“It doesn’t exist.”
“It’s in your head.”
“What you need to do, is just start typing.”
The internet has a lot of opinions on writer’s block, from dismissing its existence entirely to ineffectively proscribing blind clacks at a keyboard as its remedy. For someone in the thick of the brain fog and creative stall that is writer’s block, I don’t think either of these mentalities — that what they’re going through isn’t real, or that all they need to do is just write something down — is really going to help, because I don’t think writer’s block is simply a matter of mental fog or stubborn procrastination.
I think it comes from something far worse — and far easier to fix.
First off, what kind of writer’s block am I talking about? I don’t mean the beginning writer staring at a blank computer screen unable to think of anything to write a story about. That’s not really a writer’s block, that’s just a writer’s beginning. Writer’s block, to me, is when you’re entrenched deep in the middle of a manuscript, you were writing with great speed and excitement and quality, and then suddenly — you’re not. You can’t explain it, but you’re knee-deep in mud and either unable or unwilling to try and pull your feet out. You unconsciously avoid writing, you edit the same few paragraphs over and over, you look at the scenes you’ve yet to write and have no idea how to put them down in words. Your brain is mentally stalled, and you’re terrified, because you have no idea what you did wrong. To me, that’s writer’s block as I’ve experienced it, and, luckily, I’ve picked up a couple ways on how to break through it.
Every instance of writer’s block I’ve ever suffered through as stemmed from legitimate sources of concern, as far as novel-writing goes. Either:
- I’ve gotten overwhelmed with what I’m doing
- I didn’t plan well enough ahead, or
- I’m not acknowledging that I’ve done something wrong
These realizations — that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, that you’ve written yourself into a fog you can’t see out of, or that something has gone amiss in your writing and you didn’t accomplish what you were trying to do — can stall a writer for weeks, or even months. Because these things feed on our insecurities as writers; they poke you in the ribs and whisper you weren’t ready anyway; you’re not good enough; you should give up. Ignore that little voice. Everyone gets overwhelmed, everyone could’ve planned better, and everyone makes mistakes.
So let’s look at each of these problems and how to fix them.