RSS Feed Print
How do you break out of writer's block?
Atthys Gage
Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 11:52 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Probably this has been said already, somewhere in this enormous and ancient thread, but really the only thing that works for me is writing.  I've been sort of blocked up on my WIP, spending a lot of time polishing and revising other works, goofing off.  The WIP is actually something I set aside years ago, and its about half done, but it has really resisted me.  So I made a pledge:  come what may, I was going to put some words down on it, every day.  Even if it's just a few sentences.  I've been diligently sticking to it for a week now.  First week's results:  about 1500 words. 

Chicken feed.  I've had far better days than that week.

But I know its working, because I catch myself thinking about it when I'm doing something else.  50,000 more words remain to be written, I'd guess.  But it doesn't feel like trying to move a mountain.  It feels more like picking a path through unknown country, searching for a pass between unclimbable peaks, finding water and sustenance and provocative things along the way. 

The more you write, the more you write.  Don't worry if it's crap.  No one gets to see it until you say so. 

Sneaky Burrito
Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012 1:44 PM
Joined: 5/28/2012
Posts: 43


Mari: When I started out, with my outline, I had a sense of the order in which things needed to happen.  I knew which events I needed to cover.  But I also find myself writing out of order, just like you say you do.  If one particular group of characters is inspiring me on a given day, and I'm really in the groove, I keep going with them.  When their scene naturally ends, and they don't need to do anything else for awhile, I pick up with another group.

I know I'm going to have to rearrange the whole thing eventually, because I prefer for the final draft to be organized chronologically (this is what works for me, but may not be the right choice for everyone).  Of course this also means that during revision, I have to be super careful about who knows what, when.  I have to pay attention to any mentions of the weather, seasonal crops, etc., to make sure they're consistent with the timeline I end up setting up.  But writing out of order is definitely another strategy that works!

MariAdkins
Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012 3:22 PM
I do the same thing! You should see my worktable! Or may be not ...

Luna Watson
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 11:02 AM
Joined: 2/8/2013
Posts: 14


I am stuck on a writers block now. Thou, I have realized I only get blocked when I am not feeling well. So I could be just the lack of sleep. But I get to the point where I'm so affaraid of getting off topic because I try to force myself to keep writing I jusr step away for a few days more maybe even a few weeks and collect myself. I've also realzied that I get writers block when I am on a roll for weeks and then EEEEEEEERP! SMASH! right into that break wall. For me getting up and walking way is my best writers block cure.
MariAdkins
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 6:18 PM
Yup, that's exactly why I don't write every day. Brain Mush.

Molly Bruce Barton
Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2013 10:13 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 9


What are acceptable procrastination techniques? Is reading allowed?

Atthys Gage
Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2013 11:37 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Molly.  Reading is probably the one and only 'procrastination technique' that really doesn't feel like procrastination, unless perhaps you are counting reading blog posts or recipes or email from pals.  If it's a real book and worth your while anyway, then it cannot help but make you a better writer, not necessarily by teaching us stuff (though they can do that too) but just by inspiring us.   I have that response all the time.  "Damn!  That's good!  Well, so what, I can do better!"   It's a delusion, of course, but at least it gets me back to the page and raring for action.
Carl E. Reed
Posted: Saturday, September 28, 2013 9:17 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


Great question, Molly!

 

Here is my response, intended for any of us suffering from writer's block/prolonged procrastination.

............................................................

 

Acceptable procrastination techniques? Reading, cooking, physical exercise, dreaming. Sex. Introspection. Playing with dogs. Watching films. Everything is grist for the mill when you're a writer, because a writer is always writing--though not always on paper or a computer screen . . .

 

 

I'm convinced that all writer's block stems from one of three very real and daunting challenges:

 

(1) Writer's resistance. The natural (for most writers, eh?) resistance we feel when we sit down to write. Comprised of equal parts dread, frustration and fumbling. (This is hard work; this isn't going well at all. Why isn't this as good as I envisioned? Why am I struggling with dialogue, narrative description, pacing, POV? False start. Arrrrrgh!)

 

 

Cure: Just do it. Set a comfortable daily writing quota for yourself--far less than you think you should be writing (you can always write more if you're "in the zone" and feeling it)--and then stick to that quota come hell or high water. Accomplishing the daily minimum writing quota builds your confidence, skill level and self-respect.

 

 

(2) Not enough research/writing prep. The writer hasn't completed the necessary research to complete their writing project. 

