Writing Around the Block

Sometimes writing sucks.

I mean it. Sure there are times when the words are flowing like the wind beneath your wings, but then there are those other times…

Maybe your main character has painted himself into a corner and can’t get out without punching a huge plot hole into the wall of your story. Or maybe you get that “I’m a no good loser who’s never going to make something of himself in the world.”

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve gotten to that point were your words taste like sawdust in your mouth and no matter how hard you try they won’t come out right.

In theory they should be fine words. They seem fine enough when you first think of them. But then, you try to put them down on paper and suddenly they’re all wrong. “Is this my writing?” you think. “Is this what it’s all come to? What is wrong with me?”

Or maybe this never happens to you at all. But it happens to me. Not frequently, but it does happen. It’s that wonderful little syndrome called writer’s block.

Writer’s block has something of a mythos about it. It’s so prevalent that even non-writers have heard of it, and speak of its gloom as if they had experienced it for themselves.

But we know the truth. It isn’t so much the terror of the blank page as it is the fear of the words themselves. We’re giving birth to a thought out of the darkest corners of our minds, and as we try to get the words out onto the paper we are gripped with the fear that our offspring will be stillborn.

Sometimes this problem has a physical root. I’ve noticed for instance that it’s nearly impossible for me to write if I’m very hungry. It’s not that I’m a glutton, but the simple fact is my brain needs the physical nutrients to work properly. Other times writer’s block can come out of a lack of sleep.

But sometimes it’s just there, like a heavy fog pressing down on our minds whenever we try to form thoughts into words.

But let me let you in on a little secret. Sometimes writer’s block is a trick, an illusion. It feels so real, I know. But it’s not.

I know because I had writers block this morning.

I sat down to write the blog post I had all planned out, and nothing was working. I really wanted to give up. I wanted to type, “Hey, guys can’t think of anything interesting to say today, so tune in tomorrow and see if it gets any better.”But then I asked myself, “What if I feel this way tomorrow or the next day, or the next one after that?”

I knew I had to make a stand. So I wrote. Starting with, “Sometimes writing sucks.”

And sometimes it really does. But I learned something valuable from Kristen Lamb a few weeks back. She said this: “Feelings lie.” Just two little words, and yet if we could learn to apply them, not only to writing, but to every area of our lives what a difference they could make. In its purest form writer’s block is nothing more than a feeling. And it lies every single time.

So when you’re looking at that blank screen and thinking all of your words sound like crap, sit down and write anyway. Don’t let your feelings dictate what kind of writer you’re going to be. Because you won’t always feel like a writer. But your feelings don’t define you. Your decisions define you. So when you don’t feel like writing, make the decision to write anyway.

When it’s all said and done, you’ll look back and wonder how you could have ever let a little thing like writer’s block stand in your way.

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10 responses to “Writing Around the Block

  1. Get out of my head, Albert! 🙂

  2. Thank you for this post. I am emerging from a writer’s hiatus, as I like to call it, where for several weeks I have been paralyzed with ‘Now what?’ Completed a synopsis that was praised by a teacher/mentor, even gave me an agent contact for when I complete said project, then I froze up with ‘What if?’ thinking for a while. ‘What if I can’t produce what they expect?’ ‘What if I utterly fail, I will have to give up on my dream?’ ‘What if I can’t do the you-fill-in-the-blank correctly, and they discover I am a complete amateur and a fraud?’ Sounds completely silly and illogical when you put it down in black and white, but emotions don’t pay attention to logic. My solution? Do it afraid. Do it anyway. The freedom of throwing your ill-conceived hyper-caution to the wind and just writing breaks the muse out of her prison. Do it afraid. I love the statement ‘Your feelings don’t define you, your decisions define you.’ So true.

    • Getting an agent to contact you back is fantastic news. I hope I was able to help you get out of your slump. You’re only as good a writer as you are. Which sounds simple, but it’s important. Don’t try to be something you’re not. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get better, but don’t try to achieve other’s success. Just write what comes naturally. Improvement will follow.

  3. That’s me. When I don’t feel like writing, I write anyway. “Sometimes writing sucks” then you let your mind go wild. Free writing does lead to best plot. 🙂 Usually they’re original.

    I’m trying a new trick recently. I’m copying off other writers’ works. I put the story in front of me and change it, like “The beautiful meadow” to the “The beautiful black mare”. Or “once upon a time” to “once in a lifetime”. The plot and the characters are mine but the style and the structure are based on theirs. That way, even if I have no clue what I’m doing, I’m creating something passable while learning. What do you think?

    • I’m not sure. I know sometimes after I think of an idea I realize it’s similar to something someone else has already written. I’ve never purposefully worked from other writers concepts though. It’s more of a subconscious thing.
      I’ve been batting around the idea of doing a post on originality one of these days, so maybe I’ll say more on the subject then.

      • I didn’t mean that. I mean, using your original story about a fairy falling in love with a dwarf but copy the style of Bram Stoker’s Dracula when it comes to telling it.

        Plagiarism is a new concept, I think. Almost all of Shakespeare’s work is plagiarized from someone else.

        Originality is ideal. Nevertheless, I think it’s hard to be original if I have no idea how to do it.

      • Ah, mimicking another’s style eh? Yeah that can be fun if you do it right, and if the style is distinct enough. It has to be something you can really hear in your head for yourself before you can pull it off right. I wish you all the best success.

  4. Excellent! I’ve been looking at it as my characters giving me the silent treatment…this gives me hope that I can force them to talk to me. So now I just need to let them know we can do this the easy way or the hard way…it’s up to ME.

    • Yeah, I think I read your post a while back about forcing your characters to do something you didn’t feel they really wanted to do. In some ways this is a bit of a doubled edged sword. It’s true that you’re in charge as the writer, but if your characters seem to naturally tend toward something you didn’t have planned it might be a good idea to ask yourself “why?” Maybe the characters you’ve created don’t quite fit the story you thought you were writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you can shepherd them through the plot you had planned out ahead of time and sometimes you need to give them their freedom and see what they can give you. But don’t let them stop you from writing. Work something out with them and get back on track. I know you can do it.

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