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Writer's block, how do you work through it?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by LWFlouisa, Dec 14, 2017.

  1. LWFlouisa

    LWFlouisa Troubadour

    I tried taking Brandon Sanderson's advice, but unfortunately unlike his sheer talent, I notice a stark difference between when I write when inspired and when I write when uninspired. The latter seems to happen when (insert bored euphemism here) and tiredness there (which is in frequent supply lately do to insomnia.)

    Some days I can only ever manage to write poetry, as I find writing abstract details like exhausting than simply people watching.

    How do you overcome writer's block?
    StepIntoTheRoad likes this.
  2. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    Make bullet points, notes, place holders in brief for what has to happen... then move on to whatever is calling out to be written. I can always go back at another time, when the block has passed.
    Chessie2 and LWFlouisa like this.
  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    Follow Sanderson’s advice. It might seem dull and inferior to your regular writing, but that will be fixed up in revision. Or it might end up on the cutting room floor. So could the beautiful prose you wrote in a flash of inspiration, for that matter.
    StepIntoTheRoad likes this.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Personally, I don't like the term writer's block. It makes it seem like things aren't under a persons control, like it's this mysterious force that materializes and stops a person from writing.

    For me, it's just a matter of being stuck on part of a story and one just needs to think of a way past. I just usually just brainstorm a few ideas and then just try to power through.

    The act of focusing on the story, having it moving in my head, and writing it out is like greasing the wheel and soon the ideas come rolling in. At the very least it stars the process of understanding what I don't want to do.

    Over the years, I've found once I've gained distance from the prose, it is difficult to tell the difference between the stuff I wrote with a flash of inspiration and the stuff I wrote uninspired.

    Of the stuff I do remember as being written while inspired, some is good, some is ok, and some isn't as good as I remember it being. In fact, most of it down right sucks just as bad as uninspired work.

    On the other side of that, of the stuff that I wrote that was uninspired, meant to just keep my momentum going and move the story forward and that I though sucked, it's never as bad as I remember. In fact, a lot of the time it's as good or better than inspired words.

    I think of inspiration like a relationship with a bad girlfriend/boyfriend. It can be bombastic when they're around, but you can't count on them to be there when you need them. So it's better to learn to go about your business without them.

    For me, that was about studying story structure and reading about writing theory. Just basically leaning about how stories can be broken down into parts. Knowing this helps me to zero in on problems. Doesn't make it necessarily any easier to solve, but it allows me to focus on it or work around it until I find a solution.

    Any way my 2cents.
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Ass, chair, type, is how I overcome writer's block.

    I remind myself I take my writing seriously and it is not a game I can pick up and leave at a whim because it means something to me and I hope someday it will make a difference in my bank account and my reader's lives.

    I put my excuses in perspective and remember the essence of what Lee Child once told me about writers block.

    Paraphrasing Lee:

    I think about how somewhere in Minnesota there is some trucker getting up 0n -30 weather to go start up a cold, smelly, diesel truck with numb, painful fingers to deliver products that he can't afford. Despite that he doesn't allow himself the luxury of staying in his warm bed with "trucker's block."

    Somewhere there is a nurse starting a shift where she has to clean up puke and wipe feces off of tragically disabled people for less than a living wage. She doesn't get to sit around and wait for the nursing muse to show up and inspire her.

    Heather Graham likes to say that what keeps her from getting writers block is the IRS.

    You need to decide what your writing means for you. If it is a pastime, hobby, or game, treat it like that. Take it or leave it. If it is something more than that for you...treat it like that. Give it the respect and effort it warrants for you.

    Edit: If you have an underlying issue like insomnia, you don't have a writers block problem, you have insomnia. Treat the insomnia effectively first.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm with Penpilot on this one. I dislike the term because it masks a whole range of difficulties with writing.

    We can probably all agree that if I have not written a word for a month, that's writer's block (let's leave laziness out of this, ok?). How about for a week? A day? An hour? How about if I wrote a single sentence in [name your interval]?

    You see? Already writer's block starts to look pretty fuzzy. Now, is it writer's block if I write poetry instead of working on my novel? How about if I just journal? How about if I write technical docs? How about if it's just jibber-jabber?

