Monday, March 21, 2011

Writer's Block

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

- staring at the blank page without a clue as to where or how to begin
- a rejection from an agent or editor/publisher, which throws you into a fit
   of depression
- a critique that rang loud inside your head with the message, not good 
   enough!, even though it actually included much praise and excellent
- an overwhelming sense that the deck is stacked against you, given the odds
   of getting published
- a compulsive need to go back and revise again and again each time you
   learn something new or realize there are imperfections in your manuscript
- dread of the pages full of words that need to be revised
- heart-pounding cold sweats at the thought of pitching your story idea to an
   agent or editor, or of going on a book tour
- nightmares where you are on a book tour and your underwear is showing
- dread of being published and getting one bad review after another, or of
   having nothing left to say

There are more! Nasty little anxiety-provoking events and obsessions. You know them, and you know any one of them can lead you like a lemming into the Dreaded Writer's Block (not to be confused with the Block where the Dreaded Writer lives—more on that in a later post, when I know for sure he's out of town).  No, this is the one where you feel like you've walked into a giant brown paper bag and someone stapled the open end shut. You're stuck. No way out. You can breathe, sort of, if you don't do anything strenuous. Like putting words on paper (you don't have your computer, smart phone, iPad, iTouch or any other technology with you in this scenario, but you do have a pencil, and you're surrounded by brown paper).

Okay, I'm already hearing the howls of protest from certain quarters. "No such thing! Just power through it! Go for a walk!"  Well, I can tell you that if I go for a walk when I'm finding it impossible to write, the breakthrough that happens is that I find out, once again, that I love to walk!  So then, the only thing I can do is give myself a break. Spend some quality time gazing at the sky, followed by more time gazing at the patrons in my favorite coffee shop. Then, to avoid offending people who don't like being stared at, maybe I'll buy a book and start reading an author new to me, one who writes just like I wanted to when I got blocked, but I couldn't get a handle on it.  Hey, this author is a perfect example to emulate!

And there it is. I've finally fought my way out of that paper bag. It's convoluted, but everyone has their process. If you never get writer's block, I bow down to you in admiration and abject envy. If you do get it, though, is there something that helps you get back on the page?



  1. Crazy as this may sound....once I admit out loud that I am stuck, say that the rejection actually did get me down, say that I think I really am not all that good of a other words once I acknowledge that yeah I'm blocked or whatever I chose to call it? It goes away...I guess it's like I stop fighting it, accept that it happens.

  2. That's fantastic, Deb. You sound like the type of person who looks at a situation and says, 'This is real. As long as I know what the reality is, I can change it.' Powerful stuff.

  3. I think we all have ways with dealing with it--and I think we all face it at some point. Anyone who's never had it must be really young, is all I'm saying. Because we all get stuck eventually. But I've found for me the best way is to tough through it. Force myself to write. oftentimes my block comes from fear. usually this approach produces awful writing, but at least I have something to work with--because even though the writing may not be the best, I usually come up with an idea that feels solid, a sort of breakthrough, and that's a start! Walks can work too (or a shower for some reason). Also, watching movies. Not sure why.

  4. Ah the evil that is writer's block. I have a wonderful way to beat it. I brainstorm about my story with someone who knows it well, either you ladies, or my better half. Always works! I'm so glad you got through yours. :)

  5. Can I answer the questions first? ... Yes! All these are emotional blocks that keep us from moving forward with our fingers buzzing across the keyboard. When this happens you need to change your state. Meaning... shift that energy. Going out and walking is great! It breaks whatever is going on and you're doing it with health. I think many people try to change their states with food. Your idea is best. Then you get writing. Excellent! Thanks for a great post!

  6. Powering through, Carolina. Yes. That sounds good to me, too. Then the walk helps with the new idea (or the shower does—with the extra added benefit that you smell good again!)

  7. Thanks, Heather. That's an excellent one. Especially when you think you're soooo close, if you could only express what you're feeling . . . a good brainstorming session with trusted partners is the best! Thank you for all those times, btw!

  8. So true, Karlene, the key is shifting the energy! Changing it up, whatever it takes. Shaking the fog off and the ideas loose. (I've tried the food route. In fact I think I've tried every possible food route!! I end up dazed, and happy for about three minutes). Why do healthy choices have to be better? Sigh. They just are.

  9. Writer's block is not something I've experience, perhaps because of how I write. I have long periods when I go without writing and then I pick up again when I start feeling guilty.

    However, I'm now in a situation where I'm afraid to start editing something I have written for fear that I won't do a good enough job to get the story told write. I'm planning to do some reading though, before I do any more writing.

  10. Ah, guilt as motivator. I can definitely relate, J.L. Sounds like you don't have any problem getting the job done once you set your mind to it, though. That's excellent. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  11. More great advise!

    I have an award for you ladies at my blog.


  12. Wow, thanks Michael! That is sooo sweet of you, and it is So You! Can't wait to talk with you next month.