I’m on record saying writer’s block doesn’t exist.
When I say that, I’m not saying that you won’t experience a feeling of idea-lessness or that life circumstances will never get in the way of your writing. Lots of people go through stretches where it is legitimately impossible to write.
What I mean is that most commonly, that feeling of writer’s block is just a feeling that you can actually power through.
When you head down that path, the absolute most helpful thing to do is to figure out the problem. Figure out why you can’t think of an idea. What is it that you’re trying to solve in the book?
Here’s what I mean. I’m at a stage in writing my new novel where I legitimately don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I got stuck. I seriously couldn’t think of what to write next. But rather than stare at the blinking cursor of doom, I started creating structure around the problem.
I know that the main character is currently at Point A, and eventually she’ll need to get to Point B. So I started cataloguing some of the things that need to happen before Point B. Then I broke it up still further into a series of chapters. I started writing out some of the feelings I want her to experience before Point B, plotting out the ups and downs. I wrote down some of the bigger things I hadn’t yet tackled in the narrative but wanted to, such as showing something happening in the broader world.
And I figured out the problem. I need to set a new plot line in motion, and I needed to do more work to get a sense of where she’s going before I figure out the next step.
I still don’t know precisely is going to happen, but this is the first step toward being unstuck.
Sometimes it doesn’t work to confront a lack of ideas head on. It can be far more effective to create some structure around it, figure out what you need to figure out, and then power on through.
Art: Sebastian Hyller by Franz Joseph Winter