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How to deal with a writing block?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Reilith, May 21, 2015.

  1. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    Fellow scribes, I have found myself there again. I can't write. I mean, I can, but my own mind, external problems and life won't seem to let me.
    So I ask of you to give me advice. How do you deal with a block? When all seems crumbling and nothing sounds good enough and you just want to give up or change everything about the story you're writing, even though deep down you know there is nothing wrong with it?
    Please share your experience, it will be much appreciated.
  2. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Just keep going. That is the best advice I can give you, Reilith. Life is never easy but as artists, all we can do is use this gift from God of expressing ourselves through writing by continuing to do so. Take refuge in your story world, pour your heart out through what you are writing.

    Identify what it is that's causing your stagnation. You mention life problems. Can you pick a theme from what you are struggling with and use that to write a story? If it's the story itself that's causing the block, then go back to your main idea. I don't believe in writer's block because I think that the issues we have with our stories can be remedied by studying the premise we're working with. This is mostly the reason why I plot before writing a story out, because I can work out most of the kinks or problems with the premise itself before taking it to paper.

    As for wanting to give up on writing, LOL I feel that way daily. But somehow I make it back to the computer and continue working. I must be a masochist. :D Best of luck to you.
    Svrtnsse, Reilith and BWFoster78 like this.
  3. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    Thank you Chesterama, those are some really nice and kind words.
    When it comes to life problems, those I have for export, and I do usually vent through writing, but I am currently in that place where I don't want to face them, so I want to occupy my mind with something else entirely.
    I think I will try my hardest to go back to the base of the story, let some new ideas pour in and mix it all until I am content. And I do have a map revision (read:do it all from the start again) to do.
    And I do believe all of us artists, no matter the specific craft, are masochists, at least in some way.
    Thank you again :)
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Things that have helped me, at various times, overcome that which I prefer not to mention by name:

    1. Write a few words. Take a break. Write a few words. Take a break. Write a few words. Keep going even though you're getting little done. Eventually, you'll write yourself out of it.

    2. Allow your writing to suck. Yes, what I just wrote isn't worth being printed on toilet paper, but that's okay; that's why God invented editing.

    3. Find something that gives you a deadline that you have to meet. For me, it was an in-life writing group. No matter how little I was getting done, I committed to have one scene ready each time the group met (once every two weeks). At time, my production was that low, but one scene eventually turned to two turned to four turned to ten.

    EDIT 4. Figure out when you write best. I rock in the mornings. Afternoons are like pulling teeth. Night is okay. Mondays are great. Fridays, not so much. If I set my goal to produce 2000 words every Friday afternoon, I'm setting myself up for failure.
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
    Reilith likes this.
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I just want to echo this. I find that once I actually sit down and start writing I will eventually get into it. Sometimes it takes longer than other times, but almost always it gets there, regardless of how unmotivated I am when I start.
    Reilith likes this.
  6. One thing that helps me is dividing up my writing into four stages (I think I'll post something on this process later). The first stage is the brainstorming stage where I get every idea, whether good or crappy, onto a page. The second stage is the planning stage where I plan the steps out. The third stage is the writing stage, where I write. The last stage is the editing stage, where I edit. No stage may interfere with any other stage. Each has its box and role and may not tread into the other stages.

    I find when I get "writers block" I have either not planned/brainstormed properly or my editor is getting in the way. When I find the block descending I look at the stages and see which is lacking or interfering with the writing. I then fix the problem. If I am editing I stop. If my planning or brainstorming was lacking I stop and root out the deficiency. If I am planning in the middle of writing I stop. If I am brainstorming I write down the idea and let it stew and continue with what I have planned. Hope this helps.
    Reilith likes this.
  7. Russ

    Russ Istar

    My only solution is to put my butt in the chair and write.

    The stuff I think is bad is rarely as bad as I thought it was when I read it a week later, and it is better than nothing.
    Reilith and BWFoster78 like this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I'll echo a point BWF made....

    Allow your writing to suck.

    More than likely, it's not that you have an inability to write, but rather, you have fear of not being able to write eloquently.