 

 

Cure: More research. Not only acquisition of world-building details, character psychology and other pertinent facts that might come into play in any given work of created fiction but immersion in the works of other writers that inspired you to try your hand at Project X. Mood is critical: return to the work of your favorite writers (whoever they might be as you practice your own literary Shinto) and let the waves of tonality, color and selective emphasis of detail wash over you. In your mind's eye, walk beside your beloved mentors and draw strength and inspiration from their example. After all, they wrote for you, their ideal reader: pouring all of their passion, terror, wit, fury, joy, horror and humor into their books. Let them inspire and energize you.  

 

 

(3) Fear. You know what you want to write and how you want to write it but fear the reaction of others. People may look at you oddly or misread the work. Friendships and family relationships may be strained and/or broken, jobs lost, powerful people alienated.

 

 

Cure: Don't write. Problem solved. Except . . . you're a writer, right? Chasing yourself around in your mind in hopeless circularity: must write; can't write--until you collapse in physical and/or psychic exhaustion. Once this happens one of two things will occur: You will either begin writing, or . . . not. Personally, I hope you write. (If you're reading these words.) Because that's what writers do . . .

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 5/7/2014, 9:41 AM--


Lucy Silag
Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 2:35 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


@Carl--love this post!!!
Kerry Schafer
Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 2:55 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 25


Carl, I think you're spot on with this. Certainly this has been true for me and my writing. I would add one thing. Sometimes when I'm blocked it's because something is wrong with the story. I've gone down the wrong rabbit trail, or missed something important with a character's motivation, or forgotten to plan an important clue. When that happens, my subconscious turns writing into an exercise in medieval dentistry until I figure out what the problem is and fix it.
Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 3:01 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


True, Kerry.  My worst cases of block nearly always occur when I'm trying to write the wrong scene (even the wrong sentence.)  Sometimes the simplest solution is the best:  dump the scene!  

 


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 5:17 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


Thank you, Lucy!  

 

 

@Atthys & Kerry: Very good point! It happens to me as well. You know something isn't working yet keep stubbornly hammering away at it, hoping for the best. You're talking about those instances when you're writing against your own best instincts, right? And not those moments when (as Stephen King puts it: close paraphrase): "You feel like you're shoveling shit instead of flying. But sometimes you're doing good work there; work you won't truly realize the worth of until later." You're referring to those moments when we absolutely know, beyond the shadow of our own doubts, that we're well and truly stuck--until we fix what's wrong with our writing.

 

 

It occurs to me that this, too, could fall under points 1 or 2. As either resistance--we're resistant to fixing what we know is weak or isn't working. Or fear: the fear of loss--we've expended energy writing ourselves into a corner and now can't bear to think of losing what we've created, or contemplating the additional expenditure of energy it will take to fix it.

 

 

As the cliche goes: been there; done that. Heh! Almost every writing project. Excellent point Kerry & Atthys; glad you brought it up.

 

 

PS. One of the techniques I use to soften the blow of excision or extensive re-writing is to save those passages of prose I can't bear to lose by appending them to the end of my working chapter or current short story (with at least a full page of blank white space between these excerpts and the story proper). Do you do this? Move your "murdered darlings" to a holding station pending obliteration? I'm using this technique right now with the sci-fi story, "A Matter of Displacement". I've written 30 pages of text for what will turn out to be a 12-15 page story. Mind you, this is in addition to the constant re-writing I do when I sit down to continue work on the tale: I always start again from word one and revise as I go. When I compare my re-written passages to what I originally . . . err . . . perpetrated, I can clearly see that they are superior in terms of precision, flow and color. (By color I mean both characterization and narrative description.) 

 

 

Good to talk to you guys! May all of your grammatical miscues/misfires and/or plotting mistakes resolve themselves as quickly and painlessly as possible.

 

 

--edited by Carl E. Reed on 10/1/2013, 11:54 AM--


Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013 11:36 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Carl.  Writing "against your own best instincts" is precisely and aptly put, since I also agree with Mr King that sometimes the shit just needs shoveling.  Sometimes setting a scene aside doesn't accomplish anything.  You find you need something else in its place, and that can be just as painful, and just as uncertain.  In such cases, you grind it out and hope that far better versions await you somewhere down the road.  But I've certainly also had the experience where simply dumping a scene is like jettisoning an  absolutely useless (and heavy) piece of baggage from your cargo hold.  Wow!  Suddenly you're cruising along and gaining altitude, instead of limping across the sky.  And if someone had told you at takeoff that you wouldn't want (need!) that scene, you'd have probably told them they were nuts.

Alright.  It isn't usually that dramatic.  But there's undeniable lift. And, at least for a few minutes, you really are flying.  You can do barrel rolls and loop-the-loops.  For a few minutes.  

