You stare at the screen. Stuck. Nothing’s coming. The flashing cursor sits there, mocking you, waiting with its slit heartbeat, ticking away precious moments of your life while you wait for the words to come. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Nearly every writer has experienced writer’s block, but I have a little secret I’d like to share.
It’s all a lie. There is no such thing as writer’s block.
Now, wait. Before you disagree, read on.
Writer’s block is one of the biggest myths in writing. It’s Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle all rolled into one. If you believe it exists, it does. But then, people once believed the world was flat, and backed it up with plenty of proof too. When that myth was dispelled, a whole new world opened up. The same will hold true once we dismiss the myth of writer’s block.
So If Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist, Why Am I Stuck?
Consider a typical writer’s scenario. You get an idea, a spark, a flash of insight. Quickly you jot it down and then begin to write. The ideas pour out onto the page. You can’t type fast enough. It comes so easily. Life is good again. You’re all smiles. And then, a few days, a few weeks into it, you get this quiet little feeling. It comes on suddenly, almost imperceptibly. Like horses before an earthquake, you sense that something’s not quite right. The words that flowed so fast, dry into a trickle, and you’re stuck. The well’s gone dry and needs to be refilled, or so you tell yourself. You’ve had a good run, and you just need to think. But for some reason your muse has left the building. You wait and wait for it to return, but nothing happens. Life stinks. You don’t want to talk to anyone until you get through this scene. You’ve hit writer’s block, right? Wrong. Remember, there’s no such thing as writer’s block. The problem is not where you are in the story – it’s where you’ve been. This is the myth of writer’s block. To many, writer’s block means that you’ve run out of things to write. This is a misconception. You haven’t run out of things to say: you’ve been saying the wrong things all along. Writer’s block does not occur during the times when you are searching for a way to move forward. It occurs when the material is coming easily. So it’s not a block at all. It’s a warning. Heed it.
Take a look at the point where you are stuck. What led up to this? When the writing is easy, take a good, hard look at what’s going on in your story. Writer’s block is not a curse. It’s a blessing. It’s a little voice inside your head that is telling you to stop. Do not pass Go. Something’s wrong here. Mark Twain once said, “Easy writing makes for hard reading.” Examine the passages you wrote when the writing was flowing. Somewhere you will find the wrong turn that led you down this dead end street.
Eliminating Writer’s Block Once And For All
Most writers don’t lack words, they lack story. The best way to eliminate writer’s block is to plan out your story. Use note cards. Use an outline. Break the storytelling process down into its constituent parts. I hate outlines. I really do. But the bottom line is they work. How you write your outline is up to you, but do it. Some writers like to write a first draft as an outline. That’s a lot of work, but as long as you give yourself permission to write a wretched first draft, this approach might work for you. However, the key here is to break up the story into manageable parts. Drafting the story and writing the story are two very different things. If you focus all your energy into designing the story, breaking it down into its beats, and then start to write, you can focus fully on each part of the storytelling process. If you try to do it all at once, you are dividing your focus, and this will invariably lead to writer’s block. If you know where your story is going, you are freed up to focus solely on writing. Suddenly your dialogue is crisp. Your scenes have movement because they have to be to fit into the story you have already designed. This is writing as a craft, and craft is the difference between a professional and an amateur. There are plenty of unpublished writers with more talent than their published counterparts. The main difference is craft, the approach to the writing process, not the writing itself. How often have you started a story only to hit a block and stop? This is not because you are untalented or undisciplined. Often it’s simply a matter of putting too much pressure on yourself by trying to design the story as you write it. It’s really that simple.
The earth was once flat. Almost everyone believed it. But when this myth was shattered, a whole new world opened up. It’s the same with writer’s block. Let others choose to believe the myth – you have a story to write.