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My writer's block is driving me crazy!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by srebak, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    Like the title says, my writer's block is killing me. I thought it was going away but it came back. It's a terrible case of it too, i have one idea that drives me forward, but i see the flaw in it and that pulls me back, i'm going nuts here!
  2. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Scribe

    Step away and do something else! I guess you have tried that. But the more you push the more your head will act like a spoilt teen.

    If what you are writing takes you out of your comfort zone, then write something that's in it. Write what you know but not the subject of your book. Something out of the blue or flick through a magazine and choose a pic to write about! You may need to ease yourself back into it.

    Iv tried these methods and they work for me at different times. I sew, as in I'm a tailoress so I can throw myself into a project and shut everything else out. After a while I do find myself hankering for my notebooks.

    Hope I have helped a little.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Mine too. But mine isn't from lack of ideas, or even what to do. Mine is because I've spent so much time editing, I am having a hard time writing again. I wrote about 1k words yesterday and I just couldn't stop editing as I went (or it might have been 3k words). I feel you. It's rough. My advice is to find little ways to knock out the obstacles.

    Don't know how to get your characters from London to Paris? Don't worry about it, write the scene of them in Paris you KNOW you want to do, and leave the filling-in for later.

    Not sure your character's melancholy would be good for his next scene, but having him get rapidly better after the death of his best friend? Write it how you see the scene and justify his quick mood-change later, after the story's written.

    It's okay to not have a cohesive, perfect first draft. I often have schizophrenic characters or un-described physical features, or worlds that might as well be a smoke screen of gray nothingness, because those details often come to me at editing time, when I can fully devote my mind to strengthening a single aspect, over making everything perfect the first time.

    And you know what? It works. Take the inspiration you have by the horns and give it hell. Write those parts you feel really strongly about and the rest will come as it comes. At least that way, you're riding high enough to hopefully finish the project, and later on you can decide whether that trip from London to Paris even needs explaining. Perhaps it just needs an overview, something like:

    See, you can sum up a trip or some other "boring" parts with one-paragraph summaries that recap them, and then you just begin in the new scene, the one that really inspires you.

    Hope that helps.
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    You might not like to hear this, but you just need to make a choice.

    Sit down and write something, anything, or don't. It's fear that's stopping you. Fear of not being able to relay the story the way you wish. Fear of not knowing what will happen, or how you'll resolve some foreseen issue (which might not exist any longer by the time you get there). Fear of not living up to authors you admire. Whatever it is, its all fear...nothing more.

    Face the fear and work past it, or let the fear keep you from ever achieving your goal. Make a choice to write. Make a choice not to write. Whatever you decide, your making a choice regardless. I'd rather make a choice that puts me in pursuit of my goals.

    "People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."
    -Anna Quindlen
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
    Philip Overby and Penpilot like this.
  5. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I agree with T. Allen. Just sit down and write. Make it a habit to write even just 20 mins each day for now, or set up a writing schedule that allows you to make a habit of it. Get into the writing groove and it will become easier. Just write. Good luck.
  6. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    I see a difference between writer's block and being stuck at a point in your story. There will always be points in your writing where you don't know or are unsure about. Some section of narrative or dialogue will not come to you right away. This is common and is something that passes quickly. You can even skip the section and move on to other parts of the story and come back when you know what you want to say.

    For me writer's block is not knowing where the story is going. Having no idea what you want to happen past what you have already written. This is a result of not having a plan for the story. Perhaps it was something that came as a flash idea or dream and the person ran with it. But because no extra thought was put into the planning they don't know where to go next. If a person knows where they want the characters to be at the end both mentally and physically, then the likelihood of writer's block is lessened.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I kind of don't believe in writers block. It's not that one can't write. The fact that you wrote a post means you're not blocked from writing. You're just stuck on your story.

    For me, I just push through. Choose a direction to go with your story and write. It may be the wrong direction, but at least then I'll eliminate one of the directions that doesn't work. Sometimes the first step to finding the right path is to start exploring the wrong paths. Eventually, enough of the wrong paths get eliminated so I can see the right one. Or I find that what I thought was a wrong path is really the right one.