Also, I love the idea of a holding cell for our condemned darlings, awaiting execution.  I've got several pages of notes left over from the last novel.  Things that just fell out or never found a home.  It's not unlike the situation of building a model from a kit and having pieces left over.   I'm still pretty sure I'll use them somewhere.  But (one more simile) like leftovers in the fridge that you can't bring yourself to throw away, perhaps it's only a matter of not enough time having elapsed.  Some of them, probably most of them, will soon be ripe for tossing.  


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013 11:53 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


That last post made me smile, Atthys. "Jettisoning the baggage". Good for you! And aptly put (for those clunker passages we have to write as we feel our way through the story).
Mimi Speike
Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 6:56 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016


This topic is a sore spot with me. I have two problems. The first one is fixing things that I know need fixing. The second is that my semi-historical thing needs a whole lot of research. This gives me a decent excuse for why I'm not making headway. When you have a respectable cop-out, you tend to work it. I do, believe me I do. 

.

My husband sees through me, but he's a seriously scholarly man and he's as fixated on plausible foundational material (which I twist into nuttiness that only students of the period will truly appreciate) as I am. Example: Sly's poem on Natural Philosophy is based on a certain seventeenth century female scientist's penchant for putting her theories into verse. I have stolen her opening couplet outright.)

.

So, my Eberhard's not much of a taskmaster. He investigates early modern science for me with touching enthusiasm. He's an enabler, he is. I love him for it. 

.

What gets me moving? Unearthing some juicy tidbit that takes my nonsense to another level. John Dee, Elizabeth's Royal Astrologer, created a secret code, and odd symbols which scholars have never discovered the meaning of. Researching him on the web, I brought up the most enigmatic of his abstract designs on my screen, enlarged it, and froze. I called my husband, look, look! What do you see here? He answered, a cat! Which was my immediate reaction also. How fabulous is that? 

.

I already had plans to work Dee into my plot, and for Sly to have extensive dealings with him. Scholars of the period have speculated that Dee was one of Walsingham's undercover operatives. Sly has uncovered a plot against the Queen. He and Dee combine forces to obstruct an enemy dangerous, powerful, and wholly above suspicion. Supporting historical evidence of the encounter? Icing on the cake.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/2/2013, 3:43 PM--


Bret Plate
Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 6:37 PM
Joined: 9/9/2013
Posts: 5


This is a great topic;  obviously one writer's have grappled with forever.  I rarely suffer from writer's block (sorry to those of you who do!), but I think part of that is in the process I use.  As a screenwriter for many years, I was trained to plot everything out very carefully on 3X5 cards before I started writing.  It's a way of making sure you don't go down a rabbit hole and end up in China when your story is set in Kansas.  For a script, it's (approximately) 60 cards -- 30 cards/scenes for ACT I;  60 cards/scenes for ACT II;  30 for ACT III.


Later on, I added a wrinkle by creating a template in Word for each scene.  At the top was the location of the scene, time of day/night, and characters in the scene.  Then, below, I would write out everything I knew about that scene -- action, dialogue, everything.  Sometimes it might just say, "CAR CHASE."  Others, it would contain the entire scene, which had been roiling around in my head for weeks.  By the time I finished this "OUTLINE", the script was generally 30% written.  Once I sat down to write the actual script, it usually only took me 10-12 days.


I don't write like this for books...but then, my first three books have been novelizations of unsold specs, so the structure was already complete.  But I will say that working this way -- planning  before writing -- is extremely helpful in preventing W.B.


As for the torturous process of starting at the start, when all you have is a germ of an idea, I combine tons of research with good ol' stream of consciousness writing.  I sit down and write down WHATEVER comes to mind.  Themes...characters...voice... action/plot, plot twists... I don't edit;  I just daydream and...cogitate.  But I do it on the page.  


Then I go back periodically and read what I've written.  Generally it's a big mess, random thoughts flying all over the page... but eventually a few key ideas leap out and I say, "THAT'S what the story is!  THAT'S what I'm going to write."


And then the 3 X 5 cards come out.


Hope this helps somebody.


Mckenzie M
Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 11:07 AM
The best way to get out of writer's block is to take a break. Read some stuff, prefably related stuff. I always find that if you take a break--leave the work for a while--it helps, because it's as if you're looking at it with new eyes or a fresh perspective when you do go back to it.
Lucy Silag
Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 3:04 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


@McKenzie--I love that you just gave me even more justification that I can read when I "should" be writing. I did that all last weekend, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun . . . AND it did really get me excited about the writing I've done this week.

