Here’s a secret that few writers know:
There is no such thing as writers block.
I know. Shocking. However, I say it with a caveat: there is such a thing as not knowing what’s going to happen next in your story, or being afraid of writing what happens next. But that is different from what most folks believe is the definition of writer’s block .
What is writer’s block?
So what is this thing they call writer’s block and is it only for writers? I totally Wikipedia-ed the meaning.
Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite. The condition was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler.
An interesting phrase in that definition “an author loses the ability to produce new work” — I’ve heard horror stories about writers who can’t write for days, months, even YEARS because of extreme writer’s block.
It’s not a physical ailment, this writer’s block. Bones aren’t broken and, as far as I know, no one has gone blind from it. So therefore, it’s all in your head.
Why writer’s block doesn’t exist
Maybe my defiance of writer’s block comes from being a reporter. Writer friends have asked me if being a reporter is good for a writer. Usually I say no EXCEPT in a couple of instances and this is one of them. As a reporter, you don’t have time to have this thing called writers block. You HAVE TO produce. Deadlines loom. The paper (or website) has to be done/updated. So you learn tricks to do this– you write as you go, you think about the theme of the story, you interview, you write the most important thing first.
We do this everyday.
It’s the same for the writer. Practicing your craft every day means you are focused on what you are writing. You’re not focused on how you don’t have anything to write. That’s why it’s important to have a regular writing routine. And when you can’t write anymore and need a break, you need to read. Inspiration comes from reading and other art. That is how the Muse is fed.
It’s all in your head.
So how does this dreaded “block” happen? When you feel like your work isn’t good enough. So let me solve this for you….get over yourself. Just write!
There’s this thing called revision. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Your first draft is suppose to be absolute crap. You will not make it pretty or even interesting to read your first time around. Why? Because you’re figuring it all out as you go. So tell your internal editor to shut it. They’ll get their chance during revision to be annoying.
In extreme cases, when you doubt yourself and your abilities, go back and read something you were proud of or do something that makes you feel good. Get that good feeling back, anything to help you realize that you are better than what this hurdle has done to you.
So what happens if you don’t know what to write next?
This is one question I know a lot about so I can answer. If you are stuck in the middle of a writing project….do something else.
Anything else! Take a walk. Go for a run. Read. Watch tv. Take a nap. And if all that doesn’t work. Write a short story or work on a prompt. Something you can turn around quickly. This should clear your head enough to keep going.
A note on exercise: I once attended a workshop about writing and the actions in the brain. The same chemical released during exercise and that makes you happy– endorphins–are the same released while writing. So don’t underestimate the gym time.
So now that you know there is no such thing as writer’s block, get thee to your writing station. Because, in the long run, the best way to write is just to sit down and do it!