February 3, 2017
It’s a way too familiar setup in Hollywood films: a talented writer, probably already with a successful book under their belt, simply can’t finish the next novel. They’re suffering from a writer’s block – an inner force majeure that prevents them from putting on the page the full brilliance of their craft.
Bullocks. I really don’t believe in writer’s block, and neither should you.
Don’t get me wrong. Writers struggle every day with the finding of the perfect word, the fine-tuning of a sentence, the pinning of the story’s structure. But most of all, writers face the battle against their insecurities, fears and inner demons. It’s an art that exposes us to family and strangers alike. It allows people into a secretive world of thoughts and feelings no one knew we possessed. It’s easy to indulge in self-censorship or plain excuses not to write. Fear is powerful.
I see writer’s block as the little devilish voice that tells us to fail. We should ignore that voice. But let’s put that fear on the side and be more technical.
Not finding the right word to describe your character is one thing. Not knowing what your character will do next is something completely different.
Here are some reasons as to why you may be experiencing writer’s block and some tips to solve it.
- Your character is not well formed
Go back to the drawing table, write a biography of your character. Where else in their life have they faced a similar issue, and have they solved it? What kind of actions would your character take now at this point in the plot?
- You have not outlined well enough
True: some writers don’t outline. That’s ok, it’s part of their process. But when faced with the trepidation of a blank page, it’s good to go back to your story and create a simple outline. Map out all the possible scenarios, go back to your character’s biography, be in their shoes.
- You are not writing routinely
Writing is like athletics: you can’t run the marathon without a rigorous daily practice. The more you write, the easier the flow, the more control you have. If you are not a full-time writer, set up a time in your day that is convenient for you to write. Write it down on your agenda and treat that appointment like any business meeting: you always show up.
- Take a break and trust yourself
The pressure of writing is real. Sometimes locking yourself up in an office is not the best solution. How often have you heard people saying they get their best ideas in unusual places and circumstances, such as while they shower? That’s because, for a moment, they relax and let their subconscious take over, as psychologist Ron Friedman found out. You know your story, it’s there within you, you just need to fish it. So change your workstation, go for a walk or a swim, invite friends for a cup of coffee, take a bus tour in your own city. Ideas and solutions will start flowing back soon.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to writing. If you are waiting for some divine inspiration to interfere, you may as well throw that manuscript into the fire because it just won’t get finished.
And if you can’t find the solution to your problem today, just keep writing. Write about anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s related to your story or not, just keep writing, like you would keep running until you crossed the finish line.