How To Break Through Writer’s Block

in Getting Started & Getting It Done

Writer's BlockHello Anne

How can I get over  a very bad case of writer’s block?

I want to write a screenplay and maybe even a few books but I’m stuck. Any help will be appreciated, ma’am…

PS

Hi PS

I don’t suffer from writer’s block, or at least not for more than an hour or so if that much. Which of course hasn’t stopped me from writing about it.

Several years ago I found a video where Stephen J. Cannell talks about blocks. In short he says get over trying to write the perfect whatever. And I think he’s right. I do know that when I start trying to craft ever better sentences or think I can endlessly improve a piece of writing I’ve done I bog down completely for a very simple reason:

I wouldn’t recognize perfection if it walked in the door and introduced itself!

Years ago I asked a friend who was earning his living writing non-fiction why he never seemed to get started on the novel he said he wanted to write. He confessed he just didn’t think he could do it well enough. That fear of not getting it right was stopping him. 

When I feel stuck I write anyway knowing that whatever I write I can improve but that nothing happens until I write something.

There’s some sort of a balance between taking your writing seriously and taking it too seriously. Cannell also suggests we have fun writing; that we recognize true professional writers make horrendous mistakes before we see their words.

So throw out any ideas of writing a perfect screenplay or book. Be willing to make mistakes, lots of them. Start getting some words down, and then some more. I love the title of the pop sentence “fail your way to success.” Take it to heart.

And if you’re writing block is so severe you can’t seem to break through get some professional help.

Do you have a question about writing? Contact me and I’ll do my best to answer it.

What suggestions do you have for breaking through writer’s block?

[sig]

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Drew Coffman

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

PL June 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Anne and all the other writers…

Does anyone else ever feel like they have so many ideas in their brain they get overwhelmed and just shut down completely? I don’t think my problem is a fear of writing well, or not completely at least, but I do find myself starting ideas, getting parts of ideas down, but then my head just gets swamped with ideas and I go into a creative overload…almost like writers ADHD, and I can never seem to really stick to something for long. But I used to write all the time. I was the bookworm in highschool, either buried in my books, or developing my writers callus. These days…I can barely seem to pick up my pen and get the ideas out of my head. I was wondering if anyone has any tips or advice or if they have experienced something similar to this. I appreciate your advice. Thanks in advance.

PL

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annew June 21, 2012 at 9:04 am

I’m going to turn this into a blog post.

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Jodi Hughey August 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Splendid ideas and thought provoking isights.

Anne you put is best when wrote, “nothing happens until I write something.” I suffer from writer’s block when I am feeling overwhelmed. I have too many things going on at once and I can’t concentrate on writing. I take a deep breath, turn on some rock and roll and let the music inspire me. It sounds silly, but it has worked on several occasions.

I like Lori’s attitude that writer’s suffer not from writer’s block but may have just stumbled at challenging place in the writing process. She is right, “If the idea is strong, you’ll find a way.”
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Jodi Hughey August 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Too bad we can’t edit our comments . . . I just caught a few mistakes in mine.

And I call myself a writer! :-) Oh, well, at least I am writing something and not plagued by writer’s block.
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Lori August 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

Jodi, only a writer would go back over it and cringe at the mistakes. You’re fine. We all make ‘em. :)
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Jodi Hughey August 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Lori, Thank You! I appreciate your comment. It reduced the red flush on my face made me feel much better.
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Anne September 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Jodi, typos allowed here. We’re all only human.

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Wade Finnegan August 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I love how you and Lori cut through the crap. For any obstacle there are a million excuses of why we can’t overcome. Writing can be frustrating, but so can teaching, oil drilling, or baking. The idea is to keep going. As in the movie Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

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Lori August 31, 2011 at 8:32 am

Channeling Finding Nemo! I love it!
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Anne September 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Heck, the Buddha said something like life is suffering and also said something like suffering is optional – it’s really in our attitude… and you’re right, Lori is way cool

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Lori August 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Here’s my take on writer’s block – it’s a myth.

I get stuck on various elements of a story, but I don’t call that a block. It’s just part of the process of writing. Not everything will flow out of you like it was channeled from the gods. Writing is work. If the idea is strong, you’ll find a way.

You’ve alluded to this next point a bit, Anne. I’ve seen a lot of would-be writers leaning on the writer’s block crutch as a reason not to start, and for the reasons you’ve stated. But at times I see it as a form of laziness – if I can’t get the idea out, I’ll call it writer’s block and walk away. Don’t. Just rework the idea or give up. Labeling it may get you sympathy and raise your status as a struggling artist among your friends, but it’s lame and it helps you avoid working through the issue.

I suggest if you’re feeling stuck, try outlining the idea. Don’t go crazy with every detail, but hit the major points you want to make. Also, try starting with the conclusion first. If you can visualize the end of the story, you might be able to work up toward it. My first full-length fiction manuscript was one where I knew the ending before I put my fingers to the keyboard.
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Anne August 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

As I wrote my answer I found myself wondering if my telling myself I don’t plot well was just an excuse… I think it is… it’s a learnable skill like anything else.

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