 

@Bret--Your suggestion RULES!! It sounds like a craft project, and I do love craft projects! (I may or may not just have made 100 makeshift notecards from abandoned cardstock I found in our supply room.) I want to try this out as I prepare for NaNoWriMo!

 

Lucy

Book Country Community and Engagement Manager

 

 


Lucy Silag
Posted: Saturday, October 19, 2013 7:18 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


@Bret, just started writing up a list of scenes to start transferring onto note cards . . . so fun!
Lucy Silag
Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 3:15 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


This thread has really stuck with me--just wrote about it (again), this time for the Penguin USA blog. Here's the post.

 

(Carl Reed, if your ears are burning, it's because I quoted you!!)


Carl E. Reed
Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 4:11 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


@Lucy: Thanks for sharing! It's nice to be quoted; even nicer to know that something I said helped another writer.

 

I'm just sitting down to write again myself; putting the final (mad?) touches on "A Matter of Displacement". Cheers!


Lucy Silag
Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 4:44 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Nevena commissioned a really great post from writer Roseanne Bane on the subject of Writer's Block (specifically post-Nano writer's block) for the blog on Tuesday. Did everyone see it? Roseanne has some great advice. I found this post very reassuring!

 

"But creativity is not an unending assembly line, nor is it supposed to be." --Roseanne Bane

 

I say, right on!


DJS
Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2013 10:06 AM
What is writer's block anyway? Is the blockage created artificially because of fear of failure or writing badly? If you're a pure writing animal, which all the great ones were, nothing will prevent you from getting those sentences written. Being driven to write is pretty much a most selfish enterprise, because in order to succeed it has to be. When we allow extraneous pressures to ambush our urgent need to write, we have to seriously consider whether we have the right stuff to write. J.D. Salinger epitomized the self-centered obsession authors require to get that damn monkey(the passion to write) off their backs every day. We who have to write are addicted to telling stories; the drug pusher is that damn monkey who, though recently shaken off with a most fruitful writing session, has quickly returned with a vengeance. I find it disheartening to read of all the petty interruptions that are allowed to create writer's block because of some deep psychological need to have a scapegoat for failure. The baby is crying for a bottle? Let the spouse get it. Someone needs to go to market in a snow storm to get groceries for a special dinner? Let the spouse do it--or cancel the dinner. When we launch upon a career of writing books, that commitment has to be priority number one. Sounds too harsh, too cruel, too selfish? Welcome to the club. Save the niceties and the amenities for when the writing is done. Salinger stayed in his isolated cabin for days at a time, the rataplan of his typewriter a constant reminder that he couldn't revert to being a pleasant companion until he got the damn monkey off his back. I developed a passion for writing to escape the savagery of a Catholic orphanage. Unable to cope with a sullied reality, I survived by creating my own livable world. That fiery imperative has never left me even though I now live in a more salubrious world. Yes, I can be a nice guy when I'm not wrestling with that insistent monkey, but when I'm writing not even Mother Teresa could persuade me to put up my quill and share my larder with some street beggar.
Janet Umenta
Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 10:31 AM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


I think we sometimes let life's distractions convince us that we have writer's block, when we are actually making excuses.

 

Megan Stielstra wrote a great piece on how she motivates herself to write, even when she has a thousand excuses not to.

 

What compels you to pick up that pen or open that word document to write?


Atthys Gage
Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 2:42 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I read somewhere that writer's block is all in your mind.  Prompting the obvious question:  where else would it be?
Carl E. Reed
Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 2:53 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


Re: Atthys: Heh! Indeed.
Brandi Larsen
Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 5:41 PM
Joined: 6/18/2012
Posts: 228


Love it. I have seen some wooden blocks with "writer's block"  -- chiseled in the wood -- sitting on writers' desks to serve as inspiration.

 

I was inspired by Megan's post that Janet mentions above. I love her reasons and that motivated me this morning.

 

 Having a deadline always helps, too.

 

 How do you get out of your own way to get your writing done?


Forgewright
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 12:40 AM
Joined: 7/2/2014
Posts: 2


Most famous writers from the past all shared one thing in common. They wrote as soon as they woke up. A tired mind is filled with imagination but we don't feel like writing. You have found an important clue to productive writing. Taking notes as soon as we wake before dreams and ideas float away. Then returning later to feed upon your inspiration.
Forgewright
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 12:55 AM
Joined: 7/2/2014
Posts: 2


Researching and Bookmarking prior to a sit down writing session is essential to developing a writer's routine. When we cannot push through an unfocused write, we may be out of material.