    There's a flaw in your story? Make a note to fix that in editing and keep going. Sometimes that flaw resolves itself the further into the story you go. Sometimes arriving at point Z inspires a solution to the problem.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I agree with the others. You're afraid. For me it was fear that I would be wasting my time. Writing to a dead end. I dealt with it by doing it. I wasted huge amounts of time.

    Then I discovered it wasn't wasted. It was necessary. Filed under "Won't Make THAT Mistake Again". I've got whole chapters for my novel that I've thrown out.
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  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I also agree with what others have said. Especially about fear. I kind of wish writer's block wasn't a term. Instead it should be plainly called fear because that's what it is. Fear of what you write won't be good or it won't make sense or someone won't like it or that the wrong people will like it or something. There's nothing that can be really done about fear other than to confront it head on.

    However, one huge thing separates writing fear and other forms of fear. If you screw up at work for example, you may be afraid to lose your job. Or if someone threatens you, you may be afraid for your life. Fear in writing is something that can always be fixed. Over and over and over. For example, if I start a story, I may have several things that concern me:

    After Melissa cut her hair with the knife, she squeezed her head into the helmet. One way or another she was going to kill this *[email protected]# dragon.

    Now there are several things I may be fearful of:

    1. I'm writing a female character, but I want her to be perceived as strong. Does cutting her hair make her more like a man? Will that bother different readers? Maybe Melissa should just tie her hair up. That might be better. So OK, that's Fear #1.
    2. Does the wording seem clunky? Maybe I could streamline it more. I don't want readers to think my prose is weak. Perhaps I could edit that first sentence.
    3. There's a dragon in the story. Will I attract readers who like dragons or disappoint them? Will they like what I come up with as far as the dragon? I want him to be a more bestial type, but some people like more intelligent dragons. I don't want to turn them off as readers. What should I do in this regard?
    4. I used an expletive. Will readers that don't like cursing not like my book? Would they prefer my characters to talk more eloquently?
    5. I suspect that there may be a fair amount of violence in this book. Does that bother me? Will this bother my readers? Should I tone it down to make it more accessible or stick with my gut?

    As you can see, this can go on and on. And with only two sentences. Most people call this the "Inner Editor." This is one of the hardest things to learn how to tame. The Inner Editor is going to pick apart everything you write no matter what. The Inner Editor is a curse of writers who want everything to come out golden. Maybe that works for a small percentage of writers. But for most, it's going to come out a little sloppy.

    If it really bothers you to write through the crap, so to speak, then just do a session for 30 minutes, an hour, whatever. At the end of your session, go back and look at what you wrote. If you can think of ways to improve it, jot down some notes. If it completely sucks and you hate everything about it, do the session again (later if you must) and see what turns out that time. I guarantee you if you do these sessions, you'll eventually stumble across something that sparks your interest. And the fear will melt away because enthusiasm and passion are stronger than fear. It's like anti-fear.

    So write things over and over until you come across something you can get excited about. And continue to make that thing exciting every day you work on it. When you're finished, then you can go about the grim task of hating it. That's a normal process. I believe it's called "editing." :)

    Anyway, good luck. Kill the fear.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  10. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    What if your writing does nothing but confirm your fears? Not about content or plot issues or anything fixable with a redraft, but just that your writing style is dull and awful? And leaves you wondering whether the world really needs another shitty manuscript like a drop in a water treatment plant.

    Trying to get inspired through reading or music just makes that feeling worse, really. Is there any solution to this other than to take a break and wait for (probably blinding) optimism to come around again?
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I can only say from personal experience, but I felt my style was dull and awful when I first started. It took years and years of writing stuff I knew wasn't what I wanted to write, but I did it anyway because I had that desire to write. I just hoped that one day I would get to a point in which I felt happy with my skills. And to be honest, this didn't happen until I started completing stuff and sharing it. A lot (seriously A LOT) of people hated my writing. But the few that seemed to "get" what I was aiming for encouraged me and told me to keep at it. To keep reading and keep writing and one day I'd get there. Maybe that doesn't happen for everyone as soon as they'd like. Writing is a patient person's game. You have to be willing to put in the time, work through the crap, and keep your nose to the grind or you'll plateau and never be happy with what you're putting out.

