Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Do You Deal With Writer's Block?

Writer's block is a clever foe. It sneaks up on writers and gets in their heads. It creates a wall that feels like it can't be climbed over nor smashed through.

Do you get writer's block? How do you deal with it? What's the best strategy for beating it?






238 comments:

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Anna said...

fortunately it doesn't happen often, but when it hits... oh man! watching good football or great tennis while drinking copious cups of tea...

coupled with big deep breaths...

in one manuscript I kept killing people off, unable to do much else... bad, BAD idea!

I did finish that book however, which I suppose is saying something.

Bob said...

Always have something else to turn to (short story, article, another novel). Takes the mind off the problem.
Going for a drive works too (at least for me!)

Lady Glamis said...

I wrote a post about something I like to call Isuckitis

I get rid of it mostly by writing. Just. Keep. Writing. No matter what.

Taylor K. said...

I ignore it. If you pretend it doesn't exist it can't hurt you.

Ow! The pain!

Seriously though, I usually just write crap. Lot's of crap I know is crap until the good stuff finally decides to reemerge. Reading also helps, for it allows me to be a hack for a short time (hack writing also being crap).

Steph said...

You fight writer's block by not believing it exists. Don't use it as an excuse. You know that your writing energy is just like your own body's energy. Some days you have more than others. When your writing energy is low, combat it by not forcing yourself to write but by restoring your energy through reading the words of other writers you respect, listening to music, looking at art the relates to your work, eating good food, and just thinking. Having thinking and brainstorming time is essential. All of these things will revive you and help inspire your words and you to write them.

slcard said...

I never get writer's block. I could write drivel infinitely.

Michell Plested said...

I have a couple tricks I use if I ever feel Writer's Block creeping up on me. The first thing I do is perform a brain dump on the current work in progress. Usually that kick starts the creative juices.

If the braindump doesn't work I switch projects. It could be a pure writing project or it might be something that involves writing but uses other mediums as well. Podcasting is one example of this.

Anonymous said...

Uhhhh, yeah, I had this great antidote, but, well . . . I seem to . . .

jo said...

You know, I've recently pushed my way through a bout of writer's block.

When I'm trying to start something new, my favorite way to get inspiration is to listen to some classic rock and read through posts on onesentence.org.

When I'm stuck in the middle of a project, (like just recently) I'll just go write a different scene. I like to make notecards with random scenes on them and I just choose one out of the pile. Then I'll later go back to the scene I was stuck on.

Lein Shory said...

Read or watch something imaginative.

Take a break and put it out of mind.

Writing can be hard work (as John Ciardi said, "It's not easy; it's better than easy; it's joyously difficult") but when the element of play is lost, I can't go on until I get it back.

RW said...

You have to give yourself permission to write badly--to see it as necessary even to get where you're going. I think the block comes from expectations--to write well, according to the rules, like someone you admire, like the vision of a perfect book you have in your mind. The only expectation you should have is to just add sentences. No matter what, add sentences, even if it's gibberish about having writer's block. If you give yourself permission to do that, you're less likely to ever need it. And if you do, that's part of the territory.

Tiffany Schmidt said...

I agree with Bob, working on a different project works for me, especially if it’s something in a different genre.
Also getting out of my writing-space and doing some real-world-ly things help. I find that when I’m in a situation where I can’t write, inspiration strikes. This occurs most often when I go for a head-clearing run. My writing and pace are improved by eagerness to get home and get back to work.

Tracy said...

I don't get writer's block so much as 'writer's lazy' (my own term, patent pending). Sure, I get a bit stuck now and again, but if I just write around the problem, the solution often comes on its own in short order. The only time I'm blocked is when I just leave it altogether (not to be confused with taking time to ponder the story, which to me is something entirely different). When I let myself get frustrated and quit, it always seems to take me longer to get back to it. I'm pretty sure that the only cure - for me - is to write. I can always go back and edit later.

ella144 said...

Writer's block remedies: reading an author I admire (Austin, Bronte, Laurie King), watching a good movie,

pulling out another writing idea and working on it, or

putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and just typing words until the thoughts start flowing again.

abc said...

Can I do interpretive dance for this too? You bet!

Also, music. Especially that stuff I have listened to in awhile. (Tom Jones! Warren Zevon!)

Sitting in coffeehouses and people watching (on the sly).

Creating something else is always helpful. Like a new dish I haven't cooked, or cookies I haven't baked before, or experimenting with flower arranging. Ok, I never do flower arranging.

Crying works for everything.

Here is what I really do: watch television and eat Ben n Jerry's. Have you tried the cinnamon roll batter flavor? AWESOME.

writermomof5 said...

I believe there are different types of writer's block. With one type your writer's mind reacts like my muscles do when I just don't want to work out. It's stiff and unyielding, clumsy. They key here is to just start writing, you'll loosen up.

The second kind is the 'Where do I go from here?' blockage. This one is more tricky and I think it's best conquered if you come at it from the side. A direct attack actually strengthens it. I'm sure there is a really great analogy that's just not coming to mind. ; ) Put your subconscious on auto-pilot and do something else. For me, driving, walking or some kind of motion works. Sooner or later, the ideas just filter into my consciousness and I race to jot it/them down.

Emma Newman said...

I give myself total permission to write absolute rubbish and then bundle my inner critic into a dark cupboard. After locking the cupboard door I reassure myself that no other living soul will see what I write until I am happy with it. With a large cup of tea beside me (very important), I force myself to start writing, doing my best to ignore my inner critic's screams and pounding on the door. Hmm, that makes me sound insane, but it works.

Anonymous said...

I simply refuse to acknowledge it. I write. Something. Anything. The exercise becomes my 'liquid plumber' and helps the 'blockage' break free letting the words flow.

Marilyn Peake said...

A month or so ago, I experienced writer’s block for the first time in years, and it scared the hell out of me. I decided to take a break from working on my novel. Took about a week off, stayed away from my desk most of that time, got physical exercise, went skiing for the first time, read books, watched movies, wrote some flash fiction pieces. Came back refreshed, and the entire plot of the novel suddenly seemed to unfold in front of my eyes. I’ve been on a roll ever since, and suddenly realized this morning that I’ll probably complete the first draft of my novel about five weeks from now.

Samantha Tonge said...

Write a sex scene. Works every time for me:)

Julie Weathers said...

1. Think about something that poses a problem in WIP or the last scene that worked and then forget about it. Put it aside and work on the other project. I always have at least two projects simmering. Before you know it, your mind has figured out the hurdle and you can go back to main.

2. Listen to Celtic music or, for me, certain songs from LOTR movies. Music inspires scenes and mood.

3. Think about WIP and take a nap.

4. Write out a scene, longhand, from a writer you admire. Revel in the words and the scene. It's usually enough to unstick the brain.

5. Just write. I might write five pages and only one paragraph sticks, but it cleared the log jam.

allegory19 said...

I follow a scene outline when I write, so it's not really a problem. I have each scene outlined down to the characters, POV, outcome, even bits of dialogue - so I really just have to put the pieces together.

However, sometimes I just don't feel like writing a scene - so I skip ahead to one that I want to write. It's not writer's block - it's just me being lazy.

Samantha Tonge said...

In my experience, there are two things that will work for you.

Either

1) take a break for a few days or

2) just write your way through it, even if the result is rubbish - you can always rewrite it.

Hamish MacDonald said...

I remind myself there's no such thing as Writer's Block.

"Writer's Block" is always a symptom of having your head in the wrong place - thinking about product when you should be thinking about process.

Product thinking goes like this:
- "What will people think?"
- "Will this sell?"
- "Is it good enough"

Process thinking is more like this:
- "What do I think?"
- "What's the thought behind this that just wants to burst out?"
- "What imaginary moment/place/person got me excited about telling this story?"

