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Monday, June 3, 2013

Diagnosing Writers' Block

I'm doing JuNoWriMo! At least I think I am. I haven't made much progress yet. And to go along with that, I'll be doing posts this week about how to get the words flowing. Maybe, I'll just learn something. :)

When I was on the panel at YAB fest, a lot of the young writers in attendance asked us how we handled writers' block. The panel members gave some great answers which inspired this post, so I must give some credit for this post to the Out of This World panel.

My main takeaway was that writers' block is a symptom of a problem, not a problem on it's own. So, in order to fix your writers' block, you must know what's causing it. Here are some possibilities:

1) Plot problems

Sometimes I say I have "written myself into a hole". I'm sure you know the feeling, especially if you're a pantser. You get your characters into a situation and you don't know how to get them out of it, at least not gracefully. Or perhaps the plot just begins to languish. This often happens to me in the middle of the book. I know how the book starts, and I know what the climax will entail, but sometimes getting from point A to point B is difficult.

Rx: Go back. I visualize the plot like a maze. If you find yourself at a dead end, you have to retrace your steps and then try a different path. Go back to the last place where the story was working and try again.

Or, skip ahead. If you know how to end the book, but don't know how to get there, just skip ahead and write the part you know. You'll still have to figure out how to get from point A to point B, but working ahead is better than just doing nothing. Once you get your fingers typing, it may spark your inspiration and give you a light bulb moment for the part where you're stuck.

2) Fear

Finishing your book means that you're that much closer to putting yourself out there. Closer to possible rejection (or probable rejection). Disappointment. And so on and so forth.

I deal with this issue a lot, and I don't think I'm alone. There is a reason why a lot of people dream of writing a novel, but never really do it. If you try, then you might fail. And a far off dream of publication can feel a lot warmer than facing reality.

Rx: There is no easy answer, but I think that recognizing your fear makes a big difference. If you decide that you're okay with any possible result, and you want to write anyway, then you know you have what it takes. Just brave through the fear and keep going.

3) General brain stagnation

This may be the garden variety writers' block that people think about. You're just all dried up with no interesting ideas. This one hits me the most between projects. I worry I'll never think of anything clever ever again.

Rx: Remove yourself from your mundane life and mundane concerns.

Listen to music. Exercise. Spend time outdoors. Read books. Nurture your creative spirit and eventually the idea will come. And if all else fails, just start writing, even if your idea seems stupid or cliche. This is where events like JuNo really come in handy. The motto is "just write." It's that simple. Just shut up and do it. Yes, I am talking to you Sharon.


Charmaine Clancy said...

Good luck with the challenge! Whenever I get stuck on a plot problem I stop writing for a couple of days and 'mull' it over - which is probably the same as visualising the problem as a maze. You know where you need to start and where you need to get to, you just need a valid path to get there :)

Angela Brown said...

You make some great suggestions here. The fear factor is one I've tangled with regarding my procrastination. The thought process is, "If I don't finish it, then I don't have to face the negative things that could come." But then I get all excited about the story and get antsy. That antsy feeling can be its own motivator.

Liz said...

Good tips.