    For me the solution was really to think, "What do I want to read?" And think this is a common question for writers especially when they start out. What kind of fiction makes you excited? Makes you happy? Sometimes makes you sad even? This is all you can aim for. And start sharing your work. What you think might be dull and boring might be really interesting to other people.

    Short version: complete stuff and share it. Most writers never reach their ideal style until years and years of practice and learning what they and their audience like. To me a boring completed story is leagues better than an exciting two or three lines of prose.

    AND...sometimes people aren't cut out for a certain kind of medium. Maybe they're better suited to comics or poetry and something else. Dabbling in many different things is the way to enlightenment, I believe.

    Edit: Also, Nimue, I read your information about the RPG you're running on the forum a while back. I thought it sounded pretty cool. And there seem to be a fair number of people playing it. So obviously you are not dull. :)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
  12. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    But that's part of the problem--everything I've shared, I've later regretted, because of course it wasn't very good in hindsight. My rp writing is lazy and derivative, but it's also the only writing I can seem to do regularly.

    I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I don't think I'll ever stop writing entirely, if only because I wouldn't know what to do with myself, but there's a point where I have to wonder if it's only ever been self-indulgent, rather than in the service of an end product that other people would enjoy. It just isn't objectively there.
  13. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    Everyone regrets stuff they share afterwards and cringe at stories they wrote early on. It's understandable. I have a couple of stories floating around the internet that I'm not proud of. That's just part of the process. Everything is bad in hindsight almost. You can ask almost any writer what they think of their own writing and they'll mostly say the same thing.

    To be honest, if you don't feel like you want to publish anything in the future, it's perfectly fine to write for yourself and a small group of people. You may find more happiness without the added pressure of people viewing work you're not happy with. I think more and more writers are becoming happy with their niche and not necessarily becoming a blockbuster author.

    The key thing is figure out if this is what you really want to do. If it bothers you when you don't write and it makes you anxious, then you should be writing as much as possible. If it gives you more problems than it's worth, then maybe it's better to scale back and do it in a way that makes you comfortable.
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    A friend of mine just posted the following quote from an interview with Allen Williams:

    This guy's working on computer graphics of some kind, but I still feel the principle applies to pretty much any kind of art.

    I'm not sure how encouraging it is, especially if you've been at it for a long time and feel like you're not going anywhere, but it rings true to me. Trying to be awesome right off the bat can be a bit stifling and you may be too hard on yourself.

    A while back I had a look through some of my old shorts from when I started writing a few years back. Sure, they're embarrassingly bad - cringeworthy really - but they also show how far I've come technically. I may not be as good as I'd like to think I am, but I've definitely improved a lot since back then, and that's encouraging.
  15. For me getting past the fear of writing takes two steps:

    1) Sitting my butt in my chair and placing my hands on the keyboard

    2) Realizing that everything I write can be fixed in post.

    For one, everyone else here has done a great job on this so I'll leave that in more capable hands.

    Now, what I mean by everything can be fixed in post is that when I get a first draft done that is not the end of my writing. That's just a completion of job/goal #1. Next comes all the various edits, revisions, rethinkings, and re-imaginings to help make the story better. For example I'm working on a third draft of a novel. I realized that a scene is logically out of place in the chapter. It needs to be at the end of the chapter not the beginning. That's a pretty big change, but I fixed it in post.

    For another example I was writing Book # 3, I call it The Fallen, and for a while I had "writer's block." I wasn't sure where to go with the story. I knew I needed him to kill a person in luke-warm blood whom the MC thought was long dead (it had been about a year or so after a person betrayed his family, which ended up with their deaths; so angry but not exactly in the heat of the moment). I just had no idea how to get him there. I agonized over it for days and after nothing coming up in the abstract I just sat down and wrote. Eventually I came up with a trial, stake out, and killing story line. It's bare bones at this point, but I think I can flesh it out for it to make more cohesive sense and make it come across as genuine. I can fix it in post.

    So, just remember to sit down and write. Also know that even if it is crap you can clean it up in later revisions.
  16. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    Perhaps its time to take stock of the story you have right now. Read it through, maybe something somewhere in it has deviated from your original vision, or plan. When I get stuck, I often find the answer of where to go forward comes from where the characters have already been. Or I find something important I've managed to leave out.