We can always write. The hard thing is all the not-writing we do, that pointless cogitation, worry, and preoccupation with things we have no control over -- like others' reactions. Any time we recognise that we're doing this, we have the opportunity to do something more useful.

If we entertain ourselves first, everything else just follows. People will like it or not, it will sell or not, but those are considerations for later (unless you're in the business of reverse-engineering bestsellers -- which we're often told to do, but... ick!).

MrTact said...

The way to deal with "writer's block" is to write.

I like Philip Pullman's response on the matter: "Plumbers don't get plumber's block, and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?"

Steve Axelrod said...

Paul Simon once remarked that if you experience 'writer's block' it isn't because you have nothing to say, but rather because what you do have to say is so significant and scary that you're hiding from it. Face it down! Then the words will spill out.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for anon..not registered yet...love lurking here!

I tackle this by writing in my head if that makes sense. I 'see' in my mind's eye the character's potential twists and turns. I let these ideas bake, simmer, forment, whatever they need to do, before going back to actual writing.

Joanne

Sandra G. said...

Writer Block - ugh.

Sometimes I think it's just an excuse for "I really don't feel like writing now" vs "I'm unable to be creative right now as my brain has shut off"

If my own brain is suffering a momentary lapse of creativity then I switch gears and do something else - a change is as good as a break.

Mercy Loomis said...

I also believe that there are several different kinds of writer's block, and so they have different solutions. A lot of times it's the "I really don't feel like writing right now" block, which I get past simply by dint of refusing to leave my desk until I reach my daily word count quota. (This is harder during revision, no clear-cut word counts.)

If I just don't know what's going to happen next, a lot of times I'll walk over to the stationary bike and start pedaling. I can think about my plot problem or I can let my mind wander, but when my legs get tired I have to go back and write something.

Sometimes I'll switch projects, if deadlines allow. I've found that switching gears, especially switching voices, will loosen things up.

For the rare times where I really truly feel stuck (which honestly is when I really truly can't stand to think about my project or I will burn it in the backyard, I'm so sick of it) then I usually go run errands. I get out of the house, or I cook something. I play Rock Band 2 and sing. I garden. (Okay, I pull weeds.) I give myself a day off, with the caveat that the next day will be spent entirely at the keyboard, even if all I get done is 1000 words.

I've also had good luck with denying myself things until i reach a certain goal. For example, there is a book sitting on my shelf waiting for when I have submitted my novel. (I'm close enough to being done that this actually works.) I really want to read it as it is research for my next novel, but I have to wait until I'm done with this one. Or I won't let myself read any fiction until I have achieved X goal.

Sasha said...

Short term:

Drink too much coffee.
Blast Nine Inch Nails or rap.
Stay seated until I've written my word goal for the day.

Long term:

Unreasonable goals so that I always feel as though I'm falling behind. (So that every moment of writing time becomes precious).

Write at least two projects at once, and keep another few on the back-burner. (So there's no chance of getting sick of any particular project).

Neil said...

Personally I don't get writer's block, exactly. Instead I get long periods where I just can't get it right. I keep going, I keep going, I keep going, and I hate it all, it's shit, it's rubbish. And so I back away, reduce my writing hours, and think on it. 95% of my writing is done in-head, away from the flickering screen. I distract myself with films, fresh air, music, socialising, and then I go back and give it another go. Above all though I echo what many others have said: just keep going. Do not stop. It's like bullfighting: you have to know when to back away and when to attack. But don't turn your back completely or it's all over.

Mira said...

I cave.

I went 5 years without writing a thing because someone didn't like a play I had written. This is despite the fact, that I don't write plays very well and I knew it.

I'm nuts. I am so unbelievably senstive it drives me crazy.

Thank god I have a pounding need to write. It pounds at me and says to me: write, write, write. Write, write, write. Finally, I give up and start writing. Even though it can take 5 years.

Since I know I'm so sensitive, I've started to work around it. I've developed a very supportive group of writer friends, both on-line and in person. They tell me I'm wonderful and that I should write. I don't care if they're lying. Lie away. Let they lie through their teeth. It's what I need to hear.

I'll get the critique on the 3rd draft. On the first draft, just tell me to keep going.

I know people say you have to be tough for the business of writing. Maybe that's true. But I'm not in the business of writing. I'm in the 'business' of trying to express myself creatively, and I'm soft as pudding, and as mushy as jello.

Might as well admit it.

Sheila said...

Was it Hemingway who said you should stop writing when you're going good, that way you are always anxious to get back to writing?

I don't know that I get writer's block so much as a lack of motivation. And I'm easily distracted. That's why I'm here! Did you guys see the video link on Moonrat's blog? Or how about the . . .

See? And my WIP is right there, behind this window.

Deborah K. White said...

I don't get writer's block often. When it happens, it's always an indication that my subconcious knows there's something wrong with where I'm headed with my writing. I sit down for a bit and carefully think it through--are any of my characters acting out of character? are they headed in the wrong direction? or what?

Once I have that figured out, the block is gone.

Liz Wolfe said...

Writer's block usually means that I've taken a wrong turn with the book. The fix is to read through what I've written and see were I went off the track. another version of this is where I don't know where I want to go with something. That happens when I haven't outlined. I deal with it by figuring out what's wrong.

Brian said...

I just write like a stupid song or I'll go to Best Buy and ask inane questions about a computer program or camcorder I have no intention of buying.

Anything to amuse myself usually gets me back on track. That or exercise.

Heather said...

Change of environment usually works for me. I'll either take my laptop to a new location or start writing out the scenes longhand. For some reason, getting away from the computer and putting pen on paper really helps me.

Abby said...

For me, if I just take a step back I'll realize the reason I'm stuck is because I'm going in the wrong direction. I usually end up scrapping several pages when this happens, but it always gets me back on track.

Skipping ahead helps too. One of my favorite scenes in my novel was conceived about three weeks after I skipped it.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of turning off the perfectionist part of my brain and allowing myself to just write freely. I've been pleasantly surprised by what I can produce when I'm not in hypercritical mode.

Mira said...

Oh, I'd like to add one thing. In his book, Stephen King says that he writes as fast as possible. He writes fast so the critical voices in his head can't catch him and make him stop writing.

I'm not a fan of that book, but that was one thing I took from it that was really valuable.

Greerio said...

Write anyway. If it's terrible, at least you practiced.

MadTheodore said...

It's like the monster under my bed. I don't believe in it, so it can't get me. Getting stuck just means you haven't thought things through, or you're trying to make a character do something they wouldn't do.

150 said...

I don't really get blocked. You just muscle through. Sometimes I find I've taken things down a totally wrong direction and I have to backtrack...but that's not writer's block, that's brainstorming the hard way.

Jean said...

I've never had it. If I don't know where to go with a story, I go for a walk and think of about 20 different ways I could go forward. By the end of about 10 minutes of walking, I'm running back home for my notepad. Obviosuly, I've never had 'severe' or true writer's block.

Cindy said...

Nope, don't believe in writer's block. I believe in laziness, of uncertainty, of lack of inspiration for a particular project. But writer's block in general? No, just keep writing. Write something, anything, and don't take long breaks from writing your novel or it will be harder and harder to get back into it!

PurpleClover said...

I blog. :) I've been blogging a lot lately.

But if all else fails and my story is going NOWHERE, I force myself to write at least 500 words...I'll sit on it and then I can always erase if I dont like it.

So I guess my antidote to writer's block is to write. It may be mediocre or crappy but at least I'm getting the juices flowin'.

David Russell Mosley said...

If I'm not sure way to go with a story or what to do next and I find myself in times of trouble-I take a break.

I know I won't be published tomorrow, because even without writer's block I won't finish my WiP tomorrow. I have time, and sometimes, sometimes mind, you need a break.

