Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Taking Time Off Mid-Project can CAUSE Writer's Block

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King writes "I'll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with. No more; you'll lose the urgency and immediacy of your story if you do."

Dun Dun Duh... This is what I have allowed myself to do. I have taken too many days off and allowed my story and characters to stagnate. Now...how do I get them back?

Neil Gaiman suggests: "Put it aside for a few days. Then sit down and read it as if you've never seen it before. And often, when you get to the end you'll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are."

I have already put it aside for (more than) a few days, so this is definitely a good one to try.

Orson Scott Card says: “Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me."

Ok, I can see this point as well. While I think my block has to do with too much time away from the story, I should definitely reread and make sure my scenes are believable and important to the story.

Charlie Jane Anders writes about 10 Types of Writer's Block. "If you've been stuck in the middle for a while, though, then you probably need to do something to get the story moving again. Introduce a new complication, throw the dice, or twist the knife. Mark Twain spent months stuck in the middle of Huckleberry Finn before he came up with the notion of having Huck and Jim take the wrong turn on the river and get lost. If you're stuck for a while, it may be time to drop a safe on someone."

Well, I HAVE been stuck for awhile now...perhaps it is time to throw in a plot twist that even I didn't see coming.

MJ Bush at WritinGeekery says "What causes writer’s block? It can be any number of things, but the most common is reaching a plateau in your learning curve."  She goes on to define my particular problem as: "Burnout: You have no inspiration or motivation." Some of her suggestions for conquering writer's block include "Focus on getting better rather than doing good. Reflect on your progress. Track your improvement. Gauge your real skill level."

My favorite take-away from MJ is to focus on getting better. As long as I am improving my craft, whether by reading, studying the craft, or writing on another project, I will never be a victim of complete Writer's Block.

In her Top 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer's Block, Ginny Wiehardt writes: "Implement a Writing Schedule. Carve out a time to write and then ignore the writer's block. Show up to write, even if nothing comes right away. When your body shows up to the page at the same time and place every day, eventually your mind — and your muse — will do the same."

This advice is some I have seen several times in researching how to overcome the dreaded "block." It may well be the first idea I implement. I absolutely think this suggestion will help in my writing. (Now, how to schedule this time around working full time midnight shift, homeschooling and generally being available as wife and mother...but that is fodder for another post.)


  1. Good post. I believe having a regular scheduled time to write will be the biggest help to combat writer's block.

    1. I am almost certain I would agree--if I ever had that luxury. I think that will be my next big hurdle though, making a schedule and sticking to it. (I wonder how long the kids will beat on the door while I am trying to write.)