    While you're reading, draw out a scene map, (I do mine on excel) the chapters, scenes and key events that have taken place, and plot what still needs to take place before the end. (You don't need to go into detail, just a sentence or two). Check them against your timeline. Focus around the key events, and the rest should come a little easier.
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    One of the key things I always keep in mind is no matter what your skill level is at the moment, you can always get better. It just takes work and study. I've written and shared, unfortunately, some pretty bad things with friends, who to this day I know can't bring themselves to tell me they're crap.

    If you want to talk about fear, how about this. My first ever college writing course I got to be the first person of the semester to read their piece to the whole class. Before that, I had never really shared any of my writing with anyone let alone read it to a whole class room full of strangers. It was definitely a fifty shades of brown moment.

    But I got through the course. Learn a bunch of things about writing and myself. And when I look back at the writing I did for that class, most of it was mediocre at best, juvenile and pointless at worst.

    To be good at anything you have to work at it. Writing is no exception. If you think about it, Michael Jordan was once pretty crappy at basketball. But he worked at it, a lot, and got better just like anyone at the top of their field. Nothing was just handed to him, and I doubt everything came naturally. Same applies to (insert awesome author here). They kept writing crap until they didn't. They were a crappy writer until they weren't.

    Writing isn't a sprint. It's a marathon.

    And to give you an idea of the amount of work I put into my writing. Here's a picture of a handfull of the books I've read on writing. I've read each at least twice. There are plenty more not shown and even more videos I've watched.

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  18. Velka

    Velka Sage

    I find all my 'writer's block' is really 'writer's frustration'.

    Creative dissonance is my biggest problem at the moment. I adore Hemingway, but I could never write like him. I eschew economy and clarity in favour sprawling prose that uses metaphor and simile and poetry. I love phrases that curl in lazy affection around my senses. I love invoking images through beats of assonance, consonance, and alliteration. My prose isn't purple, it's resplendent violet-hued locution. I also acknowledge that there are very few people who enjoy reading it.

    For example, in my PaTW entry, I used the sentence "The ice bright terror of being born.". T.A.S commented that he wasn't sure what it meant. In retrospect, I can understand, but to me, there is a tonne of meaning in it. I imagine being born is a very surreal (and potentially traumatic) experience; one moment you're in a dark and warm place that has one smell, the consistency of your mother's heartbeat, enveloped in amniotic fluid - the next you're in a bright, cold, and loud place experiencing things you never have (being touched, stretching out your limbs fully, breathing air, etc.). If you've ever lived or visited a cold, snowy place, you've probably experienced being assaulted by the cold air and the blinding glare of sun reflecting off ice/snow when you walk out the door. That was the correlation I injected into it. Does understanding that line require packing a bag and hitching a ride on my crazy train? Indeed. Hence my creative dissonance. I live too much inside my own head.

    So, where does that leave me? I'm not sure. Each chapter of my WIP eventually has two versions: one that I write in the style that comes naturally to me full of floofy, prancing words, and one I sanitize and scrub. The first one I write for me, the second I edit into something more palatable for others.

    Advice is rife with "write the story you want to read", and I truly believe my story is something others would enjoy, but the whole "write it in a way other people would like it" is what sends me into a creative depression.
  19. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    If you're writing to share with others, I'm not sure if this is how I would personally phrase it. For me it's "write in a way that other people clearly understand it." Writing is communication. The more clear the message, the more powerfully it will be heard and felt.

    Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of room for style, but there's a fine line if crossed where style interferes with clarity and immersion. When that happens, it can be like being trapped in a conversation with a long winded person who takes 15 minutes to just say hello. After first minute they start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher, wah-wah wah-wah wah-wah.

    Since we're on the subject of audience, it's also about who you're targeting and what expectations they carry. In experimental writing there's plenty of room for word play and an audience that loves it. Compare that to some people who just want the story and don't really care about the words that convey it as long as they do the job.

    What I mean is you don't serve a Big Mac at a fine dinning restaurant, because that's not what people came for, and it's not what they expected. On the flip side of that, you don't serve a $100 kobe steak at McDonalds for the same reason.
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