Maybe my age allows me this frame of mind. Under normal circumstances I won't die during this comdkhfasfhjkd (just kidding) comment. I have time to finish, time to work and rework.

I either take time off or go back to the beginning and do some editing until I feel ready to write afresh.

You just can't take yourself too seriously, many of us are unpublished and thus, not relying on writing this WiP as our sole source of income. Just remember it takes time and take some time off. Read a book instead of write one for a chance.

Those are my ad hoc thoughts.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

This sounds a little violent, but I pretend someone has a gun to my head and I have to write something—anything—for the next 5 minutes or my cerebellum and medulla oblongata will be splattered all over the wall behind me. Writing for 5 minutes gets me over the hump and then things just seem to flow.

Jeanne Ryan said...

How many jobs do you get to say you have anything resembling writer's block? I told my husband he should call in to work and say "Sorry. I can't work today. I've got inspectors block." I'm sure the ships waiting for inspection so they can enter the country will understand.

I know my kids would love it if there was teacher's block. Not so much with cable repairman's block.

I do what Laurell K Hamilton does. I sit my butt down and write. After half an hour or so, the muse shows up and says "Well, if you are going to be writing, you might as well write something good" and I'm off and running. That half an hour is painful.

As Bradbury said "The muse cannot resist a working writer."

Gretchen said...

If jumping into some research doesn't jog my mind free from its cement shoes, I'll usually skip the rest of that section, move on and come back to it in Draft 2.

MaLanie said...

Meditation helps me. When I silence the egoic chatter and find that place of stillness a creativity that is beyond me emerges from out of nowhere.

Eckhart Tolle talks about this in A New Earth. Wayne Dyer and Byron Katie write this about it as well.

lotusgirl said...

When I'm stuck, I just go do something in my real life. There are always plenty of things staring at me to do. When I come back, I'm fresher for the writing. So far, it has always worked.

benreeder said...

Like several other writers here, I tend to work around it. If I hit a scene I just can't get past, I pick up with the next scene and move on from there. That usually forces me to write impacts from the uncompleted scene, and suddenly, I know what happened by talking about it in the past tense.

If I'm truly blocked, I'll read another author who writes in the genre I'm trying to write in to inspire me. Or I'll take a walk and talk to my girlfriend. Sometimes, talking a scene through gets the brain going in different directions for me.

PurpleClover said...

Vegas - I LOVE it! With your name it almost sounds a little "Fear and Loathing"-ish.

hehehe.

Scott said...

Normally, I just work through it. Sometimes, I step away from the 'blocked' project and work on something else. I've been known to turn music on and write something based on each song, that normally gets the words flowing once again.

Tia Nevitt said...

I reconsider the direction I'm currently taking. Something is wrong and I'm fighting with my muse. I usually work on something else while I think it through.

Pan Historia said...

Write, write, write. When I have the mythical beast that is called 'writer's block' I find what I'm mostly suffering from is low self-esteem or creeping laziness. Pushing myself to write past that feeling is vital - and then avoiding being critical of what I write at such times. When I'm in that mood my temptation is to throw it all away because it's crap, but the point is that it gets written. Eventually you can work your way through it.

Often blogging is a good way to warm up to my fiction writing. Reading other authors I admire helps me get in the mood as well.

T. Elle Harrison said...

To conquer writer's block I usually submerge myself in all the things that inspire me. I watch spanish or french foreign films; something about hearing these languages stimulate my creativity. I also draw and paint so I will work on a visual way to illustrate my work in progress, whether it's through collages or sketches in my moleskine notebook. I also visit museums and take long drives. I like to get lost and discover new things about the place I live. But the ultimate cure to writer's block is just to keep writing. If I just write and write and write I find that I can muscle my way through it.

Myra said...

I apply the rule that never fails - "A$$ in Chair."

While I'm there, I revise. Mercilessly. Sometimes slashing my way through the development of my protaganist helps me fall in love again.

I like to spend time with those I love. So I've edited and I'm back in the saddle.

Win/win.

Windy said...

This usually doesn't happen to me as I have multiple WIP projects, so if I get stuck in one, I'll skip to another.

But when I'm feeling a little uninspired for anything, I just turn up the iPod, making a quick playlist of songs I haven't listened to for a while or I will hit the book store to just browse.

Wandering around a B&N with a Starbucks, inhaling the scent of coffee and printed pages always helps!

Liz S said...

When Writer's Block hits me, it's often because I've gotten too close to my WIP and can't see the larger picture, see where a particular scene is heading, etc.

Stepping back and working on a different story, if only for a day, really helps.

Sometimes that "different story" is related to my WIP, like a short story about one of the characters in my novel. A story based on my main character's background has been doing wonders for my WIP lately. And, when it's completely finished, I plan on getting it published too!

Jade said...

I've found that writer's block is best overcome by continuing with the work in progress and giving yourself small but achievable targets to reach each day or each week. Eventually you write your way through the block.

Funnily enough, I've found when going back and rewriting, that some of the bits I wrote while "blocked", running on sheer dogged determination rather than ecstatic creative energy, are really good. And conversely, some of the bits written while in the throes of the muse, are really bad. So it all averages out. Don't think that just because you're blocked while you're writing it, that it's not good.

Margaret Yang said...

Coffee.

Dara said...

Good question! I'm still trying to figure that one out :P

Generally, I try to focus on another project or switch gears and do some research for the 'blocked' project. Sometimes the research sparks the next aspect of the scene or chapter I'm stumped on.

I have found that I have too difficult a time writing just plain drivel because sometimes I get a bit too perfectionist :P Still it's something I'm trying to overcome.

Anonymous said...

Walk away from the story and do something else. Before you know it: BAM! An idea pops into your head. Works for me every time.

K.L.Romo said...

Just furiously brainstorming thoughts onto paper, or computer. This seems to get the juices flowing, and helps organize the miscellany into more definite idea streams, and gets me to focus,.....

.....or ... maybe just give up and go to a movie!

Nikki Hootman said...

I don't believe in it.

If I get stuck, that's my subconscious alerting me that something's wrong and I need to back up a little and take a look at where the story's going. Sometimes I have to back off for a while and let things stew.

Housework usually does the trick.

T. Anne said...

I d believe you have to write through it. After all that's what revisions are for. Writers block can be debilitating if you let it run it's course.

Vancouver Dame said...

I only seem to get writer's block occasionally, and it's a signal to me that I need to sit back and check the story structure of the novel or just let it rest for a time.

I'll pick up another writing piece that I'm working on to see if I can revise it or create something new. Walking and fresh air help clear the cobwebs. I've found that writing posts for my blog or articles, or even journalling keeps me writing, and breaks through the fog. Reading a book (when I don't feel like writing)also helps me look at writing from the reader's perspective.

I much prefer these writing discussions, Nathan, they are what sets your blog apart from the ordinary. (that and your original take on various subjects) Thanks for taking the time.

It's only when someone takes over your soapbox for their own show, that the discussion seems to veer off into the unknown. . .

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Corned beef sandwiches, coffee, Aimee Mann (or Amanda Palmer or Dave Matthews), and a pen.

Writers block for me usually means that I'm not connecting to my work, so my solution is to put away the computer and break out the fountain pen. It works nearly every time. The corned beef sandwiches don't hurt either.

Mandajuice said...

Not to sound filthy, but skipping ahead to a sex scene tends to get my creative juices flowing.

But writer's block is usually my brain's way of telling me that something isn't right. I almost always end up scrapping whatever scene I was working on and replacing it with something better.

Hilary said...

I was having a lot of trouble writing until my roommate told me, "There's no excuse for you not writing three pages a day, even if it's the worst drivel I've ever seen." When I remembered it was okay to write badly I was able to start writing regularly again, and well.

Dawn said...

