear. On his own, Fear isn’t so bad. We need Fear to keep us from growing complacent, to push us to do better, and not settle for “close enough.” Fear keeps the adrenaline flowing. But Fear is the father of Doubt. Put them together and they turn into a nasty pair. Together they put us through no end of self-torture. They slow us down, make us second guess ourselves, or push us to pull away from taking the risky route of trying something new. And that’s just the start. Fear and Doubt are ringleaders. They call in a gang of other distastefuls and use their powers to keep us from writing.

Without understanding what these guys are up to, we might try to push through the wall that’s blocking us, only to earn a sore shoulder and a broken spirit.

So how can we deal with Fear and Doubt and the rest of the gang when they pounce? Unfortunately there’s no one, easy solution, no snap of the fingers and they’re gone. It takes recognition of what’s happening, a desire to change what’s happening, and then the strength to take action.

And the action we need to take? I’ve found the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to follow these steps:

1. Nurture a realistic perspective on your writing. Fanciful thoughts about our writing have a tendency to sweep us away. For example, my first draft will be gold, I should be earning good money by now, the first novel I ever write is going to become a world famous bestseller. These unrealistic thoughts inevitably lead to giving the Fear Gang an invitation to come visit. Success and satisfaction through writing come through practice, hard work, time, and more writing with lots of frustration and joy along the way.

2. Be aware of your surroundings. Be on guard for the nasties lurking in the shadows so when they pounce—and they will pounce because that’s part of being a creative person—you can stand tall and defend yourself. In other words, know what’s “normal” in your writing life. You will experience ups and downs, moments of inspiration and times when ideas are sparse, but that’s okay. That’s normal for any writer so there’s no need to flail yourself over a perceived failure. Sometimes life will get in the way of writing, and that’s okay too. We write about life, even when we write about other worlds, so even those unavoidable distractions can be used to generate more ideas for writing.

3. Make eye contact. Remember the bad guys are cowards because they only attack when you’re at your weakest. So when you do get jumped, don’t react like a victim. Don’t think your writing career is over. Make eye contact and show you know who the attackers are and you aren’t afraid of them. Do this, and there’s less chance of getting backed into an inescapable corner.

4. Run for help. There’s no substitute for an understanding friend, or a supportive group who know exactly what you’re going through. There’s no reason to suffer or struggle alone. Speak up. We’ve all experienced it.

5. Keep writing. Even if you have five minutes for writing, even if you can only scratch out a single sentence. All writing is beneficial. None of it is wasted effort. Even the ugly stuff we’ll never show anyone. Just keep writing and don’t give up. Remember, you started on this journey for a reason. Don’t let the nasties stop you.

What are the things that stop you from writing? What do you do when you encounter a lack of inspiration or desire to write?

Lynda R Young

30 comments:

Blogoratti said...

Wonderful tips and the last one is most important, to keep writing even if its a paragraph a day. Greetings!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes people get tripped up because they forget to enjoy the journey.
Bouncing ideas off other writers is a great way to churn creativity.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent tips. Fear can be tricky and get to you in all sorts of ways. I've learned to just push through and keep writing. Having great writer friends to encourage really helps too. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those are great tips. making eye contact is important in all things. It demonstrates a good self-image.

Bish Denham said...

Great tips. My problem isn't writer's block, getting ideas, or writing them down. My issue is about revision and getting motivated to do the rewrites, the editing... THAT'S where I need help!

Deborah Hawkins said...

Thank you so much for this. I can't stand when people say Writer's Block doesn't exist. These are good tools to overcome it.

planetpailly said...

I've found that napping is a good treatment for writer's block. I think it lets your subconscious untangle your thoughts.

Pat Hatt said...

Never had writer's block at my sea, just keeps on a flowing out.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynda - face it right away and deal with it ... don't let it linger. Great post for many of us .. cheers Hilary

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The keep writing is the one that works for me. Getting past that one difficult scene can be the thing that gets it flowing again.

Patricia Lynne said...

Usually stress shuts down my writing. If I can keep that under control and make to-do lists, I'm good for writing.

Lynda R Young said...

Blogoratti, thanks. If we keep writing, then we keep creating and that's important.

Alex, remembering why we write is so important.

Christine, there's a lot to be said for pushing through with the support of friends.

Diane, that's so true.

Bish, aaah, that revision beast can be tricky. That's what I love best, but it took a few years to learn to love it.

