How Do You Get Through Writer’s Block?
When I started the first draft of my novel this spring (April 2019) I was able to fly through 7 chapters, no problem! They just flowed onto the pages and I never had to look back.
What that first sentence doesn’t explain is how many years of planning, note-taking, reading, and researching went into making those first few chapters, as Jeff Bezos put it, “an overnight success 10 years in the making.”
In my case, it was 7 feverishly-written chapters after 7 painstaking years of preparation. Can you imagine how easy-to-write and well-thought-out your chapters would be if you took a year to write each one? 😍 I’d been thinking about the first act of my novel for so long I could breeze straight through it and never look back. (Of course, I did look back, but that’s the perfectionism acting up and not the wind-through-my-hair ease with which I could get these first few done.)
The other day, I was texting about this with my friend, Patrick, who moved back home to Texas. The problem, though, was:
What do I do now that I’m through the easy chapters? How do I write the hazy, less-thought-out ones?
And to that, I say, “I don’t know.” I think it’s unique to every writer, like most things, and there is no silver bullet that works for all of us. There are certainly some techniques to working through it but I think (at this stage in my newbie writing career) it just comes down to choosing whether to work or not.
There are days when I don’t want to work on my stories, and since they aren’t (yet) paying my rent or putting food in our fridge, I simply choose not to work on them.
*gasp!* You say, audibly. “But what do you do then!?” 🙀
I shrug off the guilt, as best I can, and work on other things either related or unrelated to them so that my mind can still remain busy solving other problems and hopefully get back to solving this main writer’s block problem later. 🤷♂️
Maybe getting some other things done relieves my mind to the point that I’m ready to keep plugging away at it. Or one thing will trigger another and I finally come up with the sneaky, tricky plot twist that I’d needed to write my way out of the corner the characters got themselves into.
Other much wiser and more prolific writers may say you must push through the block, beating your head and your fingers against it until you manage to forcibly write your way through it.
I don’t like any advice that ignores all reason in favor of a brute-force approach. We’re humans, and we need to care for ourselves more than working ourselves to death. But don’t let either of us use this as an excuse to put off doing the work! I know, that’s what I want to do too. 😇
I’m merely sharing my technique: I simply walk around that big ‘ol writer’s block rather than charge through it. *shrug* (I say, inaudibly)
There are multiple ways to solve most problems, so instead of choosing to struggle with this hobby-that-I-hope-turns-into-my-profession-and-career-someday, I will sometimes choose to continue being productive but let the problem simmer on my back burner, or even marinate for two days in the fridge (the cold helps me think! 😂🥶)
Likewise, there are multiple ways to deal with writer’s block or doing any work you’re just not quite in the mood to do. I could go on about other methods but that’ll have to be for another post.
In the meantime, how do you get over (or under, or through) writer’s block? When you’ve got projects you know you need to finish, how do you get yourself to do them? And separate from that, are you a pantser or a plotter when it comes to writing projects? Let us know in the comments!