Luckily it hasn't happened yet, but if it does, I'll have all these suggestions on how to handle it.

Onovello said...

When I hit a block, I listen to Prokofiev's Toccata. It's the equivalent of a triple espresso without the heart palpitations. Works every time.

Anonymous said...

I work in a different genre for awhile.

I've been hopping back and forth between mysteries and children's books for many years. Finally, it dawned on me that no matter the genre, at the story skeleton level, I'm really always writing a fairy tale.

I also draw sketches of my characters as fairy tale archetypes--king, queen, dragon, damsel, etc.

And I re-read fairy tales, both the classic and the obscure. This transports me to the magical world that feels like home and feeds my writer's soul.

If that doesn't work, I websurf and eat doughnuts.

Megan said...

I read somewhere not long ago that writer's block can often be a sign that you're heading in the wrong direction. With my current WIP, I've gotten into a pattern for breaking through block that's been working well.

I get a clean sheet of paper and start outlining. I write down where each character is, and all the possible things they could do, no matter how silly. Then I go on a few steps from each option. Once it's on the page, I circle what the most likely thing for the character to do would be. That's cleared up a lot.

If that doesn't work, I try and identify what exactly my problem is, as concisely as possible, then I call in my best friend and ask his advice. He's great at spitting out wild and crazy ideas, and it almost always helps get me moving again.

Of course, once I realized that I'd written myself into a corner and had to go back five chapters, but it was the right thing to do.

Cloudscudding said...

Prevention. I do free writing for 2 minutes a day. It keeps the creative pipes from getting clogged when I don't have time for a longer writing session, and I've gotten some of my best story ideas from it.

If I know something's missing from my current work-in-progress and I can't go on until I figure it out, I draw spiderweb free-association diagrams to get at it. And talk to other people about it. Endlessly. Fortunately for my social life, this doesn't happen too often!

Casey said...

I read. Reading an awesome book always makes me want to write my own awesomeness.

Sarah said...

I write through, though I'll step away for a few days as a last resort.

What works best for me is to keep a parallel file.(I call it Bits and Pieces.) I paste all the pieces that don't fit, but that I don't want to throw away. And if I absolutely can't figure out what to do with a scene, I write about it on B & P. It allows me to thrash out different options, yet keeps me engaged with my story.

Ritual also helps. (And I don't mean anything involving poultry sacrifice.) Having a place you go to write, or something you eat or drink while you write helps. You almost can't help but write when you begin your little ritual.

Scott said...

I don't really get blocked. Generally, I know why I'm writing what I'm writing and have a general idea where it's going so any stoppages are about figuring out how to get there and keeping all the elements in order. So I would say, if you're blocked, you may not have a good enough idea of where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you may not know what you're trying to say. That makes what you're writing somewhat exploratory, so the block could mean something's wrong at the other end. Kind of gastrointestinal, that. Ew.

Just yesterday I thought I had two days to get in a 2k-5k short story to a publisher. I finished a pretty complete first draft this morning, and then found out I still had two more days (I'd read the date wrong). My point, I guess, is that fear and/or desire should get you through any block, I should think. If you're stuck, maybe you just lack the motivation to finish what you started?

In all, blocks might suggest deficiencies somewhere within the original idea and/or your relationship to it. Just a thought.

Christine H said...

I don't even try to fight it. I just forget about writing and catch up on all the other stuff hanging over my head. In a few days, or a few weeks, the muse will return. Of course, I am not writing full-time or under contract.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I write something else, or revise something I've already written, or outline future events of the same story or another story altogether.

Worst case, I take a break for a day or two, but let things still formulate in my mind. Give it time to recharge.

lisanneharris said...

I crank up some Pink Floyd. Works every time. :)

Lis'Anne

Dorothy said...

Steve and lots of others are right--act as if writer's block doesn't exist. So, if we didn't imagine we were blocked what would we be doing? Working on a book project? Reading writer's, editors, or agent blogs? Reviewing our outlines? Editing? Re-writing? Starting something new? Researching? Then let's just do it. It is all a piece of the same career. If today isn't a good day for character development, we can find out what it is a good day to do.

Lupina said...

Never had it; ten years of writing for a newspaper with three editors like vulture hatchlings waiting to be fed made writer's block unthinkable.

I do confess to simple procrastination, however. And there is no cure for that but good old "butt in chair." It's a looong 25 feet from the sofa to my office.

Aimless Writer said...

I write badly. Trash, crap, garbage...
But just during writers block. ;)
I think if you give yourself permission to just write badly then your inner voice will eventually wake up and start going. It clears away the underbrush so you can see what you really need to write.
I've actually written some pretty good stuff when i started out trying to write trash.
Besides, writing badly can be fun. You're not worrying about rules or what people will think. You're just writing for the grins and giggles.

Alice said...

When I have writer's block I do the technical bits. I check grammar, formatting, etc.

Sometimes I spend time on my six month plan, creating to-dos. (I try to set myself writing goals for the next few months)

I research markets and update my submission logs.

By then, I'm back in the mood.

Ulysses said...

I believe writer's block is the result of my real writing skill running up against my own unrealistic expectations of perfection. The more I expect perfect prose, the less likely my words are going to be good enough and eventually I dismiss them before they are even written. I end up waiting for the perfect sentence or paragraph to form before I write it down, and since perfection is unachievable I end up writing nothing.

The solution seems to be to give myself permission to be bad, to write terribly. Sometimes I'll even write a set of passages in which I intentionally break rules of grammar, style and punctuation. There's a certain freedom in doing that, and the results are often unintentionally hilarious. Most often, I look at my mess and realize that there are a few places where it's not half bad. It brings home to me the realization that even my worst isn't as bad as I think, and at any given moment when I'm trying my best, the words are likely good enough to be put down on paper.

Lupina said...

P.S. I posted very late yesterday (like this morning) so I'll repeat my topic suggestion. What is everyone's favorite book on writing and why?

I won't tell mine until Nathan gives permission but I would love to know this about everyone and maybe find some useful titles I don't know about.

L.C. Gant said...

Ugh, I get writer's block more than I care to admit, mainly because I overthink things.

I try to switch things up when it happens, either by reading a book in a genre I don't normally read, or by starting a project that's entirely different from the one I'm working on.

Listening to instrumental music helps as well. If none of the above works, there's always chocolate. THAT works like a charm :)

Anonymous said...

I only had writer's block once. And when it happened, I stopped writing. Didn't do anything. Couldn't figure out where to go, so I didn't go anywhere. Bad idea. Finally, someone suggested moving away from the spot I'd stopped in my novel, and writing a different section of it, one I was excited about. And, I did. I just up and left that spot where I was blocked and worked on a later chapter I'd envisioned and was excited about. And while I was doing that other stuff, my mind was silently humming along in the background, figuring out how to continue the section I was blocked on. And pretty soon, I was able to go back to the blocked area. And since then, I've never felt like I've been blocked again. Because, if I get to a point where the creative juices aren't flowing, I move on , and work where they are flowing, and come back to the blocked area later, when I have an idea of how to procceed.

ryan field said...

I remember the mortgage.

Marissa said...

For me, breaking writer's block means setting a deadline (self-imposed or a due date from an employer/teacher/friend/critique group) and then stocking up with coffee and writing late into the night at the risk of becoming a zombie the next day!

Melissa McInerney said...

I walk my dogs. I'm in really good shape.

Stephanie Reed said...

Love the Paul Simon quote, Steve Axelrod.

I dream up the whole story in my head over a period of time, rather than at my computer. I make notes with pencil and paper (which I keep with me always). When I get stuck after I begin typing, I refer to my notes. Usually the answer is there.

Lara said...

