Writer's block is another one of those dirty little writer secrets that we aren't supposed to talk about. Like those other nasty writer issues---self-sabotage, contest mood disorder, rejection and depression, they only happen to other writers.Anyone who says they have never had a moment of being blocked is either fibbing, in denial or they have already developed techniques to move past the block and have skillfully incorporated those techniques into their writing lifestyles. Bravo for the latter.
The reason the term writer's block is spoken in hush-hush tones is because many mistakenly think it means the well has dried up. The creative flow is no more.
Not necessarily true. Writer's block manifests in many forms.
Author and Writing Coach Jerry Mundis categorizes the 6 types of writer's block:
- Avoidance behavior
- Last minute crisis writing
- Inability to finish
- Inability to select among projects
- Block specific (project specific)
Any of those sound familiar to you?
While we lovingly quote Nora Roberts and her thoughts on the writing muse around here...
“If you need to believe in the muse, let’s say, fine and dandy. Whatever works for you. But don’t tell me you can’t work today because the muse has left you. Go track down that fickle slut, drag her back, chain her to your keyboard, and GET TO WORK.”and"I don't believe in waiting for inspiration. It's my job to sit down and figure out what to write. I think if you wait for 'the muse' you may wait a very long time."
"I don't believe in waiting for inspiration. It's my job to sit down and figure out what to write. I think if you wait for 'the muse' you may wait a very long time."
...the reality is we are all unique and sometimes it isn't a matter of the chasing down the muse.
Because we are all unique there isn't a quick fix for writer's block.
Sometimes you simply have to get up and walk away.
Cultivate a new exercise program.
Discover the joy of antique stores, flea markets or garage sales.
Go to a movie all by yourself.
Check out your local museums and galleries.
Get lost in your local independent bookstore.
Enjoy a massage or a spa day.
Sit in on a free lecture.
Get a guide book and be a tourist in your own city.
Do anything that involves you getting you away from the computer screen and back into L-I-F-E. Do not write. At least for a day or two. Get yourself to the point where you are anxious and excited to get back to your writing.
Finding the root for writer's block might just unlock the problem. There can be many reasons for writer's block including:
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Success
- Being Overwhelmed
- Editor on the Shoulder Complex
In Midnight Disease, Alice Weaver Flaherty, considers the problem to be neurological and more closely related to a mood disorder.
Susan O'Doherty's Getting Unstuck, Without Coming Unglued, addresses the problems specific to women and the creative process. Some of these include the roles women play and how they encourage us to put aside our dreams and creativity. She also discusses the isolation of creative women, because they see the world differently than their peers.
Several of the books listed in the resources below are exercise driven, providing writing prompts to release creativity.
Others provide prompts along with a good dose of humor like Jenna Glatzer's, Outwitting Writer's Block, which has a chapter called, Self-Doubt and Other Stupid Garbage.
She tells a funny personal anecdote: '...a family member...formerly liked who announces her revelation around the Thanksgiving dinner table: "Hey, Jenna, my kids are reading the Harry Potter series. Why don't you write something like that? You could sell a lot of books." Oh. Why didn't I think of that? Of course, all I have to do is is break into J. K. Rowling's computer, steal all her notes, and I'll be rolling in it.'
The most important thing is to stop doing what isn't working.
Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
If you continue to sit down to write and continue to meet with writer's block, day after day, then you feed into negative thoughts, doubts and self images. You are perpetuating the cycle, and creating an negative association with your writing time.
Instead--find a solution.
Breaking down the task or deconstructing it into bite size measurable goals can be the best way to move on. Take that big boulder and chip away at it until you have small manageable pieces.
Writer's Block Bookshelf:
Write. 10 Days To Overcome Writer's Block. Period. by Karen E. Peterson, Ph.D.
Outwitting Writer's Block and other Problems of the Pen by Jenna Glatzer
The Midnight Disease. The Drive to Write, Writers Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice W. Flaherty
Writer's Block Buster by Velina Hasu Houston
Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued. A Woman's Guide to Unblocking Creativity by Susan O'Doherty, Ph.D.
This post first appeared in Seekerville May 8, 2009.
By day, Tina Radcliffe is a mild mannered pharmacy data entry clerk, by night well, she's asleep. However in her dreams she is a New York Times best selling author. Her second release from Love Inspired, Oklahoma Reunion is available for preorder now and releases late September.
More info here.