There’s a lot of advice out there about writers block. Most of which seems to say that writers block doesn’t exist, or that you should just push through, or that any reason you give for not writing is just an excuse.
Maybe it’s just me, and my history of having dyslexia and dyspraxia in schools – which meant I heard a lot of “not trying hard enough” or “giving excuses” or whatever – but it always feels like when you go searching for a solution all you get is blame laid at your feet. That’s not what I’m doing.
Writers block is an easy name for a multitude of things, it is very much real. The best bet for a solution is to investigate what could be behind your writers block.
Are you worried your piece isn’t good enough for public view? Write whatever you want it to be, write self-indulgently. You can edit it into a neater version later, words on a page are better than no words on a page.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the other things you should be doing? Tackle one of two of those first. Have you been meaning to clean the bathroom for a few days? Go do that and come back, you’ll probably be feeling more inspired afterward.
Can’t seem to find time to write? Start taking a notebook wherever you go, then when you’re waiting in line, or at the train station, or for the water to boil you can start scribbling furiously. Maybe nothing will come of it but you can try, right?
Just stumped? Try writing in a different medium. Normally write on a computer? Try a notebook/piece of paper. Normally write on paper? Try a laptop or your phone. Pick up a different coloured pen even.
Feeling blank? Get up and dance around for a bit, go for a run or a walk, activity makes action.
Struggling with a particular scene? If you have an outline (which I now recommend, that was quite the turn around, if you want me to talk about my outlining process & why I outline leave a comment), pick a different scene. Come back to the one you’re struggling with later, you don’t actually have to write in order. Just remember to note down anything you need to put into an earlier scene (like in my manuscript I have a scene where my MC slashes somebody’s face, I need to put in the scar when I first describe that character several chapters earlier)
Know you want to write this bit but can’t quite figure it out? Mind dump. Grab yourself a piece of paper or a new word document or whatever and start putting all the possibilities on your paper. Just throw it all down there. Eventually the thing you want will appear and you can pursue it. Not sure which one to pursue? Pick more than one and write each. Then pick your favourite and discard the other (by discard I mean engage your hoarder tendencies, and save it in a different file/location, you may wish to revisit it later)
Writers Block and The Theory of A Writing Habit
There’s a lot of advice about sticking to a writing habit. Getting words on a page every day, at the same time, in the same place. A lot of people saying that developing a writing habit is the best, nay only way to beat writers block!
I’ve never been very good at sticking to habits. The more times I complete a pattern the closer I am to forgetting that pattern (picture young me playing clapping games and getting accidentally slapped in the face because I clapped by myself instead of with the other person) – it’s the dyspraxia, I’m still trying to work on it. Because of this I haven’t managed to hold down a writing schedule, not to mention that I have the kind of brain where it’s better for me to do what comes to mind first because otherwise I’m likely to be distracted by it later.
Sometimes I wake up and I have the feeling that I need to write. So I write.
Sometimes I’m making lunch and I have the feeling I need to write. So I write.
Sometimes I’m talking to my wife and I have the feeling that I need to write. (she’s very forgiving of this, I’m so lucky to have her) So I write.
Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night and I have the feeling I need to write. (again, my wife is very forgiving of this) So I write.
I’ve stopped talking in the middle of outings and meals with friends and family to pull out my phone, a notebook, a pen and the napkin to scribble down something that just came to me. (I’d put a disclaimer about not doing this at work except I don’t have a job – here’s a link to my Ko-Fi account if you’d like to support me)
But whatever happens, no matter what. I get at least 100 words of writing done every day. Why? Because once I’ve done that for 1 month I get a reward. And if I don’t manage it? I don’t get a reward, there is no punishment. It’s either a benefit or business as usual. (although right now, as it’s November I’m giving NaNoWriMo a shot, which is… big…)
Okay, so how does this reward work? Well, my wife set me to the challenge and she’s the one holding me accountable. She picks the reward for me. However, if you don’t have my wife in your life, you can set your own rewards.
If you’re the kind of person who needs a visual reminder, get yourself a calendar to write your 100 words met targets on (I write the approximate value of words I have written, but you could just put target met). Put a big sticker at the end of your month (30 days) telling you it will be rewards day.
Just think for a moment. If you only write 100 words a day (and believe me, you’ll probably write more), in 30 days you’ll have 3,000 words written. An average novel is 80,000-89,999 words (according to Writers Digest), that’s 26 months, or 2.2 years. You could have a whole novel written in 2.2 years just from writing 100 words a day. Wanna know how long this post is so far? 800 words. Doesn’t seem that long does it?
100 words looks like this:
Dragons are everywhere. The mountains, the hills, the countryside. You wouldn’t know one at a glance, not if they’re in their human form. After all, humanoid dragons look like anyone else. It’s only when you hit True Form Dragons that you’re at risk. I hadn’t been worried about dragons, not really, not until I was chosen as a sacrifice. It had been terrorising the town for a few weeks, burning down crops, attacking the town hall, eating or stealing cattle. We were starting to lose hope. So the town elders had decided to start offering sacrifices. Obviously cattle wouldn’t do,
That’s 100 words. Not even a full paragraph.
Even if you take it out when editing, or you hate it, or you completely re-write it, the value of starting is so much better than you could ever imagine.
When I’m struggling with my main manuscript I let myself divert and write short stories for this blog. I’m a firm believer that writing something is always the start to writing more and better. Even if that something you write is a piece of advice about writers block because, hey, I started a dragon story just there! I don’t actually know where that came from (except that I love dragons… and pirates… I should write about more dragons and pirates!).
If writing isn’t happening for you right now, don’t feel bad, it happens to everyone (except apparently Stephen King but whatever). The worse you make yourself feel (by guilt tripping yourself and letting blame lay on you for not having a habit or a magical brain that always does what you want – unless this is one of those neurotypical vs neurodiverse things?) the less likely you are to be able to write.
Take a deep breath, grab a drink, get that thing on your mind out of the way, and scribble something down. Try for 100 words. If it ends up being only 100 words, that’s fine, that’s still 100 more words than you had yesterday. If it ends up being more, then even better!
I’ve had the concept for my novel kicking around for a good long while and I’m finally starting to write it reliably. It’s tough going but I’m going to do my absolute best, there is nothing more I can do.
If you want more content related to writing advice, or any other advice, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to provide that for you.
Remember! You can comment for me to read-aloud any of my short stories! It’s all in your hands.
If you enjoyed this share it with your friends, family, that coworker you kinda tolerate, anyone you think might enjoy it!
LGBT stories for you? Find all of mine here