I just write junk for a while. It usually comes out better than I think it will. I just focus on getting the words down. Sometimes I go back and read something I read while I had a bad case of the "I can't writes" and it actually only needs a little editing. Or sometimes it comes out so wrong that I can immediately see what would be better.

Lara said...

Okay, I never post the "Word Verification," but this time I have to. It's "writer." Spoooooky!

Cadence said...

* Get a new notebook. (Nothing too pretty, though, because that just implies that everything in it has to also be perfect.)

* Go for a walk in the woods.

* Get new music.

* Go to starbucks and watch people (preferrably with new notebook). I cannot believe the clothes people wear in my little town. This is great for descriptive defibrillation. Carrie Bradshaw is not an outlier.

* Write about the WIP: Outlining, brainstorming, free-writing through all the possibilities—inane and (hopefully) genius.

* Certainly, writing without regard to quality. The best tool I have found for that: http://lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html. Options: mode = kamikaze; grace period = evil.

David Russell Mosley said...

Many have written on here and said that writer's block does not exist, or that they should pretend it does not exist. One even called it a "mythical beast".

The truth is, we all experience it. There are those moments, they may be only a few minutes, or days, weeks, months, years, etc. but they are there.

Pretending a problem does not exist is not dealing with it. Any psychologist will tell you that. You have to recognize the problem and work through or around it. Pretending it isn't there will do nothing but damage your mind and ability to write.

Hilabeans said...

Shots of tequila, Don Julio preferably, work really well.



I'm kidding. When I feel uninspired (I never refer to it as being “blocked” - seems to make it scarier and less conquerable), I either read a book or write about something random to exercise my brain.

Great post - Thank you!

Michael Pickett said...

I don't know if I've ever had a serious case of writer's block. That's not to say that it will never happen because I'm young and I still have a lifetime of setbacks in front of me, but there are a few things that I do that I think have helped with that. One, I keep a notebook with me at all times. I never know when a potential brilliant idea will strike, so I'm always ready to write it down. That way, when I have to think of what to write next, I have a long list of good (or maybe not so good on second thought) ideas to pull from. Two, I stay in front of my computer no matter what. My goal is generally to write 1,000 words a day, and I won't let myself move on to something else (a. k. a. something easier) until I've written those 1,000 words. They may be awful, but I need to get them down. I can always delete all of them in revision.

Kristi said...

I've been lucky in that I haven't had writer's block yet - my issue is more finding the time to write all the stories in my head.

I have had occasions where I'm not sure how a scene should unfold. Usually, I just sleep on it and wake up in the morning with the right solution. Then it's a matter of running to the computer to get it down before the kids start demanding breakfast.

Lara said...

Oh yeah, another trick I have which I totally made up myself is to draw something with my left hand (I'm right-handed). This works also when you've edited something so many times that you can't really read it anymore, it's just meaningless. I don't know if that would work for anyone but me, though.

Mira said...

I'm going to flag this post. Great suggestions here.

That way the next time it happens (and it will happen, oh it will definitely happen), I can get some good ideas.

Natalie said...

I rent a bulldozer and plow through it.

WendyS said...

I wrote ahead to a point in the story I was more comfortable with, and that helped me fill in the parts I was stuck on.

PurpleClover said...

Ulysses -

I couldn't have said it better.

The only thing I would like to add is that I believe "writer's block" is defined differently by everyone.

I personally believe it is when you are stuck because you aren't sure the best way to move forward (maybe in a scene). I have my outline, I know the direction my book is taking, I know what is actually going to happen, but the way I'm writing it doesn't seem "perfect" enough.

This is why I will force myself to write because you can always erase it or edit it. But its the striving for perfection that causes the delay, or block, or stoppage, or whatever description you want to subscribe to. But for those that don't believe it exists...then maybe the definition is different for everyone.

Loren Eaton said...

Post pimp alert: 43 Folders had a good list of suggestions.

Allison Hartman Adams said...

A writing professor of mine told me once that there's no such thing as writer's block. At least, it's good to try to convince yourself of that.

You just write one word, then another, and another after that. Even if it's all crap, you're never /incapable/ of writing.

Doesn't always work for me, though, but I'm trying!

Devika said...

I don't remember which British writer this was (perhaps Dickens? Sounds a bit more like Wilde), but I remember hearing about an author who used to have his servants take away all his clothes and lock him in a room until he had completed his day's worth of writing.

Personally, I find that a bit extreme. I prefer a less dramatic approach: Staring at the screen until my fingers get bored and start typing.

Christine Lakatos said...

Writers Block! I have too much to write about to get that! In fact, I had to take out 200 pages of my 413 page book! My mind never stops! The only difficulty I have is condensing thoughts but still getting the message across! When that happens, I do some laundry! LOL

K. Andrew Smith said...

I keep myself on a strict word count - no less that 1500 words a day for active writing. If I run into the wall of writer's block, I force myself to keep putting coherent words on the page, no matter how dreadful it sounds at the time. I can always to back and fix them lousy parts in editing. NaNoWriMo was very useful for learning and perfecting this technique.

Horserider said...

Well, for me, I usually just wait it out. Go for a walk, work on another novel (I usually have two going at once just in case I have writer's block on one), do a short story or flash fiction, surf the internet, read a book. I can go days at a time without writing when I have writer's block, but it's rare.

L.L. said...

I just wrote about this today.

The only time I ever claim what I call Writer’s Block is when I’m simply stuck, or brain-dead, on what word to use.

I’m talking about moving along, keying out a perfectly good thought into sentence form and then--- the flow just stops. The next word [I know it’s just behind my eyes] juuust isn’t there. And that’s when I skim through a thesaurus to help jump start my brain.

Anything after that is merely part of the storyline I haven't figured out yet. That when I jump ahead and work on another chapter, etc.

I've figured out several holes, by simply moving on.

SynapticJam said...

I tend to go back and plot. I'll take it up a level and look at the bigger picture, makes some notes, write down some impressions... it brings the story to me as opposed to me going to the story.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Write something else. Then write something else. Then, go back and just do it.

I'm usually writing several chapters (if not several novels) at once so I'm never short of things to write.

other lisa said...

To generate plot: a walk or a shower. Sometimes a workout.

A regular writing schedule helps too.

Hahah! "graliped."

Jen C said...

I had some pretty bad writer's block recently, in the form of not being able to decide where I wanted part 2 of my book to go. I had 3 different ideas that I kept flitting back and forth between, and after I had written and deleted about 2000 words for each, I just stopped dead in my tracks and couldn't move forward.

It was a real problem! What I did was to put my writing away and not write a word until I had it sorted out. Then I got online and researched the heck out of each of the 3 subjects, printed out info, made pro/con lists etc. I just went over and over it in my mind until I was forced to either make a decision or go mad!

It took 2 days (quite irritating days!) but I finally made a decision. I'm all back on track now, thank god. I probably wouldn't suggest the "drive yourself mad" method for everyone, but it worked for me!

Griffin Asher said...

I've tried all kinds of remedies for writer's block, but the only one that seems to work for me is to just keep writing. I know whatever I write will probably suck (though surprisingly sometimes it doesn't), but banging more words out is the only way I can get things flowing again.

Chuck H. said...

Same as for frustration. Honda VTX1300, full tank of gas and a long and winding road.

(Actually I never have writer's block but it's a hell of a good excuse to go for a ride on a beautiful day)

other lisa said...

@Jen C. - ooooh, research! I didn't think about it till I read your comment, but absolutely.

Cara said...

I go to the Borders down the road, get a cup of tea from the cafe and wander for a while. Just looking at the multitude of books I'm dying to read makes me want to do the work.

Also, this is pretty mean, but I look at writers like Stephenie Meyer and think, "Well, if she can get published..."

Audrianna said...

