Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

Getting the Block Out of Writer's Block by Tina Radcliffe

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:

  • Paralysis
  • 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
  • Anxiety
  • Being Overwhelmed
  • Guilt
  • Perfectionism
  • Editor on the Shoulder Complex
  • Stress
  • Illness
One of the most destructive of these is stress. When family pressures, financial concerns, personal problems have taken over your body and mind they suck the creativity right out of us. If possible-- a solution is to take your mind, and maybe your body too, out of the the stressful situation. Utilize sensory/ emotional triggers for short periods of time, building your creative reserve back up. Take yourself on a writing retreat, even if it's only to the local java hut.

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.

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.

Only 6 more critiques left!


  1. Hi Tina:

    The leading cause of writers block is the belief in writer’s block. The more reality you give the idea, the more likely you are to develop the ailment. Is there a pilot’s block, a doctor’s block, a baker’s block? No!

    In reality, there is nothing blocking anything. It’s like a candy maker who is out of sugar. There is no blockage; there’s just stoppage. The remedy is a trip to the store. In a writer’s case: the idea store.

    If one must cling to the reality of writer’s block, then at least also develop a belief in the reality of writer’s Drano.


  2. This is from the guy who doesn't believe in Pansters isn't it?

    Writer's Drano.

    I like it.

    I reaaaaally like it.

  3. Coffee's up and ready.

    Let's see.

    A Coke and a walk around the block are a pretty good dose of Writer's Drano for me.


  4. I loved the titles of all those books! I'm saving this one... And I confess to sitting and staring at my monitor sometimes, but mostly because I haven't prepared enough physically (sleep!) or mentally (psych up!). Once I get started, I can move past whatever is 'blocking' me. OF course, then I might have to delete it the next day, but I certainly went somewhere with it.

  5. I love Tina's writing! I know her lastest Love Inspired book will be great!

  6. I can't say I have the typical "writer's block," but I suffer from something mentioned in the middle of the blog--a feeling that I should be cleaning, checking homework, paying bills, mending buttons, anything but "playing around" with my writing.

    I simply HAVE to get over this. It makes me avoid writing as if to write is a complete waste of time, and that's not fair (nor is it productive).

  7. Tuesday, my youngest child leaves for college. If I don't succumb to moping around, I should have more time to write.

    Tina, I work in a local independent pharmacy. I'm always amazed when I have something in common with another writer.

    Please enter me in the contest. Thanks and have a great weekend.


  8. What about Writer's Nap? That's when the second you sit down at the computer you start yawning and pretty soon the temptation to take a nap dulls those creative juices and zzzzzzzzzzzzz......

  9. I just read your bio next to your book cover. Too cute! As for block, ack, the avoidance factor fits my life. heh. Still working past that.

  10. Tina,

    Love that bio! And the advice about writer's block is just as good as the first time around!

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  11. When I have moments of writer's block it's when I fall in the pit of "I don't know what I'm doing. I'll never be as good as______" Once I slap myself silly, I sit back down and get back to work. :o)

    Please enter me for the critique.


  12. Credo

    Why of course I believe in pantsers:
    they’re writer’s block’s best friend!
    What better way to get writer’s block
    than write yourself into a dead end?

    Like it or not when you have a plot
    and you know where you’re going:
    you don’t let a block make you stop
    you just detour and keep on going.


    P.S. I won a future on your next book months ago. Such is the way of a plotter. : )

  13. Vince, after reading your poem, I think I know why I rarely suffer from writer's "stoppage" - it's because I'm a plotter, of course! If writer's Drano is the cure for writer's stoppage, then plotting is the prevention.

    Great post, Tina. There are times when I get stuck, but getting up and going for either caffeine or chocolate is enough to clear my head and bring me back.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend!

  14. How about Editor's block? Or Reviser's block?

    That's me at the moment!

