There seems to be one common struggle that all writers face (and face rather often). That struggle is reaching a point when writing where you are just stuck. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo 2020, I decided to explore what’s going on when writer’s block hits.
The insufferable writer’s block is a plague upon the creative process. Sometimes writer’s block takes a few different forms…
Here are a few that happen to me and let’s see if you relate.
The ideas are there but the words aren’t
No matter how long you stare at the page the right way to write what is locked away and formulated in your head does not want to make that thermodynamic jump to change from ephemeral ideas to solid words on the page.
How to solve: Write. Seriously, you might surprise yourself. I know it is difficult just to look at the blank page and let the words flow. So try some alternatives… Try free writing about anything. Try writing from another character’s POV. Try writing the dialogue outside of the action.
The words I have are crap and don’t make sense
Let me set the scene: you have been clacking away, hating every sentence that graces the page, and find that the backspace button is your trusty friend. Don’t let the delete key fool you… it is the antagonist to the writing process. Writing when you aren’t feeling the most poetic, creative, or at “the top of your game” is an unfortunate symptom of being a writer. Writers have to sometime write a lot of nonsensical crap to get to the deeper, masterfully crafted prose. If you erase what you have written, it makes it very hard to edit in a later draft.
How to Solve: Give yourself one rule and one rule only…. you are not allowed to touch the backspace key. Then give yourself a set amount of time to write without stopping and do not even think about touching the delete key.
I know where I want my story to go, but I’m just not sure where we are right now
Whether you know where the story will be at by its ending or in two scenes from where you are at, it is extraordinarily common to get stuck in a place where you are a little unsure of how to connect point A to B.
How to Solve: If you don’t mind writing outside of chronological order, maybe try skipping to the spot where you know what is supposed to happen and then go back to connect the scenes.
I am desperately reconsidering everything, including why I ever decided to become a writer in the first place
This feeling often comes to me when I am about midway through my story OR just as I’m nearing my finale. Coincidentally, this is usually when the protagonist is facing their hardest challenges too. The problem is, something is wrong in my story and I don’t know how to solve it.
How to solve: This is the most frustrating answer to the most frustrating problem… and it is to keep on writing. Things will feel murky in the middle, but that doesn’t discredit you as a writer. What does discredit you is when you stop writing and scrap the project outright.
Other Ways that help me combat the dreaded writers block:
- Go on a walk. Bring a notebook or have your phone handy to write down notes. Think about the problem you are having in your story and try and capture the loose ideas as they fall out.
- Schedule a writing sprint. Set a specific amount of time aside, eliminate distractions, and just write freely and see what happens. Check out the Pomodoro Technique or other productivity methods to help best strategize your time.
- Eliminate distractions. I might have said this already but it warrants repeating. Writing happens when you can solely focus on the page. Find a space and a time where you can disconnect entirely and you might be surprised what happens when you let yourself work with absolutely no distractions.
- Remember why you started. Writers write because of their overwhelming desire and enjoyment to do so. Writing is hard and can be an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t get on the ride if you don’t enjoy it. But when you are stuck feeling like you will never reach the peak, remember why you wanted to do this in the first place.
My Writing Excuses
aka…things I do instead of writing, when I should be writing
The writing related–– aka the warning zone
These are all helpful things to do, but none of them are going to up word counts or finish the book, the only way to do that is by actually writing.
- Doing research related to book I’m currently writing
- Reading books/articles on writing craft
- Listening to Writing Excuses (the podcast)
- Re-reading scenes I have already written
- Re-writing scenes I have already written
- Adding new points to my outline or character descriptions
- Outlining new scenes
- Compiling inspirational Pinterest boards
- Writing a blog post instead…
The less writing related–– aka the danger zone
These can be especially dangerous because they are sneaky distractions that seem productive but often leave me questioning whether to continue on with my current project or give me heaps of self-doubt. *
- Doing research not related to what I’m currently writing.
- Brainstorming a new project
- Playing around on Canva
- Critiquing/Beta reading
- Scrolling through authorgram/bookstagram
- Reading for pleasure
- Curating a new playlist on Spotify
*Nothing on this list is bad, and in fact they are great ways to connect with the author community and improve writing craft overall. It is just easy to confuse these distractions with actual productivity while trying to write a novel.
The not writing related: aka the full distraction
These items have nothing to do with writing and when I fall into them they are generally a full stop, a much needed break, and a disconnect to allow me to recharge.
- Stress cleaning
- Stress eating
- Pacing through my house
- Watching Netflix
- Scrolling through all other forms of social media
So dear writers, all of this is to say… Writing a novel is hard work. Completing NaNoWriMo is HARD work. Keeping yourself motivated to take on the task isn’t easy. It is even easier to succumb to writer’s block or life’s distractions. Sadly the only real cure for it is to just persevere and try your hardest to get words on the page.
And remember one of my favorite quotes on writing:
“You can’t edit a blank page”-Jodi Picoult