Whenever I get writer's block, I can usually sit down with my Mommy (yes, I just called her my Mommy! :D) and talk it out. Although I, thankfully and luckily, did not have any writer's block with the book I just finished (Last night! Woo!). Reading other books always works too. I just go down to Target or Walmart or Borders or something, and pick up a few books that look interesting and buy them. No one can say that I'm contributing to the decreasing book sales!

Anonymous said...

wow, am I the only one who drinks my way through and lets that drunken sailer take the boat out and write it wherever he wants to?
Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but trouble can be a very good adventure.
Of course, I definitely have to check my thinking the next day and clear up some of the frolic slurring.
But that drunken sailer KNOWS where the party is in the plot, when I can't find it.

Marilyn Peake said...

This wonderful discussion about writer’s block reminds me of Kekule’s discovery of the molecular structure of benzene. Working feverishly on it for a long period of time, he fell asleep one night and dreamt of a snake biting its own tail, woke up and figured out that the benzene molecule was ring-shaped. His discovery significantly advanced scientists’ understanding of not only benzene but all aromatic compounds as well. For people who need to use their brain to accomplish creative work, it sometimes pays to rest the brain – to just dream and daydream if needed.

Just_Me said...

I write. On the days I don't know what happens next I edit previous chapters to figure out how I boxed myself in.

In a worst-case scenario, I contact my crit group and beg for help trying to figure out how I made my character so miserable and stubborn. A half hour of whining usually seems to sort everything out and I can get back to work.

Steve Ulfelder said...

Awhile back The Onion had a great column mocking writer's block. The headline was something like: I Shall Make a Scram with Bacon when the Muse Strikes Me.

Podler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Womanji said...

Funny this should come up. I am writing a short story for one of my classes right now. Okay not this exact minute, and that is my problem. It is due on Monday and I have been fussing over it since last Monday. It is not a hard task and it is more flash fiction or peotry since it is to be no more than 8 paragraphs long.

What I did to get to work was I looked at photos in Google images of what I wanted to write about. A pebble. It is for my art for elementary education class. As detailed as this teacher of mine is I am sure it will not be good enough no matter what I write.

But the look at pictures or scenery works for me sometimes.

Charlene said...

I find that when it happens the best thing I can do is sleep on it or take the dog for a walk so I can take some time to think about what could possibly happen next.

On some occasions, a little bit of filler dialogue has helped me too.

Podler said...

Writer's block is the result of not having enough input. You've become barren by doing the same things again and again. Reading the same kinds of books, talking to the same types of people, etc. - your experience has become a straight jacket.

You need to go on a trip, by bus or train, you need to go hiking in India, you need to volunteer at a prison teaching short story writing. You need to live again, do new things, experience new ideas, and meet people.

Allison Hartman Adams said...

Podler, I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure I completely agree. I live a life that is far from stagnated, yet writer's block still lurks in the shadows of my office.

I wonder if it's more of a "blank page paralysis" or even good, old-fashioned laziness. Writing is hard. It's great, but it's still hard, and sometimes we just want to sit on the couch and pretend we can't move forward with our prose. A simple (but dangerous) indulgence.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is what I really do...

I work with a coach who I have to report to -rain or shine- every day M-F and every day, I at least open my WIP and spellcheck it if nothing else or write a few words or edit a few words, just one little section though.

Then I close it up.

One section at a time I progress.

Every day I am sending off my "did it" e-mail (how much I wrote, whether I did research, etc.).

Then on Friday, I send in a report on my process, the things that supported it, the things that got in the way, the things that conflicted me or inspired me, etc.

My coach writes back M-F : "Great! 5 words was a forward movement!" or something like that, i.e. I get a little encouragement every day. Sometimes she makes a little suggestion.

If I don't write her, she knows something is up in my life and trusts that process too.
(Like this week when my doggie died. We wrote about that instead.)

On Sunday or Monday AM, she writes back her notes and conversation in response to my Friday report.

And before you know it, I am writing at a pretty good pace most days.

And you can't believe how much it helps to have someone who thinks your process and work is important and who cheers you on through the little moves forward.

Mira said...

well, I have to say that I'm feeling alittle inadaquate here. Which is totally on topic, but still.

Everyone else seems quite capable of working through writer's block in a jiffy, whereas it takes me years.

So, I went on a hunt to make myself feel better. I found out that the following people had serious cases of writer's block at times:

Leo Tolstoy
Virginia Woolf
Katherine Mansfield
Josepth Conrad
D.H. Lawrence
Ernest Hemingway

And in terms of time:

John Fowles: 20 years
Fran Lebowitz: 20 years
Henry Roth: 60 years!

I feel much better.

Nothing like other people's misery to brighten my day. :-)

Btw, if anyone doubts my data, I found it while looking up random sites on the net, so it must be accurate.

Joseph Paul Haines said...

Seriously. Write something else. I can always find something I want to write, no matter how badly my current project may be stalled. Writers write. It's what we do. Ideas are easy.

It's my opinion that writer's block is a sea monster we've drawn on our maps so that we can justify sailing near the shore on days when the water looks too deep.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel so bad Mira, whereas I have continued to write, one rejection or glib comment has been known to send me into the closet about sharing my writing with anyone for years on end.

Leigh Lyons said...

I just write through it. If I can't think of what to do in the story, I go back and see where I went wrong. If that doesn't work, I open a new document and write down all the reasons I can't write. Eventually my muse will throw up her hands and say "if you're going to write, it may as well be productive."

µ said...

I agree with most of the other writers here. Writer’s Block means you’re trying too hard to impress someone, maybe including yourself. I’ve had this problem for years, starting in University — go figure.

But now, to get over myself as a “serious writer” I write fun, non-literary fiction. I tell myself no one ever has to read it, and if I do post it online somewhere, no one ever has to know I wrote it.

The internet is great for varying levels of writing support, and if you don’t start at the top High Literary rung, you can easily find people who will be impressed with your writing. Positive feedback is great for getting the wheels going again.

Once you get your confidence back, you can go back to your literary masterpiece.

Mira said...

Anon. 2:14.

Thank you. That does make me feel better.
;-)

superwench83 said...

I curse a lot. In verbal and typed form. Maybe that explains why the "f" key on my keyboard is kind of screwed up.

Mira said...

Oh, anon 2:14, that sounded cold. I hope you never feel that way again - I'm sure you're a sensitive, wonderful writer. But I appreciate that you felt that way in the past.

Sharon said...

I started wondering recently why some people say there is no such thing as teacher's block or dentist's block etc. because, there is.

There comes a point when people in other jobs also cannot go on. This is then called various names. Stress. Burnout. Depression. Breakdown. Etc.

Writers do not get an immunity jab from these ailments, ya know, just 'cos we're artistic. :)

But, of course, you've also got to know the difference between the above conditions and common laziness.

I also think writer are too quick to call themselves lazy or procrastinators because of the horrendous, one size fits all advice, of writing everyday. Sometimes time off is exactly what the muse orders.

Lori Benton said...

The only time I had what I'd call writer's block was after chemotherapy. It's called chemo fog. It lasted for a frustrating and disheartening five years. During that time I found other outlets for creativity, and I waited for healing. I'm writing again (have been for five years now) and while I don't experience writers block, whenever I have what I'd call a stale time, reading or listening to good fiction is the best cure. Taking a day off for hiking or long drives in the mountains with the right music playing aren't bad for inspiration either.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I like all the replies.

Kristie said...

What about "pitch" block? I am planning on attending a large conference in Colorado Springs in April, and I am most excited about the pitch session. Except, I don't quite know what to say.
What are your suggestions for a good, effective pitch?

µ said...

People have mentioned reading good fiction. Funny: I find reading bad fiction helps me get back to my own writing more. It makes me think of ways to improve…

freddie said...