    Sometimes when I get to a part in the book I'm writing that's not working and I hit a 'block', I try to write future scenes that I'm dying to get down, usually either a romantic one or an action scene. Nothing gets you going faster than someone getting stabbed, or per Mary, shot! Even if I have to scrap that scene in the end, it was fun to do and gets the creative juices going again!

    I'd love a chance at the critique!

    Happy weekend, everyone!


  15. Oops, forgot my email.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  16. Great post, Tina. It's rare for me to have writer's block because I employ several different techniques to keep me on track.

    My best one is to go and do the dishes or other housekeeping chore. And since I'm allergic to housekeeping, it keeps my writer's block at bay - usually.

    Another favorite technique is to start writing in another part of the book - usually the black moment or ending since I know what to write and just have to get it down. I'm usually not far into this new scene when an idea for the old one 'pops up' and I go back to finish what I started with.

    The times I've struggled with writer's block were all when I was trying to find ideas for a 'writerly' Prairie Chick blogpost. I don't consider myself qualified to pass 'how to' info on to other writers because I'm not a student of English in the grammar sense, and until recently didn't know a thing about the publishing industry. Those 'blocked' posts were usually completed 'at the wire' - a place I really don't like being although it sure gets my adrenaline going!

    Anita mae.

  17. I love you, Vince.

    But I can see where the stress thing has a bigger effect on women writers than men, because we have no wife.

    And that's the sum of it.

    But I do like writers to be proactive about their block, and the Teenestsr gave some great ideas here. Moving... Totally changing locale... Building something... Use of a hammer is a wonderful thing here in Ruthy-land...

    Grief is a tough thing to 'write around'... In a regular job, you can kind of block your grief by surrounding yourself with stuff. When you're writing, you're intentionally searching for feelings, emoting, describing, etc and it's hard if there's a knot of grief or guilt over a divorce, or loss of a loved one, loss of job and you know you should be out there looking, looking, looking.

    But the snark side of me agrees with Nora and I LOVE the idea that Stephen King perpetuated in Bag o' Bones... to have several manuscripts tucked aside to fill the gaps as needed.

    That is a totally smart thing to do.

  18. Shakespeare!!!! That is why I moved my writing time to 4:00 AM...

    That stinkin' guilt about writing when there were a bazillion other things to do.

    But in the middle of the night, or the wee-smalls, you can't do anything noisy, so no one is offended.

    It worked beautifully. Really. Truly.

    And now they pay me to write so the fam is psyched. ;)

  19. Vince, LOVE the poem.

    And now that they actually make me come up with a plot line before they buy my books, I do have to plot/plan somewhat.

    But the nice thing is they let me develop it my way. With the occasional use of a smack upside my head.

    Being hard-headed, it's all good. ;)

  20. Virginia, you have six kids AND you are a part time children's librarian.

    I bow at your feet, girl.

  21. Patsy, you sweet thing!!

    Vince, we are in the count down for the release of Oklahoma Reunion!!!

    Now to get my proposal out the door.

  22. Hey, Jackie,

    I am the person who enters the scripts in the system. Over and over and over and over and over. And I enroll members as well. Since we are mail order I do hundreds a day.

  23. Fantabulous Tina.

    Since none have mentioned it thus far (that I saw) - still CHORTLING over the first image in this blog.

    And our Vince - what would we do without cha!

    And Ruthy - hee hah...

    Alrighty then - I was up with Mom at the Sleep Disorder Clinic last night. We might be on to some of her challenges here. Check out Sleep Apnea on WebMD. I knew some of it, but hey - some of it was new and gave us a possible line of attack. Detour needed!

    happy Saturday all!!!

    may at maythek9spy dot com

  24. We have a CPAP in use at my house, KC. Wonderful devices!!!

  25. Haha! Ruthy, the lack of a wife is truly the root of all MY troubles! I'm always telling my husband I wouldn't mind if he brought home another wife- as long as she did housework and was great with the kids. No lazy arm candy, please!
    And Tina, no bowing, please. I enjoy my adults up where I can talk to them. There are enough knee-high folks around as it is. :D
    Honestly, I love Seekerville posts and authors and comments... But Vince is in a class by himself. Good thing I can only get my Vince fix here, or I'd be on the computer all day, lurking around blogs where he posts.