    That's understandable, but don't allow it to cripple you, and don't lean on it like a crutch or allow it to be an excuse.

    Write something. Anything. One of the great things about writing is that we get to rework and revise as much as we like before other eyes read our work. Given enough effort, we can make ourselves better than we actually are, in a draft.
    Reilith likes this.
  9. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    Thank you all for commenting, it does put me back in the mood slightly, if nothing else.

    I am usually like that too; the hardest part is actually making myself open Word and start typing. The laziness is incredible. But when I force myself, it is usually the best stuff I write (if not under a ton of inspiration).
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    My advice may be difficult, but I think being connecting to the internet is one of the most damaging things to productivity. If you spend a lot of time on the internet, just disconnect it for a while. It's amazing how many ideas will come to you when endless distractions aren't there.
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
    Russ and MineOwnKing like this.
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Somewhat different suggestion from those above:

    Maybe your subconscious is saying that you are writing yourself into a dead end. Maybe look over the earlier material, see if its moving in the right direction.

    Last year, I hit a point with my main WIP where even a couple hundred words a day was a major accomplishment. Went back, looked over the last couple of chapters, and it hit me: my characters were spending a *lot* of time in meetings that basically accomplished nothing. They were in a difficult situation that required action - so several pages of meetings dropped to a few paragraphs and I started focusing on the action aspects.

    I have noticed this same tendency with a couple of my other projects - if I start veering into a dead end, my word count per day plummets.
    Reilith likes this.
  12. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester


    I really have to agree with Philip on this one.

    Being connected online is just as distracting as a real life interaction.

    I find that if I completely tune out the world: family, friends, coworkers, social media, and even the daily news, I can then restart my brain in the vacuum of total isolation.

    Sometimes 10 minutes is all it takes.

    I know that I find moments when inspiration is so propelling that I feel super high from it.

    I also know that some of my best writing has been during the editing phase.

    So, maybe a good cure for the common writer's block is to go back and start editing.

    Sometimes chocolate helps too.
    Reilith likes this.
  13. Sounds like they were in corporate America.
  14. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    When I feel like I'm not getting anything done, I call a friend. It might sound silly, but sometimes talking through my problem is just the right remedy. Talking with a writer friend is often the thing that helps me discover what my problem is.

    One problem I ran into was the ending for my WiP. I asked T.A. Smith about it, even (little shout out, you're my hero) who had never read the book, and he sort of point blank said, "It sounds to me like the reason you can't write this ending is because you don't like it." SO RIGHT!!! That was the problem. He brainstormed with me for an hour or something and we talked about tension, endings, surprise endings, etc. and it was just what I needed, really, to get me feeling alright about dismissing my original weak idea and writing something stronger in.

    Now, I got stuck on the ending again. While I've gone with all the things previously suggested, I ran into a science/ plausibility issue...which will block me harder than about anything else. I just HATE it when I can't verify what I want to do or come up with a tried and true method for something (in this case, an explosion). So...back to my friends, who are infinitely more experienced than me in some interesting fields. Reaver came to my rescue and donated enough time to explain to me how explosives work, how charges are set, and how I can accomplish everything I want to, with 16th century technology. Wow.

    So, for me, it's my friends who un-block my inner writer, who wants to do the work but sometimes falls short of being able to see the idea through.

    If I'm simply not feeling like my writing is "good enough" on a given day, I write it anyways mostly, and promise to edit later. Or, I shut the laptop and do something fun and forget that i'm a writer for an afternoon, while I play with my kids or bake cupcakes. And sometimes I call my writer friends to chit chat while I'm doing house chores or whatever. I find a little tidying clears my head and makes ideas come easier.

    Best wishes.
    T.Allen.Smith, Reilith and Reaver like this.
  15. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    That was pretty close to what I thought, except...

    ...they were 'restricted guests' of the erratic leader of a fantasy city on the brink of chaos, and had excellent reason to think their status would shift to 'slaves' or 'dead' in a few days, tops. Yet, I wrote scenes where they kept having meetings about events that took place months ago on the far side of the world instead of focusing on escape. Some of those long ago and far away events *had* to be discussed - they were central to a couple of the characters motivations - but those were less immediate than escape. So, I pared down those meetings and focused on the escape plot. Then things took off...until NaNoWriMo came along, and so did another project.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    A couple of other thoughts to add to all the good advice already given.