    Then there's the writer himself. Am I blocked if I don't even try? How about if I just put butt in chair but I hate pretty much every word? What about writing comments, notes, backstory, or simply whining in the margins during at edit?

    For that matter, how come I never hear about editor's block?

    Finally, there's my internal attitude. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I'm tired of *this story*. Or this character. Or this scene. Maybe I desperately want to write the next scene, or finish one, but I can't figure out how. Or I've written my story into a corner and can't see the way out.

    There are so many ways to come to a bone-grinding halt, the phrase "writer's block" feels downright insipid when put up next to them.

    With so many different causes and manifestations, it's no wonder there's no single answer to the question. For me, sometimes the answer is to keep trying. Sometimes it's walk away. Sometimes it's try something else. Sometimes it's come here and plead for advice. Sometimes it's to sink into the slough of despond and despair. And sometimes, none of them work.
  7. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    When I reach a point where I don't know exactly what I want to write next, I choose something and write it. If I decide I don't like it, and have other options in mind, I try one of them. I keep writing out the different options until I find one I like and decide to keep it. So what if I throw away words? If I exhaust the options I can think of at the moment, I'll leave what I have and go on to the next scene. Sometimes a later scene will help decide the issue of the present. I'm not afraid to change something I wrote before if I think of something better. If something doesn't feel quite right, my mind will be working that scene even when I'm not sitting in the chair to write.
    Thoras and StepIntoTheRoad like this.
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    We actually wrote a blog post about this a couple months ago.

    Summiting Mount Writers’ Block - A. E. Lowan

    Personally, I'm struggling with #6, which sucks, but will eventually pass. Given your description of feeling exhausted, it's worth taking into consideration.
  9. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Sometimes I'll take a day off. Most days I force myself to write something. It really depends what's going on in my life.
  10. StepIntoTheRoad

    StepIntoTheRoad Dreamer

    The most terifying part of writing anything to me is putting something onto a blank page. So to fix that I put something on there. In fact I put anything on there. That fixes my first problem. Usually I'll start with the highest piece of the story, maybe tell it in the most broad terms and leave out most of the details. It doesn't matter if the character has different hair color between scenes, I can fix it in post.

    Another issue I run into is not liking the idea I have. I'll write a sentance then wonder what my character will do next. I'm stuck there debating if she is going to do what's in my head or some future action that hasn't popped up. The way I typically decided to deal with this is by putting down whatever is in my head, then I follow it with a quick silly comment like ("or maybe not idk") and then go on from there. This way if I'm rereading it later I invite my future-self to have a better idea. However, 9 times out of ten I'm actually pretty happy with the first action I come up with and I am happy with where the story flows from there.

    Also, I did the math between the number of words I write in an hour of writing and the number of words I could type in an hour at my max typing speed. I found out that I type half my max volume when actively writing. Which proves to me that at least half of writing is sitting in the chair thinking in silence waiting to capture the next word that comes to my mind.
  11. Peat

    Peat Sage

    Neil Gaiman's cure is to write a sonnet. Short, technically prescriptive writing.

    Mine varies.

    Sometimes I just roll with it. Almost everyone needs a holiday sometimes. Sometimes its better to just do other things and let the story ferment in your head.

    Sometimes I force myself to write and hope to slowly crawl my way out of it that way. Sometimes it works too. Yes, the writing rarely looks good at first, but when you come to editing, its always surprising which writing looks good and which gets cut.

    My more considered approach these days however is:
    a) Talk to other writers and start drawing on their enthusiasm. Being in a team atmosphere for NaNoWriMo broke a big writers block for me recently. Constantly having people talking to me about writing and making me think of things is fantastic for wanting to write/having something to write.

    b) Physical exercise. While the body is busy, the mind wanders, and that gives me a chance to start figuring things out. Which is crucial, because I don't write well when I'm figuring things out at the same time. I like to write the scene in my head first, then transfer it to paper. Or plot it out quickly on paper, or whatever. This is also why I now try to end writing sessions with a few bullet points about what I'm going to write next

    c) Write something simple. Write a book review, or a blog post, or some flash fiction. Or a sonnet. If I'm out of form as a sportsman, I simplify my game and rebuild my confidence at doing the simple things. Same for writing. Go back to basics, get the basics solid, and build your way back up again.

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