For me it's writing three pages of "brain drain" every morning. It's not a journal, exactly, because I don't try to say anything profound. It's more like a place where I complain and make a "to do" list privately. It keeps writer's block at bay. When I get really busy and go for a while without writing those pages, I get blocked.

Anonymous said...

From Hemingway:

"I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it."

I take a break and let the imagination refill...

Morgan

Carradee said...

I'm with author Patricia Briggs on this one, insofar as writer's block is a sign that something's wrong.

Maybe I need to know my world better, or maybe I'm having a character do something against her personality, or maybe I just don't know enough about my topic to be comfortable writing it, yet.

I like having a friend who's familiar with my WIP and reading my work as it progresses. Usually that friend can squint at something and point out, "Ummm, this character WOULDN'T DO THAT, YOU MORON!!!"

I've also found free-associative writing to be helpful when I can't figure out why I'm stuck for the life of me.

Now, knowing your weak points also helps. Since realizing I'm a seat-of-my-pants plotter, I've spent much less time having to figure out what's wrong when I'm stuck. Usually, I just have to take a step back and consider what the next major event has to be, and how to get the characters there.

Craven said...

I write. If i'm stuck on one piece, I write on another.

If I'm plain sick of writing, I take a little time off. The main thing is don't beat yourself up. Either work on something else, or take a little time out for family, friends, travel - whatever.

Sooki Scott said...

I seek out a comfortable chair and listen to a recorded book.




Confucius says; man who drive like hell, bound to get there

starduster said...

Sorry...I never get writer's block...I'm too damn busy revising the writing I've already done. Ha.

Lisa Lane said...

I like working on more than one project at a time, preferably both very different from one other; when writer's block hits on one project, I just shift over to the other.

On the rare occasion I find myself blocked on all fronts, I know it's time to walk away from the computer for a day or two.

Anonymous said...

I watch cartoons.

Lee

Courtney said...

Words I live by:

"Writer's block ... is simply a failure of ego." – Norman Mailer

Needles to say, I promote ego inflation programs ;).

Lucinda said...

Quoted: "I find that when I’m in a situation where I can’t write, inspiration strikes." by Tiffany here.

Maybe that is why I do not suffer from Writer's Block. I don't have time to be afflicted by it. Keeping our day jobs are good for the muse because it forces us to be away from the keyboard long enough to meditate on writing.

But, as most have said here, write something to get back into it.

This reminds me of old-time water pumps. There was normally a bucket of water sitting by the pump to "prime" the pump the next time it is used.

So, keep water in the bucket at all times. Never let it get empty. Always have a WIP, or twenty of them.

Sometimes after a hard day at work when I am too tired to write, I chat with my computer. It asks me questions, and I answer. This helps me relax with my writing because I simply write what I feel at the time and "work" it later.

holly cupala said...

A timer, set in 15 minute increments, kicks the critic to the curb.

I got through a whole first draft that way in just a few months - with at least 5 days of more than 5K. (And I promise you, I am not a 5K girl...at least, I didn't think I was.)

IQOkie said...

I read agent blogs and all the comments.

Hilabeans said...

Cara -

Your comment shocked me. Do you really believe that you're better than Stephenie Meyer?

Where's your $70 million dollars and worldwide fan base? Are your books on the NYT list? Have you even been published? Are you an educator or some sort of subject matter expert?

I'm not sure that blasting a best-selling author for the purpose of making yourself feel better is good advice for defeating writer's block… especially on a prospective agent’s blog. Just my opinion...

terryd said...

For me, there are various levels of writer's block. At times it's a mere annoyance to be shoved aside. At other times, it's the result of problems, emotional or physical. Gotta handle the mind/body problems before attacking the symptoms.

And I journal. My internal critic has absolutely no power over my journal work. I have at least a half-million words so far, and all of my stories come from there.

Kimberly Lynn said...

Most of you have probably already seen this video on writer’s block before, but in the event you haven’t—here’s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQ7poDXRpM&feature=related

Cracks me up!

Anonymous said...

I remember I have deadlines...that usually does the trick.

Lynne said...

I think a 'block' happens when I block what the characters have to say. Let them talk, write and pull out extra words later. It's amazing how many times I can use a word like
'nod' or 'nodded' Using 'find' I had to change 8 sentences in one chapter. Latest was 'thin weedy fellow.' Only used twice,
thank heavens.

Jen C said...

Mira said...
well, I have to say that I'm feeling alittle inadaquate here. Which is totally on topic, but still.

Everyone else seems quite capable of working through writer's block in a jiffy, whereas it takes me years.


Mira, you're not the only one. I had my bag stolen last year with my laptop that had all my writing on it, and also the USB backups of my writing. I was so upset I didn't write a word for like 8 months... But as long as you get back to it eventually, that's the main thing.

Lucinda said...

Kimberly! That is absolutely a riot! I loved it. Thanks for the LOL.

Broadway Mouth Blog said...

I don't think I've ever had writer's block. I've had periods where what I write is crap, but as long as you get something down--no matter how lame or off-the-mark--you have something to work with.

I've started writing things that were horrible, but in the junk is the seed for the final prodcut. As long as you write, you can get the final product.

Anonymous said...

Jen C-
OMG how awful!
And thank you!
You have just ingrained in me that I must NEVER take my back-up stick with me in the same satchel as my computer anyway.
Wow.
I am so glad you were able to write again.

Suzan said...

Never had it, never will. I use the power of positive thinking. Works every time.
S.J.M.

Jenna said...

I disagree with the poster who said it's unhealthy to say that writer's block doesn't exist.

Writer's block DOES NOT EXIST. There is no medical cause, no nothing. What we call writer's block generally comes from a lack - lack of motivation, lack of self-esteem, etc. We think we're not good enough, so we don't write. We think we don't know the answer so we don't write. We have so much other stuff to do, so we don't write. Or, we're even just plain lazy. Or intimidated. Or worried.

Needing a break is not writer's block. That's called burnout.

Having your ego stung so that you're scared to write is called fear.

Calling things what they are is more important than making up a mythical name.

I've never had writer's block. I've had a marriage that I thought should take first priority, then I got my ego stung by a friend, and I pouted about it. I've run into plot issues with a story that I had to take a walk to work around. I took a novel writing class and was too chicken to try some days, then I was so awed by the fact that I finished that I needed some time off to absorb my first success ever. Since then, I've accumulated over 50 novel ideas, am working on my second novel, and started on a short story. And sometimes, I was just too lazy to write.

You don't grow if you don't admit what the problem is. Writer's block is a fake problem. The real problem with ALL these delays was ME. My choices, my problems, my decisions. Not some mythical beast or lack of a muse. Me.

So pardon me, I'm going to tackle these the right way, and address the real issue. Me.

(verification word - 'maker')

Mira said...

Jen C - I agree, that's horrible! I can understand how you must have felt - such a loss.

I'm sorry that happened, but I'm glad you're writing again. Good for you! And thanks for sharing it.

Lupina, I think this topic is really interesting, so people are focused on that. But a book I really like about writing - very inspirational - that also helps me with my writer's blocks is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

Rick Daley said...

Nathan,

Sorry it took so long for me to comment, I couldn't think of what to write.

Susan Cushman said...

Seems like writers block is more common among fiction writers. I write creative nonfiction. Have had 6 essays published in the past year, and am working my way through a memoir now. It's hard work, but not because of writer's block. I know WHAT to day, it's the HOW that takes so much time. Maybe fiction writers with writers block could benefit from pausing to write a short essay or simply journal? Just saying....

Susan Cushman said...

Ooops. Somehow I was signed in with an inactive blogger account. Track back to me here, please!

E. J. Tonks said...

Nothing blocks *this* writer--hah!

mulligangirl said...