A working writer on a deadline would be the best friend a novice like myself could have in my corner. They would be the masters of routine. If we cannot research online without distraction then we are lost. Many of my writing sessions end up at Youtube Fail videos.


With my research done and my juices flowing I can be productive. With my files and bookmarks and dreams on scrap paper I prevail!


Great advice from everyone. I gained some insight into the beast that is Writer's Block. wink


Kingstonmike
Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 11:34 AM
Joined: 8/14/2014
Posts: 5


I find that works for me as well...If I get REALLY stuck in a particular scene, I move on to another scene that I want to write.

 

However, eventually I have to go back and finish all these scenes that are half-done, so I would also advise developing the grit to power through the blocks and just accept that you can fix them in rewrite if you aren't happy with what you are currently putting down on paper.


Charles J. Barone
Posted: Saturday, January 3, 2015 3:05 PM
Joined: 7/18/2014
Posts: 121


I found this quote by Harlan Coben. Whenever I'm stuck I go back and read it once or twice.

 

You have to sit your butt in the chair and write.  You have to do that every day.  That doesn’t mean you lie on your couch and play with your navel.  That doesn’t mean you go shopping when the words don’t flow the way you think they should.  That never works.  It means you sit your ass in the chair and get to work.  No excuses.  And just so we’re clear: Outlining is not writing.  Coming up with ideas is not writing.  Researching is not writing.  Creating characters is not writing.  Only writing is writing (yes, that’s deep).  So cut it out with the writer’s block and the waiting for the muse to arrive and the artistic pretenses.  That’s all nonsense.

Again this is pretty obvious — and yet I’m shocked at how many people who want to write don’t get this.

 

 


Jean Marie
Posted: Saturday, January 3, 2015 3:19 PM
Joined: 10/22/2014
Posts: 28


On the money Charles

 

BIC, pen to paper, if you're stuck, or if that's your preferred method of writing.  Or, bic at the keyboard.  Naval gazing doesn't accomplish much.  As for outlining, that completely messes me up.

 

People don't get it b/c they're looking for excuses, generally speaking.

 

Writers are a creative bunch, and if we want to, we can figure a way around something even if it means skipping a section and coming back to later on.  There are all sorts of ways to beat a block, but avoiding it isn't one of them.  That's creating a monster, imho.


chatebooks
Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 11:50 AM
Joined: 1/19/2016
Posts: 12


I think taking a break is one of the best ways to overcome writer's block. Try something new aside from writing like cooking or photography. It's always best to take a break once in a while so as not to burn your brain out. https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-how-to-write-an-ebook-fast-a-7-day-plan
Dravid
Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2016 4:50 AM
Joined: 1/31/2016
Posts: 30


Hand write first and best but a folder or ten.

2nd become crazy as a loon and write on pure compulsive obsession.

Dravid

 


chatebooks
Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 11:26 AM
Joined: 1/19/2016
Posts: 12


When writer's block hits me, I usually put down the pen and reset. I do things totally unrelated to writing (travelling, getting massages, etc.) just to give my brain that well-deserved break. Once I gain my momentum back, I proceed to my writer's lair and resume writing. ChatEbooks recently posted https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-Book-Marketing-Why-Authors-Should-Partner-With-Book-Bloggers
Charles J. Barone
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 3:19 PM
Joined: 7/18/2014
Posts: 121


I've been away for awhile, I suppose experiencing some form of writer's block. Only I've been writing. Being able to write isn't the problem. I've started 3 novels. One lasted thirty odd pages and died. Another (just checked it) ran over seventy pages before breaking down. The last crashed at twenty something pages. They sit like broken down, rusting automobiles along a road, probably never to be fixed or started.

 

I don't know that any of this is writer's block. I tend to believe it's me and my penchant for always having the beginning of a novel while forgetting that stories tend to need a middle followed by an end.

 

Now, I'm in the thinking phase of a fourth, except I can't even figure out a decent start. At some point, either today, tomorrow or next week it will happen. At some point, either today or tomorrow or next week, too, I hope to have more than just a beginning. Maybe I'll focus on the end, write that chapter and then try to work toward it.


chatebooks
Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016 12:31 PM
Joined: 1/19/2016
Posts: 12


Burnout can really take a toll on a writer’s physical and mental state. It’s best to put down the pen once in a while and do things that you don’t normally do or treat yourself to a vacation. By doing this, you’ll be able to recharge and go back to work with fresh and fast.

 

ChatEbooks recently posted https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-Writing-a-Book-5-Tips-on-How-Authors-Can-Utilize-Time-Effectively



 

Jump to different Forum...