Let’s start this off right – Writers block is a real phenomenon. I’ve read science journal articles looking at the brain function shifts and the biochemistry of people suffering from writers block. (Unfortunately I lost the link).
What is writers block?
There is this odd idea that floats around in some circles that states that writers block is where the writer physically can’t write.
That’s completely absurd. There I said it. It’s absolutely mad to think that’s what writers block means.
Writers block is where the author can physically write, they can put one word in front of the other, but they cannot express the idea they’re working with in a satisfactory manner. There’s something stopping them from finding the right words to really get that idea down on paper.
What are the causes of writers block?
There are so many causes of writers block. They can pretty much be summed up as ‘stress’.
To break it down a bit better:
- Depression or anxiety.
- Too much general stress in the writer’s life.
- The writer is exhausted or otherwise unwell.
- The story has run out of steam.
- The writer has no idea where the story’s going.
- The writer has lost the passion for the story.
Ways to tackle writers block.
Depression and anxiety are bitches, they’re something I suffer from. Sometimes everything gets too much and I just can’t open the document to even try and write, I freeze, my throat constricts, it’s horrible.
If they are what’s causing the writers block, then the writer needs to see where they’re coming from. Are they from the project, or something external to that?
If they’re from the project, then that thing needs to be changed or removed. An example of this is when I did a really detailed and logical outline for Witch Infernal. It had a spreadsheet, it was broken down into scene types, it was a big thing. I normally only write a few sentences for key plot points and leave it at that. Every time I glanced at that outline I froze. I just couldn’t deal with it. So I threw out that outline and went back to my normal method, and after a couple of days I was back on a roll.
If it’s from something external, then give yourself the time and energy to face that thing. Let your writing sit and wait while you deal with that external issue. It’ll be there ready when you are. Don’t feel guilty about it, you’ll be a strong, happier, and overall better writer if you give yourself that time.
That advice applies to the too much general stress, and exhausted/ill points too. Deal with the stress, breathe, give yourself a break then return to writing when you’re able. Don’t feel guilty.
If the story has run out of steam, well that happens. I find this is much less likely to happen if I have some idea and vague outline before I start writing. That shows me the scope of the story, Infernal Ties was a novella. There just wasn’t a full novel in there, I tried, and tried, to make it a novel but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s ok, not every idea is meant to be a full novel.
If your writers block is caused by your story having run out of steam, then look at your options. You can wrap it up at whatever length it is, be that a short story, a novella, or whatever. Then make some use of it as it stands, shorter works are great for giving away to newsletter subscribers and things. Or, you can put it aside and focus on a new story that has a bit more length to it. Don’t try and make it something it’s not.
If the writers block is caused by you having no clue where you’re going with the story, step back and look at what you have. Do some worldbuilding and character development. Flesh out the things around the plot to see where it will logically go next. Perhaps that worldbuilding will show you a subplot that is perfect for that point in the plot, maybe the character development will give you better insight into what your character does next. Keep fleshing it out and digging until you crack it.
If your writers block is caused by you having lost your passion for the story, ask yourself why. What went wrong? Is the story more shallow than you’d initially thought? Is it a bit boring and predictable? What exactly went wrong there? Your answer that tells you how to proceed next.
If the story is boring, then it’ll be boring for the reader too. Make it less boring, add in some layers, action, and deepen that plot and development.
It could be that the story just isn’t the one for you right now. Don’t be afraid to throw it out and work on something that you’re really passionate about. Yes, this is a risk, and you can’t fall prey to the shiny story syndrome, you do need to finish something. That’s why you have to be brutally honest with yourself.
There we have it. Writers block is a very real thing and it can make you absolutely miserable. The way around it is to be honest with yourself about what’s causing it, and then tackle that problem. Sometimes, you really do just need a break. Other times, the story isn’t the one you should be writing right now. Others, you need to do some more planning and fleshing out of things. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. It’s all part of the process.
All the best with your writing adventures. And remember, never feel guilty about doing what’s best for you.
If you liked this post check out my Urban Fantasy on Amazon.