Category Archives: Writer’s Block

How to overcome it, why we have it, what it does…

The counter to writer’s block

Frequent writing.

That’s it. The most effective counter to writer’s block is to always write. Unfortunately, it’s a long term thing, not a short term magical cure. The thing is, the people who have the most problem with writer’s block are more likely to be people who don’t write often. It’s a very vicious cycle, as I will illustrate below.

Writer’s block –> writer doesn’t write –> writer isn’t used to writing –> writer doesn’t know what to write –> writer’s block

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, the key to frequent writing is to just write. It doesn’t matter how bad it is. A lot of people get stuck at this stage. If they see that their story looks horrible, they’ll abandon it. Most prevalent among perfectionists. Alternatively, there are people who will keep editing what they’ve written until it’s perfect before they’ll continue. Unfortunately, rare are the stories that are totally perfect. This continuous editing usually ends up being a huge waste of time. Also prevalent among perfectionists.

Another problem is that some people just can’t be bothered to write all the way to the end, for various reasons. Now and then, I have rare moments where I know how I want the story to progress from the beginning to the end. It should be perfect. I have direction. I have an ending I can work towards. The problem is since I know how I want the story to be (usually everything has already played out in my mind, a few times, in a few different ways), it makes me lazier than usual when it comes to penning it all down.

The main problem for people starting out (or starting a new project) is that they have no idea what to write. They stare at a blank piece of paper, jot down a word or two, a few sentences if it’s a good day for them, stare a bit more, leave. There are plenty of tricks for getting ideas all over the place, and a little creativity goes a long way. I remember reading an amusing story about someone trying to get rid of a writer’s block, and failing.

For people starting off or those who, due to real life being a nuisance, have not been able to write in awhile, it’s perfectly fine to start off by writing something that has a less than average length. Try writing a very, very short story (6 words).

“I love you.”

“But I don’t.”

Or maybe a story that’s only three sentences long.

I hit James. James hit me back. We both got detention.

It may not be spectacular, but it’s a start.

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Anachronic writing

For those who write stories long enough, sometimes you’ll have a writer’s block for one chapter, which prevents you from writing the rest of the story, but your brain keeps pitching you chapters that come later in the book. Like, you’re struggling with this important chapter in the front of the book, but the climax is writing itself out perfectly and entirely in your head. You sludge through the chapters in between, because you really want to write that climax, but when you finally reach that point in the story, the climax just disappears. Now the ending is spinning itself beautifully in your head but dang it, you want your epic climatic battle. Where did it go?

The answer to this is to just write down the climax somewhere when it’s being nice and writable in your head, even if it’s too early in the story and things might change by the time you actually reach the scene. Basically, instead of writing in order (Chapter 1, Chapter 2…), write whatever that pops up in your head. It’s a little unusual, since most of us are linear writers, but writing the scene out of order might help clear up some blocks. And if we’re still stuck, at least we wrote something.

Take it one step at a time

Just to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, writer’s block is generally a potentially non-existant condition where a writer just can’t continue writing. There’re many reasons for this and the many, many tips to combat it are everywhere for those who look. I myself have a tip.

Take it one step at a time.

Instead of thinking so much about the end product, just focus on one sentence/thing at a time. For example: hero opens door –> goop falls on his head –> he slips on the goop on the floor –> he ends up on his back –> he sees the ceiling –> there’s a huge spider on the ceiling, dripping spider goop into his face… Even if most of what you get is gibberish, eventually you’ll get some really good gems. Then you can delete all the gibberish and continue with the good stuff.

On the other hand, you can always write anachronically: do the sections you can and want to write about first regardless of what order it’s supposed to be in, but that’s another story.

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