Writers Block? After I justify eating that extra jelly doughnut or something to get the brain juices flowing, I go to my online workshop and start critiquing other people’s work. It reminds me that I know how to write. Somehow while I’m making suggestions for other people I start itching to write something of my own for others to pick apart (I say that with love, of course). Guess I don’t want to be left out.

Anonymous said...

writers block poollliiissseee.

(word verification : polyse)

polyse help me.

doctor, doctor.

(hmmm, seems like the word verification is almost like an ORACLE...

*playing theme song to twilight zone...daddadadadadadada... and other eerie music.

Jen C said...

Anonymous said...
Jen C-
OMG how awful!
And thank you!
You have just ingrained in me that I must NEVER take my back-up stick with me in the same satchel as my computer anyway.
Wow.
I am so glad you were able to write again.


Yes, please people, learn from my mistake! These days, if my laptop is at home, my USB keys are with me. If my laptop is with me, my USB keys are at home. I don't even leave them in the same room when I go to sleep!

I had backed everything up just in case my computer ever crashed, but it never occured to me that someone would rob me. These days I'm much more paranoid!

Linda said...

No such thing as WB. A word is a word; strung together, some words suck. So what? Put them down, write forward, never look back until it is time to edit.

Write, write, write. Peace...

Furious D said...

I rarely get writer's block, but I do sometimes find the flow a little slow. What I do to get everything going again is to write something extra, usually on my writing blog, that's completely made up on the spot. Usually, it's full of crazy, pulpy action and weird goings on.

That usually get's things moving again.

Heidi the Hick said...

I just write complete garbage. Like, I write about the rug or the chair I'm sitting in, or the way the dog snores. It doesn't always end up being anything great. But at least I can say I wrote something.

Physical activity is important too. Go for a walk. Move. Then, do something fun. And read because you want to. But you gotta write something. You know what, there are days when all I get out is one sentence. It's going for 14 days without a single sentence that blocks a writer.

I'm rarely unable to write anything... it's just that sometimes I have a hard time writing something good!

AM Riley said...

I hope that, like faeries, if I don't believe in it, it will cease to exist.

Really, though, I can write garbage for days. Sit down at my comp and pound away like a monkey for eight hours. Sooner or later, the good stuff will re-emerge.

And if I can't take it, I go out and talk to people who could care less if I ever write again. Strangers, dog walkers, the mail man. Its a reality check.

Ben said...

I'm not sure this condition really exists; I believe it is a psychological barrier we deliberately, but unconsciously, put up. Sometimes it is necessary for the writer to step away from his/her work for the remainder of the work to be processed internally before being transcribed. If I find myself in the situation where I cannot fathom where my novel is going next I either 1) leap ahead to a later point in the narrative and write that 2) go for a long walk (15 odd miles) and consider it and return to the manuscript immediately and just start writing whatever comes 3) read something else, non-fiction, unrelated to the themes of my novel, and usually find after an hour or so that the troublesome passage has ceased to be troublesome or 4) edit some of the previous passages to see where the novel should be going, and what previously unconscious threads I migth have missed. When I'm working on something I work on it everyday - even if some days are like pulling teeth I know there will be another day where it's going so well it's like a constant orgasm. So just keep writing, thinking about the writing and working on the writing and writer's block becomes irrelevant.

Jil said...

I have never had writer's block, nor have I hit the wall in a marathon, but I do have to stop myself from doing "other things" when it's time to sit down at my computer. Get with it, Jil, and type!! It is important to leave a scene open ended each day so I have something to plunge right into.
I must admit rejections send me into a few day's funk but "Cap" cheers me up. I think we writers must have very fit dogs!

Roberta said...

For the occasional writer's block I find that trying my hand at something very, very structured and visual can really help. Haiku works the best for me. This way I can play with short bursts of imagery. Stripping away words and still being able to evoke a mood, create a sense of place is a challenge and it will very often get your creative juices flowing.

kai said...

Read a book on the craft. I usually end up tossing it aside because I'm inspired.

Dale LV Cabbie said...

I have so many things to write about that, if I get hung up on one, I find another to work on.
That gives me a chance to go back later on and look at it in a different light.

bukarella said...

* Cry into the pillow
* Sift through artwork and photographs that might be relative to the story (a picture of a person, a castle, or a shrew)
* Switch from writing the story, to planning the story (outlines, character snapshots, background history)

I think that sums it up for me.

-Lyudmyla

Grapeshot/Odette said...

As many others have said: the blockage is when something isn't working right in the story, and you have to noodle along until the story discovers itself again.

Sara Tribble said...

I get a cup of tea and I read over older pieces of my work to get me thinking. If I am still stuck well I grab my ipod and put on some tunes and lock myself in a room and draw some sketches.

That usually makes me think deeper and by the time I am finished drawing I can get back to writing!
Writers Block is officially gone!

Writer from Hell said...

Thanks for the question Mr. Brown - its bullseye everytime!

I was feeling exactly this though did not recognise it.

Hamish Macdonald's response (8:58 am) cleared my mind of all the cobwebs.

Melissa said...

For minor cases, I find if I just start typing, even if it's crap, it'll get the creative juices flowing. For more serious cases, take a dog, black labs work well (borrow one if you have to!), go to a secluded spot with a running stream, and just watch the dog play in the water for a while. Works for me.

Unless the dog decides he wants to run off and chase some deer.

Mon Chéri said...

This hasn’t happened to me yet, and I’m on my third novel. Perhaps it’s because I’m usually reading 3-4 books while writing at least 2 and with so much going through my head the ideas just seem to keep coming.

Laurie said...

The best solution for writer's block is butt glue - as in put your butt in the chair and do not get up until you are done writing. For my journalism work, the deadlines mean that writer's block simply isn't an option.

With fiction it's a bit trickier. I write until I don't know what happens next and then walk, pace or cook. I actually keep a pad in the kitchen because alot of my best ideas come to me while I'm chopping vegetables.

Lupina said...

Mira, thanks for the Bird by Bird comment, I like that one too. I didn't really expect people to leave the fun topic of the day, just hoping we could address "favorite books on writing" as a posting subject sometime.

grace said...

Generally I just bang my head against the nearest wall until I'm unconscious. Twhen I wake up, I don't remember why I had writer's block so I'm good.

Anonymous said...

Read. Just read.

Dixon Bennett Rice said...

There's a hyper-critical space monkey in the back of our heads, just waiting for a moment of weakness so he can grab the steering wheel. You've got to trick the little bugger. Noooo, I'm not going to work on my novel right now, I think I'll just blog at http://wredhead.blogspot.com/ for awhile just to keep my hands limber. Or maybe create a character sketch of that major character I can't seem to get a handle on. Or fiddle with another way to approach my synopsis. It doesn't matter what I do, even type an email to Granny thanking her for that awesome fruitcake, as long as I keep my fingers moving. Oh there, I can feel my mind start to wander, start to ask those "what ifs." If I'm not careful, I'm going to slip right out of dreaded writer's block and end up creating something creative.

Xiexie said...

y'know.....I really don't have a solution. When the block's over, it's over.

Trashy Cowgirl said...

Somedays the words seem to be working. Other days it is the thoughts. On word days, I revise. On thought days I plot or push through writing what I will later revise. On lucky word/ thought days I write like mad. On days when none of it works, I read. I also like to get outdoors. Spending time with my horse, or a long drive along the river hills helps the wheels turn. I also find listening to music and meditating helps.

Cameron said...

Best way to deal with writer's block when focusing on fiction: Make your character do something wrong or come into some kind of tragedy - either the mc does something stupid that leads to a new turn of events, or -- my personal fav -- someone dies or gets seriously injured. That always creates a new twist of events. Other than that, best advice is to get some fresh air.

Genny said...

I put the manuscript aside and work on different writing project for a while. Somehow, when I come back to the manuscript, the brief shift in focus seems to give me a fresh perspective.

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