Writer's block. Every author's worst nightmare. Does it make you feel like you're in the bleakest place possible for a writer? You're not alone. I see post after post on Facebook writing groups from writers seeking advice on how to overcome writer's block. Did you know that I don't suffer from it, like ever? Before you start throwing shade my way, let me give you a couple tips on how you can dodge this writer's Kryptonite too.
Put self-doubt in the trash, right where it belongs.
Do you doubt yourself, your work, or even the story itself when you're writing? Stop.
Many writers blame self-doubt as their biggest reason for experiencing writer's block. My advice is to tell your inner demons to hit the road. You either want to be a published writer or you don't, and no writer who has made the bestseller's list got there because they didn't think they were a good writer.
Attend writing courses, workshops, and/or critique groups. Get yourself a couple of beta readers (non-family/friends). Find a therapist.
Do whatever you need to leave your self-doubt in the dumpster where it belongs and get some words on the page. Once you have a draft you feel comfortable with and your beta readers seem to like, move on to getting an experienced editor. They can help you work out the kinks in your style and delivery.
Start listening to your characters, not your plot.
My number one stumbling block is when I think the plot should go one way, but my characters have other agendas in mind. The minute I stop listening to them for how the story should go, I start throwing lemons on the page and then I can't figure out what comes next.
So what do I do when this happens? I shut my inner voice up. I go back to the place where I can see I lost the story and try to figure out why. Usually, one of my characters will speak up and tell me where I made my wrong turn. This is where the DELETE button comes in handy.
If going back doesn't help immediately, I take a break.
About taking a break...
If your characters seem to suddenly abandon you, don't panic. Just take a break. Any of these things generally gets me back on track:
- Listen to music.
- Go for a drive.
- Go to the gym.
- Go for a walk.
- Brush your teeth.
- Take a shower.
In fact, those last two are usually the best cures for a hang-up. If you already showered or brushed your teeth for the day, and you don't feel like doing it again, I find that just standing in front of the sink and running the water helps.
There is something about this combination of taking a time out and running water that seems to free up my plot issues. My characters become very talkative, usually in the literal sense (plot points usually come to me as dialog), whenever there's running water involved.
What not to do when you find your writing at an impasse?
- Don't berate yourself and let self-doubt back in the door.
- Don't watch TV or play video games. Stephen King has suggested that getting rid of your television is a good idea, and he's probably right.
- Don't get on social media and start mindlessly scrolling (you know you do this).
Above all, don't avoid your writing when you're at an impasse. If you follow my advice above, you should find a way through the wall. But don't avoid what you're writing, thinking that weeks away from it will help. It won't. That only makes going back all the harder, because you've lost the thread of where you were before you quit.
So, go back. Tackle it again. Don't be afraid of it. Your characters are there to help you. Just let them.
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