    There are things going on here other than just writing. It's manifesting as writer's block, but the writing isn't (or may not be) the issue. Take time to deal with those other things.

    Do something entirely different. I like to go for walks, of two kinds. One is the strenuous walk, where I'm literally walking off tension. The other is the tranquil walk, near water if I can manage it. Sometimes letting my feet go where they will is a good way to do the same favor for my brain.

    Related is to write something entirely different. Not connected to anything. It's the writing version of the above. No promises, no commitment, just a zen-like activity.

    Here's hoping something in this thread helps.
    Reilith likes this.
  17. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    I definitely agree with what the others are saying here. Tune out distractions and let the writing flow, even if it isn't flowing as strongly or swiftly as you would like. Also, personally I like to surround myself with inspiration in times of writer's block. I will put on an inspiring film on mute, listen to music, or have a favorite novel nearby so that I can pop it open and read a couple of paragraphs. There's a lot of ways to get around it, the hardest part is realizing that there are solutions. Also, don't forget to take a breather. I suffer from severe test anxiety and my psychology professor told me that when I start to feel the anxiety, to just turn the test over and not think about it for a sec. Sometimes, it's best to step away from the writing for just a few minutes to breathe and collect your thoughts. Hope some of this helps :D
  18. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    Or ... you could start with a writing prompt. (Depending on how much your daily total is) after you finish writing a 2 page short story or some poetry or something, (just something to get your mind going) then go back and try it again.

    If there's an issue of plot, I find that taking a run also helps. You can clear your mind of everything else and think of all the ways you can proceed. By the time you finish there should be at least one idea that is worthy of trying.

    If you normally write on a computer, try writing with a pen and paper.

    Take a break and read something that inspires you or something from an author whose style you like.

    Try this chart...

    And I've scoured the internet but couldn't find the link ... but I saw on a blog somewhere that a woman printed out a bunch of questions & prompts to and placed them on sticks in a cup (I added to hers and put them on Popsicle sticks which I keep in an old tea tin). I haven't used them in a very long time since I've started outlining more diligently. But I found that it helped when I was absolutely stuck during Nano. Some of them are downright silly -"personal vendetta against soup" and others are more serious "Kill a minor character", "The phone rings/ they receive a letter ..." , "Add a scent", "Have a (sane) character be convinced they're crazy", "Set a scene in a library / pub / church / cemetery " etc.

    Otherwise reaccess your outline (assuming you're in the middle of a project).
    Reilith likes this.
  19. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    @Caged Maiden - The problem is that I don't have irl writer friends. I do call my best friend when I am stuck, cause he has awesome ideas and helps my mind get to that place where ideas are flowing.

    @TheCatholicCrow - These tiny prompts sound really great! I like writing prompts, but I just never used them in one of my bigger works before, so that could do the trick.


    Everyone, thank you for all these kind words, it really is helpful. I think that I've located the core of my problem, and that is that I am not sure how to fill in the gaps between the main plotline, and how to actually solve the problem in the story that I am presenting. I got too caught up with the secondary romance plot and how to make it work (gay teen mages are even crazier than normal teenagers) that I lost my focus. And there are so many wonderful things I want to explore in that world, not to get stuck on one. Another problem is that I am trying so hard not to suck, so I am forcing myself to write and edit instantly, and that puts up a lot of pressure on me. I am a control-freak, so I can easily get out of the mood if I see that my writing is horrid.
    Anyway, here I have so many ideas, that are all fabulous and I will definitely try some of them to get back on track.

    Thank you all again!
  20. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Piece I'm working on now features a grand climax I have been mentally plotting out for months.

    Night before last, I got to the first part of that climax, wrote three paragraphs, then couldn't remember a bloody thing.

    Spent hours thinking about it yesterday, working it out all over again...and then wrote a two hundred word step by step outline for said climax. One of those deals where certain things have to happen in given sequence.

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