  26. Virginia are you the same Virginia who has won our five page critique? Or are there two Virginia's in Seekerville? I don't remember you having a picture with your posts before.

    The other option is I am losing it. Tell me I am not.

  27. Untitled!

    There once was a writer
    who wanted a wife;
    she lived in New York
    where a wife is a right.

    So I took her to Kleinfeld’s
    and bought her the dress
    but having a wife
    only increased her stress!

    The writer wrote better
    but only heaven knows
    the wife looked better
    in the writer’s clothes.

    As for having a wife:
    the idea might rock;
    but my friend now prefers
    to have writer’s block.


    The above poem does not refer to any living person. Especially persons who live in New York.

    Thanks for the nice comments. I hope you’re still thinking them.


  28. Kav, I with you on the writer's nap. Seems to hit me about one in the afternoon.

    I don't know if I would recommend this, but when I get stuck, I switch to another manuscript.
    I can do this because I'm unpublished and am not on a deadline. (Have about 4 manuscripts in the works with several more in the "idea" stage.)

    Also, if I'm working on one of my westerns, I'll read Louis L'mour or watch a western. If it's my contemporary, I'll watch a romantic comedy. Many times this will unclog any blocks.


  29. TEEEENNNNNNAAAAAA!!!! LOVE this blog!!!! Soooo fun, soooo true and soooo YOU!!

    LOL, VINCE ... "The leading cause of writers block is the belief in writer’s block." Kinda like the leading cause of insomnia is worrying you won't be able to sleep!! :) And "writer's Drano??? Vincent, you are PRICELESS!!!

    LOVE your bio, Tina!! "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." TOOO CUTE!!

    KAV ... "writer's nap"??? I only get that when I don't have enough passion in my books ... I fall asleep at the keyboard ... :)

    SUE!!! "Editor's Block"!! When I first read that, I thought you meant the block to publication when an editor rejects you, but either way, it works!

    FUN POST!!


  30. VINCE!!!!!


    I love it. It's awesome. And hey, I said nothing about conjugal visits, and I don't care how she looks in a dress, or if she's really a he if THEY CLEAN AND DO LAUNDRY, ARRANGE SCHEDULES, WIPE BOTTOMS, DO WINDOWS, SWEEP FLOORS, MAKE MEALS, CLEAN UP FROM MEALS OR AT LEAST BUY ME TAKE-OUT....

    Well, I might be the teeensiessst weeeeensieeesssst bit envious if she looks better in my dress.

    But if the house is clean, I'll risk it, dude!

    Thank you for that. I'm grinning ear to ear (and with my big teeth that's not hard to do!)

  31. Tina, that first picture is just scary! :)

    Funny bio :)

  32. Great post, Tina (I must have missed it the first time around).~ I completely agree with the comments about getting away from your computer (and story) for a while when you're stuck--and doing something completely different. It's not an exciting activity (to most folks, teehee) but I LOVE needlepoint. So sometimes I leave the writing for a while and do needlepoint. Other times I play my piano or go outside. And of course, there are always litter boxes that need cleaning, LOL. *Sigh* Somehow, I don't think that last activity does much for my creativity.... ~ Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  33. Hi Ruth:

    You haven’t described a wife: you’ve described a slave! It seems even the idea of having a wife can lead to a male mentality!

    If you get a wife,
    before you happy dance,
    you better find out
    if she’s high maintenance!


  34. Oh my! Love the photo! So true. LOL! Great archive post, Tina!


  35. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!

  36. Hey,
    My name is Kayla Edwards, and I am a AVID READER, and would love to win any of these books. All of these Authors are AMAZING and sooooo uplifting!!!!!