How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Beach


Do you have writer’s block?

I do.

I hate to say it. It’s true, though.

There are so many reasons writers get caught in a creative root, my current one is the most embarrassingly easy to identify and overcome.

I haven’t written my novel for over two weeks.

I almost wrote about another subject today because I was ashamed to admit that I have writer’s block.

I have my story outline, know what my next plot point is, know my characters decently well, but still that lingering, looming fogginess consumes my mind when I think about my novel, and it pushes me away from the page.

A few weeks ago there was a family emergency. My wife and I flew down south and took care of a family member in the hospital . Overall, we were gone for about ten days. We were incredibly busy.

Sure, there’s been a lot of life stuff going on. I could have made time for writing. Given the circumstances, I don’t regret it, and I would do it the same way over again.

But now I have writer’s block. Just because I haven’t written in a while. No other reason than that.

The cure? Write again.

Do you find that to be true as well? If you leave your story for a bit, it can become stale, almost uninteresting, difficult to wrap your head around.

It’s a dangerous place to stay for long. Many writers abandon their work when they reach that place.

I’ll outline my plan to conquer writer’s block. I hope that as I conquer my own bout of writer’s block, you find some of my practices helpful for your situation.

 

Read the last ten pages you wrote

That does NOT say “read everything up until the point you stopped.” You only need to familiarize yourself again with a few pages before you left off to see the tone, pacing, climate, etc… so when you begin, you can match it.


If you skip this step, it will likely sound disjointed.

 

Review your next plot point

Look over your story structure and see how far you need to go before you hit your next plot point. Feel free to review your entire structure. Sometimes I take a full day to immerse myself in the structure again before I dive back into writing.

Whatever you’re comfortable with.

 

Spend some quality time with your character

If I leave my novel for a while, I need to be reintroduced to my characters.

Maybe that’s just me, but it feels like seeing a friend again who you’ve lost touch with. You don’t know where to begin, not sure if it was your other friend who just moved to a new apartment or if it was them… should you ask them how the move was or would that be awkward and betray your forgetfulness?

It’s the same with your characters. You need to sit down and talk with them before you jump back into the novel.

Sometimes I free write a scene with that character in a closed space like a coffee shop. Not part of the novel, just a stand-alone piece to help me get reaquainted over coffee. I usually have a sassy person enter the scene and see how the character interacts with them. I explore their thoughts and actions as they react to their surroundings.

I like the freedom to abandon my story structure as long as it’s true to my characters, so the ultimate sin is to forget my character. This is a vital step you cannot overlook — make sure you still feel intimately close to your character before you try to overcome writer’s block again.

If you dive into writing with a vague sense of closeness to your character, I implore you to spend some quality time with them. Reinvigorate what originally interested you about them. It could spark some creativity for the next scene.

 

Begin with a prompt

When I say prompt, I don’t mean a stand-alone story prompt, I mean a paragraph prompt. I use this when I get stuck. I might come back and delete it after it gets me rolling, but you might unearth something unique. I’ll give you a few examples. Begin with a new paragraph that starts like one of these, and then free write within the confines of your current scene. 

1. “She remembered a time when…”

2. “He used to believe…”

3. “His parents used to…”

4. “When she was a child, she used to go to…”

5. “Something seemed off.. He couldn’t tell what it was. It reminded him of…”

6. “She couldn’t believe that…”

7. “Sometimes he would…”

8. “She heard a deafening…”

9. “He couldn’t believe she would…”

10. “It wasn’t like her to think this, but…”

 

Free write

Cast aside your inner editor and write some crap. It will be choppy at the beginning, and that’s okay – expected, actually.


Question(s) of the day: What do you do when you get writer’s block? What stood out to you?

8 Comments

  1. I currently have writer’s block, and like you, there’s a good reason for it. My boyfriend and I are moving out of state, and given that he works full time and I don’t- most of the planning has fallen to me. Now, I like planning and packing so this works for me, but it means the planned re-write of my novel hasn’t actually had the chance to become anything beyond the semi-detailed outline I have. It’s a bad place to be as a writer, and I’ll admit I’ve almost cried because I feel like a failure for not writing, but still calling myself a writer. Then I remember that it’s not like I’m not writing because I don’t want it, it’s just that an out of state move is a big life event, and that’s taking priority. I can’t half ass either, and I don’t want to. I know I’ll be starting again soon, and when I do, the tips above will come in handy. Thanks for another great post. 🙂

    • bdschmitt

      September 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Hope the move goes well! That is a huge life change — do you have any friends or family there or will this be the unknown?

      If I were in your situation, I would look up some writing meet-ups in your new city. I’d try to visit a few to find one you like within a couple weeks after moving. Especially while getting used to your new surroundings, if you start strong, it will help cultivate an atmosphere for writing. Not to mention making new friends in your new city.

      • Thanks! We’re moving to Vancouver, WA and I do have family in Seattle, and sort of know someone in Portland. Thanks for the suggestion- I was planning on finding a writing (and reading) group once I’m up there to make friends and have others to share my writing with directly. I’m definitely itching to get back to writing, I miss it. Hope you can kick the writer’s block soon!

        • bdschmitt

          September 21, 2015 at 1:09 pm

          I hear it’s gorgeous – I’ve never been though. And the weather will make you want to write even more, I’m sure! My writing group meets in two weeks, so I know I’d better have some progress to show them or it’ll be humiliating. So I’m going to kick my writer’s block in the tush mainly to save face.

  2. Do you have writer’s block or is this a case of good old-fashioned resistance? Are you sitting in the chair unable to think of what to write, or avoiding the chair altogether?

    I find my blocks are more about resistance. I have to force myself to sit in the chair (even if I move the chair to the coffeehouse, the park, or the library) and write quickly for five minutes to warm up. If I’ve been away from writing for awhile (like my current vacation), I’m rusty and need to do the writer’s equivalent of “musical scales,” limbering up the ‘ol writer’s muscles. Also helpful: reading something in the genre that I’m writing, or reading writing that blows me away, then writing quickly. There’s something about reading good work that inspires me to write.

  3. On spot article. I used to have a deadline on Friday, that used to freak me out on Monday -so Monday, come rain or shine, I’d be on it. That lasted long after I quit being a columnist for a weekly magazine. Now, having moved to Asia, it took a lot of effort to get back into the routine -any routine.
    It does help I get really cranky and itchy when I don’t write for a while, but then there’s all the other stuff that happens in life, and all the scary thoughts that hiss in my ears and I find myself writing 6 new beginnings to 6 new stories…

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