My Truth About Writer’s Block (Hint: I don’t believe in it.)

by Anne Wayman

blockdrugstore I was just asked by a prospective ghostwriting client what I did when I was faced with writer’s block. I didn’t know how to answer because the truth is I don’t get writer’s block. In fact, I don’t even believe in it – not really.

Does that mean I never get stuck writing?

Of course not!

For example, I have 14 drafts or starts of article on this blog behind the scenes. Some of them have been there roughly forever.  A couple require more research than I’m really willing to do… at least not now, and not now has gone on a long time.

Another is a post I may do the first week of the new year. But most of them are ideas I just haven’t been able to pull off. I suppose you could say I’m blocked on those article, but labeling my failure that way will do absolutely nothing to get those articles done.

The same is true for the detective novel I sometimes say I want to write, or at least want to have written. It’s possible if I could see my way through to a real plot I’d get it done, but plotting remains a mystery. Again, I don’t want to label it something like ‘writer’s block.’

After all, I’m writing. Writing lots, actually. Blog posts, press releases, books for clients, our family story…

What I notice about me is I only have trouble writing something when my idea isn’t clear or when I’ve finally gotten bored with the topic or I don’t know what to write next.

It’s up to me to get clear on the idea, or to hone itI’m the only one who can get un-bored with a subject.  And usually, not knowing what to write next either means I’m finished or I need to wait a day or two for something to surface.

In other words, it’s up to me to get the writing done. If I keep insisting I’m blocked I won’t get anything done.

Writer’s block is more about ego than anything else

What I’ve noticed about folks who talk a lot about having writer’s block is that they seem to have a lot riding on writing that novel or that article or that book. They are afraid they’ll get it wrong or it won’t be good enough or… well, name the sort of ego- or self-driven reason of your choice.

For example, a friend of mine who is a damn fine writer quit writing, claiming writer’s block because he couldn’t write a novel that satisfied  him. When I asked him who he was comparing himself to he mentioned several classic authors – an impossible standard to reach, particularly since he couldn’t get passed three chapters!

Okay, I know my attitude is a bit arrogant. I know people who suffer from what they call writer’s block are hurting. But so often I just want to tell them to get off it and sit down and write… or get off it entirely and do something else.

Stephen J. Cannell says the problem is trying to write something that’s perfect. I suspect my view is not far off the mark.

He suggests having fun with your writing – great idea.

My suggestion? I suggest you sit down and write, if that’s what you really want to do. I also have 10 additional suggestions here.

What’s your thinking about writer’s block? How do you feel about it? Do you have it? Believe in it? And if you do, how do you solve it? Leave a comment.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin September 17, 2013 at 11:47 am

Anne,

I think your attitude is spot on. When I get stuck on a piece I just work on another one or make myself sit at my computer until I have the answer or something, anything, other than saying “well, I’m blocked, might as well watch TV for awhile .”
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annew September 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks, Erin… although I have been known to take naps in the afternoon ;)

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Erin September 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Naps are a different story. They’re like lunch break or going for a walk – inactive thinking time. ;)
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annew September 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I wasn’t going to say that, but I’m sure glad you did ;)

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Steve Maurer January 8, 2013 at 6:25 am

Like Anne, I don’t believe in writer’s block.

At least not that creativity-sucking ogre that we all seem to fear. I’ve discovered some ideas that work for me. I wrote about them in a guest post for Linda Formichelli’s The Renegade Writer blog:
http://www.therenegadewriter.com/2012/07/19/7-proven-tips-for-getting-into-the-write-mood/

But here is the number one cause, in my opinion, and a cure for it. There is nothing more frustrating than getting up first thing in the morning, opening up the old word processor and having a blank page staring you in the face.

It’s seems like it’s taunting you: Go ahead, try to write something!

The cure? Don’t open up a blank document! Before you shut down for the day, open documents for your next day’s projects and type something in them. Could be ideas you want to cover, could the the lead paragraph, could be keywords for the project. It could be anything!

Just don’t leave it blank.

You’re already in the “write” mood, so write something down that will give you a start the next day. Now when you get started the next day, you don’t have a blank page taunting you. You have ideas, directions or prompts that will put you in the starting block, ready to run.

~Steve
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annew January 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Love it, Steve. I’m not bothered much by the blank page, and I do try to end a day’s writing on a long project knowing where I’m going next. Great solution. Thanks. And thanks for the links too.

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Cathy Miller December 21, 2012 at 5:44 am

I have to agree with you on this one, Anne – at least for me. I, too, have so many started and stalled writing projects that have absolutely nothing to do with writer’s block.

For some, it’s boredom, but others have to do with a dream smacking up against reality (real or perceived).
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annew December 21, 2012 at 7:59 am

Cathy, I also don’t worry much about the stalled projects… look at them every now and again to see if I’m ready to work on them, but that’s about it.

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Carmen Rane Hudson December 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Yikes, that’s definitely me–only I call it perfectionist’s block, cause when I get it? It’s normally a result of serious perfectionism.
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annew December 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Carmen, I don’t know if it will help, but I gave up on perfectionism when I realized I wouldn’t recognize perfection if it knocked on the door and introduced itself.

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Carmen Rane Hudson December 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm

LOL! That’s a good one, I think I’ll write it to post right above my desk. :)
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annew December 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm

glad you like it… it really has made a big difference for me.

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Mary Jeddore Blakney December 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I get writer’s block. It usually means I haven’t eaten or taken a break in so many hours that my brain’s shutting down.

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annew December 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Ah, a cause I hadn’t thought of… cured I gather when you take a break and eat?

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Mary Jeddore Blakney December 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Yes. But it took me years to realize that was what it was, especially the part about taking breaks. I kept reading articles that said to stop whining and write anyway. Never occurred to me until recently that what was happening to me wasn’t what the articles were talking about.

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annew December 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I know I can get stupid if I don’t eat… and by 4 in the afternoon I’m done… I usually start about 6:30ish… good for you for figuring it out… want to do a guest post for me on it?

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Mary Jeddore Blakney December 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Thanks, I’d be happy to.

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Charlotte Rains Dixon December 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I agree with your assessment of writer’s block. I had it on the novel I’m currently writing until I realized I was trying to make it perfect. Now I’m writing the worst first draft ever. No lie. One of my students said she’d like to read it and I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. It’s bad. And I love it that way.
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annew December 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Great story, Charlotte!

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Elizabeth West December 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

This is why NaNoWriMo is such a great thing for writers with perfectionist tendencies to do. You have a finite amount of time to do a huge amount of work. You simply can’t pick pick pick at each sentence, not if you want to make your word count.

No, you can’t write a polished novel in thirty days, but you can squeeze out a first draft (albeit a short one), and you can train yourself to just WRITE. I forced myself to do it and finally, FINALLY, finished a book that had been languishing for a while. (Technically, you’re supposed to start from scratch with NaNo, but it was my first one, and I didn’t formally register.) Now that I am done, I’m actually looking forward to editing and rewriting, of which on this particular work, there will be a ton. But before, I could hardly write a word on it.

I think one of the reasons was that it is actually a possible commercially viable idea. And I was afraid I would cliche it to death. But how will I know if I don’t try? That’s where the NaNoWriMo philosophy came in. Just finish the thing.
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annew December 29, 2012 at 6:17 am

hadn’t thought of escaping writer’s block being a reaon for NaNoWriMo,but that makes sense Elizabeth.

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