What is writer’s block?

I was going to write my own comical definition, but Merriam Webster’s dictionary described it so well.

writer’s block: noun a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece

Now you know. But how do you achieve victory and write?

1.) Admit it is real.
It makes sense that the first step in writing therapy is not unlike the first step in AA groups. You must admit that it exists before you can take steps against it. Admit to yourself – and yes, say it aloud: “Things are keeping me from writing, and I want to get better.”

2.) Determine which type of block ails you.
Lack of planning: This is what hits me the most. I open up a document for a brand new story I’ve been mulling over. I get through the first chapter or sometimes only the first sentence and realize – I have no idea what I’m doing. This can happen mid-story also: i.e., main character finds herself in a grave, life threatening situation. Author knows main character needs to survive, but hadn’t planned how to get the main character out alive. And thus the block sets in.

Laziness: This type of block happens when you succumb to that evil voice in your mind that says you don’t feel like writing. There are so many reasons not to write. It’s too hard, too much planning is involved, you need a nap, etc., etc.. Thus, the block takes over your mind. Yet consider how empty our bookstores would be if every writer ever decided to write only when they “felt like it.”

Lack of time: Being on a tight schedule freezes some writers with stress. Need I say more?

3.) Follow your treatment plan accordingly.
For lack of planning: Planning is vital, even for writers like me that are stifled by detailed outlining. Do the research when the question of accuracy arises. Librarians and Google are now your best friends.

If you are in the brainstorming stages and fear writing the first word, spend time outlining your plot to understand the story. Hang out with your characters to understand how they will react to stimuli within the story (i.e., interview your main character, pick out key words that they would say when danger strikes, for example). Here’s one of my favorite posts about starting a story on the Go Teen Writers blog.

For editing block, draw a thee-act structure diagram of your entire story. (See this helpful post explaining the three-act on Go Teen Writers.) This way you can see the holes in your plot as well as the areas that are superfluous. Write and delete accordingly. I recently plotted out a three-act for my story on post-it notes and it was particularly eye-opening.

For laziness: Power through the difficulty and just write – there’s no other way. Bribe yourself if you most. Guacamole is a great motivator for me. Remember why you started the story in the first place. What is it in your story that your reader’s will leave with? Write because of that.

For lack of time: Who can really cure this one? The only way to write is to make time. Plan a few specific times every week to write. Set a timer. Learn to say no to distractions until the timer dings. Use every possible minute in your day to your advantage. Those ten minutes when you stand on the city bus? Plan out the next scene in your novel. Taking a shower? Think about what you can add to your character’s backstory. The environment may be less than ideal, but it’s one way we can stop the rest of our lives from taking over our writing life.

4.) Repeat steps as necessary.

What works for you?  What excuses do you tell yourself to avoid writing? What type of writer’s block do you usually have?

~ Felicity

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