by Gina Burgess
Sure. We’ve all been stuck in a rut at some point in our life. It’s similar to being stuck in traffic. Oh, my goodness, 7:30 am on Interstate 10 in New Orleans is like swimming in molasses in January. “Slowly you go, inch by inch…”and really getting nowhere in a long amount of time.
There are all kinds of ruts, though. You may be writing the next Pulitzer winning article or book, but you’re stuck in some other kind of rut with no social life or friends outside of the Internet. Any one see, “The Net” with Sandra Bullock? Bad things can happen when we get in that kind of rut. There’s the rut of writing in only one genre. There’s the rut of wearing the same kind of clothes year in and year out, the rut of same foods, same cars, same ole same ole stuff. Getting bored yet?
What about when you get stuck in writing? Is there such a thing as Writer’s Block?
An interesting discussion ensued on Facebook when someone asked about this phenomenon that seemingly attacks arbitrarily.
“It’s real, I tell you.”
“No, it isn’t real. It’s a misnomer because you are in ‘perfectionist’s paralysis,’ or ‘not-good-enough-writing state.’” Sort of like a student who has no good ideas for a term paper, but has to turn one in anyway because he can’t claim “writer’s block.”
First we need to define what it is.
Is it: A psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece?
Or is it: The problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc?
Or is it something else as you define it?
How long does the block have to last before it is considered literal writer’s block?
Recent references to writer’s block posted to the Internet:
- The pressure caused writer’s block for Hope, and bandmates couldn’t agree on directions for new songs.
- Marber was crippled with a severe case of writer’s block.
- If writer’s block really existed, no one would ever graduate or pass classes.
- William Stafford said, “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.”
This tells me there are a lot of writers who define writer’s block as broad as no way to write anything, to specific as not being able to finish writing one piece, to a state of being.
I don’t think it is a state of being unless we become amnesiacs and can’t remember how to even write our name. It most likely isn’t a deterrence to all creativity, and it probably doesn’t infiltrate all thought processes or problem-solving processes. But there does come a time in every writer’s life when writing a story or article everything comes to a screeching halt. (If it has never happened to you, praise the Lord and pass the biscuits. Keep reading, though, because it might happen tomorrow.)
There is always a reason why this blockage happens. Sometimes plaque (read that distractions) build up in our systems. Sometimes priorities change. Sometimes time whizzes by and we suddenly realize it’s been months and the story has become a rusty engine rather than a pumping life-giver because we aren’t eating right, sleeping enough, and we are stuck in a flat life wheel meaning our work, social, and spiritual cycles are lopsided: too much work and not enough play without any time for God.
I think it’s real. I’ve had a block concerning my Starmada series for several years now because I’m having a hard time reconciling my own beliefs with what I’ve created. I can hear people saying, “Well, change the world you’ve created,” or “Scrap that and start something else.” To people who think that way, I say, “Do you have any idea the amount of work that goes into creating a world in fiction?” ACK!
To those who believe writer’s block is the mental paralysis because of fear their writing is “not good enough,” or can’t get past a chapter or paragraph because it isn’t perfect enough, Robert Graves says, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”
First time out, nothing is perfect. Even the best-selling Australian author, Collen McCullough, who wrote all 698 pages of her novel “The Thorn Birds” in longhand with no 2nd draft, still had to be edited.
Some writers expect to have body-jarring emotions as they write so they know what they are writing is good. Poppycock. Yes, authors will weep and laugh as they write, but plotting stories that work when readers read them is not something to weep or laugh over. Polishing is work. It is here when, I think, authors are most susceptible to writer’s block because we’ve read the thing more times than we can count and redrafted paragraphs and chapters into the double-digits. We get bored. We know what happens. Perfecting is hard to do when we are bored. Don’t let it get to that point. A second, third, and fourth pair of eyes on the project does help a lot.
But, what to do when you are still in your first draft? What’s to do when the story flow slows to an occasional drip, and you don’t seem to have any plot line in your outline that will get you over the bridge to the next plot point?
Set the project aside for about a week without thinking about it. After several good meals, sleeping all night for several nights, taking a walk in the early morning dew (or late evening which ever kind of person you are), and then going back to the project to just write the next paragraph no matter what pops out of your mind onto the paper. What do you do, however, when you still write nonsensical stuff? Consider the cause of the block.
There is always a reason. If you’ve set the thing aside for a few days, gotten your life back in sync, and rested well, the cause must lie in the story itself.
Very often you are having conflicting emotions about what needs to transpire from one plot point to the next. Usually this is at a strategic point in the story that you can’t skip because it impacts the climatic end.
What are some good strategies for considering the reason for writer’s block? Do you think this is how to overcome it? Are there any problem solving techniques that you employ for overcoming writer’s block? How about sharing some!