Deborah, I think some writers claim writer's block doesn't exist because they are in denial...or they are highly disciplined, and just pushing through works for them.

Planetpailly, napping! That's an excellent addition to the steps we can take.

Pat, you lucky thing, you. I think it's the charm of a cool cat.

Hilary, yep, letting it linger only gives it more power.

Susan, when we keep writing, we continually exercise our creative muscles. Otherwise they grow stiff.

Patricia, lists! Yes! Lists work for me too.

dolorah said...

I get tripped up because I think I should write faster, be more productive. Lately everything impedes my writing. But when I do write, I sure enjoy it.

G. B. Miller said...

Boatloads of stress in my life right now that prevents me from blogging and writing. I usually have to be in a good place to write or blog and right now, I'm in neither.

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Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes, to all of these tips, especially #4 and #5. Good friends and a constant dribble of words help immensely!

Robyn Campbell said...

Keep writing. That is the best advice in the world. Something ALWAYS breaks through. I enjoyed reading this, Lynda. My problem is that I'm so afraid of failure that it takes me forever to revise. :( I have to constantly remind myself that I will never know if I don't try. Thanks so much for this.

Lexa Cain said...

I've gone through long periods of not writing (a year once), not from fear or writer's block, but because I couldn't find an idea compelling or high-concept enough to believe it would do well in the marketplace. Most writer's go through dry spells, and I'm glad you have addressed many of the reasons in your post. I'm sure it will help writers. Thanks!

Lynda R Young said...

Dolorah, the enjoyment is the key

GB, I hope find that good place again.

Tyrean, while many things are different for everything, these two helpers remain constant for everyone.

Robyn, revision does take a long while, especially for us perfectionists, but like you said, you have to keep going, keep trying.

Lexa, I hope it does help, because those dry spells happen to all of us, but not all of us see them through to the other side.

Chemist Ken said...

I don't know if I have ever suffered from writers block, but there are times when I just can't figure out how start out a scene or chapter. I'm not sure if that counts.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

My stumbling blocks come from wanting it to be perfect prose right out of the box. And I know that pretty much never happens, especially on the first draft. Now, if I can just get my brain to cooperate!

Michelle Wallace said...

"Don’t let the nasties stop you." There are plenty of nasties out there in different shapes/forms... be on your guard for the human ones.
Great tips, thanks Lyn!

Fundy Blue said...

Five excellent tipa, Linda! I'm so glad that I found the ISWG; it's been inspiring to me and helpful! My biggest blocks have been troubling experiences in my past and life interfering. I've been finally dealing with things that happened to me in the past (my muskeg!), and now I can work on my memoir more objectively. As for life, I'm slowly making that work better. Your suggestion about even writing one sentence is excellent. Once you put anything on the page it really helps. And I know that the first draft is never gold. It's the rewriting that makes a piece sparkle. Thanks for sharing this excellent post, and happy ISWG day!

Crystal Collier said...

Awesome advice! I turn on music when I'm really having a rough time, or go exercise. Either of those seem to free my brain.

Patsy said...

If I don't feel like writing, or it seems as though I can't, I work on other writing related tasks - I always have some of them.

Nick Wilford said...

I think the top tip is to write every day. It keeps you psychologically engaged even if you don't feel like it while writing. Great tips for facing those nasties head on!

Lynda R Young said...

Ken, Yep, that counts. :)

Holly, I have that problem too. Our brains are difficult customers sometimes ;)

Michelle, so many nasties!! Thanks, Michelle.

Fundy, writing is a great therapeutic tool too. As is the IWSG.

Crystal, my music is cranked up to LOUD as I type... (you may need to speak up)

Patsy, hehe, yep, there's always some writing related task that could be done. Reading, research, plotting, more reading...

Nick, yep, I'm a big advocate for keeping up the writing habit.

Sherry Ellis said...

Good tips! When I have writer's block, I go do something else - like go outside for a walk. Sometimes you just need to rejuvenate.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Wonderful tips, Lynda. I am following the last one by just writing and writing and I am also trying to keep my expectations low.

Lynn said...

Love all these! Thank you. I have given myself permission to be okay when the writing doesn't flow, and know it is okay just to start again where I am at. Your last tip to just keep on writing, even if just a sentence, is very fitting for me at this time of my life.

Lynda R Young said...

Sherry, yes, walking and exercise in general are also great ways of pushing away the cobwebs.

Rachna, and keep holding onto your dreams.

Lynn, every little bit counts.