Writer’s Block

Writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. While some people do not believe it is a true affliction and merely the result of a lazy, whiny writer, I vehemently disagree with this point of view.

In my admittedly limited experience, there have been times when I have experienced writer’s block. My mind went blank and the words left my pen about as easily as if they were pieces of concrete being squeezed from the tip. It was slow, arduous and endlessly frustrating. However, the problem is temporary, especially if you actively seek solutions.

Over at the Teens Writing For Teens blog (http://teenswritingforteens.com) one post discusses how this may be a result of not knowing some of the characters in your story well enough. In a nutshell, though I do suggest you read the TWFT post if you can find it, when a writer tries to make a character do something out of character there may be a rebellion. Look at any character information you have, or write some up, and consider whether any personality traits conflict with what you want the rebel(s) to do. For example, an A student who loves to learn won’t skip school just because he or she can so the author can have this person meet someone by coincidence who will start the story flowing. There must a reason for such an act.

There are other causes for writer’s block such as not doing enough pre-planning or writing too much so you lose all enjoyment. For the first problem, go back to the drawing board and figure things out. In extreme cases, you might have to scrap parts of the story…but don’t burn or delete them! Anything you cut out would be best kept in a special place like a separate folder on the computer or in a plastic pocket in a real-life folder.

If you have the second problem of losing enjoyment, take a break from writing. Do something else for a while so you can return to your keyboard or pick up your pen with renewed vigour. Just don’t procrastinate for too long or you mightn’t come back.

For other writers, the problem is perfectionism. Writers who are perfectionists think that golden prose should be flowing from their pen or fingertips and if it isn’t, there’s something wrong. In a first draft, this will not be the case. I know that I am a fusspot and change things as I go, especially my spelling. I’m a stickler for spelling, and my hands are often faster than my brain so I trip over words while writing (and speaking).

Perfectionists must learn to write and not edit extensively while in the middle of it. Turn off your quality control and declare “I give myself permission to write a dodgy draft” if it helps. The first draft is not the finished product and cannot be treated as such. Save the fuss for when you review your writing and for revision after the book is finished.

I remember that once I was having trouble writing a scene where my characters had to steal from a supermarket to survive. I didn’t want to write it because my brain went into stupid mode and wasn’t helping me. I reminded myself that I knew what the outcome would be and wrote it down, never minding the quality of the work. I haven’t looked back at the section yet as I am still writing, but I know it will require extensive editing when I do. It’s okay to write some stuff that’ll make you cringe later. I have.

I hope you found this helpful and informative. Remember: nobody is perfect and don’t expect yourself to get it right the first time. Published authors make it look easy, but we know better.

(Taken from my work, Writing Advice: Writer’s Block at writerscafe.org)

Update: That supermarket scene has since been completely removed from the novel as it was a part of a sequence of events that I decided were not pertinent to the main plot.


6 thoughts on “Writer’s Block

  1. There is some excellent advice in this post – I never finished a complete draft until I learnt to turn off my critical eye and just write. Yes, I have to go back and edit extensively but at least I now finish the draft. Thanks for sharing this.


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  3. Very good advice, Ann Elise!

    I stumbled upon your blog and I believe I can offer additional advice for eliminating Writer’s Block!

    Writer’s block is when our conscious mind – that critical and analytical part of our brain – gets in the way of our subconscious mind – the creative and free-flowing part of our brain that speaks in images and symbols. After all, the subconscious is where our stories are birthed.

    I have step-by-step instruction on how to unlock the subconscious on my blog and eliminate writer’s block. I hope it helps for anyone who runs into writer’s block.

    Happy writing, everyone!!

    That’s my two pence…
    Arial 😉


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