Overcoming writer’s block

SPOILER ALERT: You can’t. I’m serious. You can’t overcome writer’s block, no matter what others tell you.

Odds are that your case of writer’s block is unique — this virus is constantly mutating, depending on its host.Writer’s block, as those times when a writer feels that he simply can’t write anymore, regardless of how much time he spends staring at a computer screen, is one of the biggest frights in my line of work.

To understand writer’s block you have to realize that it’s all coming from inside. It’s your brain telling you to take it easy. You know, trying to help.

There are many types of writer’s block. First there’s the most common, when you don’t feel like writing anything. Hell, when you can’t write anything. Your mind is just blank, empty, naked. And you can drink, you can smoke, you can give up sleep, but nothing will work.

This is what I never understood. You see, there’s this idea I have about a muse. Not a real person, not that goddess that’s always haunting your dreams and making you squirm under the bed sheets at night. The muse, as in inspiration, as in this urge you have to write, to just tap, tap away all the ideas that have been cramming inside your brain for too long. You HAVE to write. And sometimes this muse just leaves you. She vanishes somewhere far, far away, and doesn’t want to come back, no matter how caffeinated your brain is. Yeah, she’s a total bitch, but even if you bash your head against your keyboard, she won’t come back. ‘Cause she’s a bitch. So don’t force it. Just wait. I found this to be the best advice I ever received, related to writing or life in general.

Sometimes the only thing you can do is wait.

Then there’s the second type of writer’s block, the one I’m faced with frequently. I have too many ideas. Yeah, it’s the exact opposite of the first one. I have ideas for short stories, novels, graphic novels, scripts, and God knows what else, and I can’t pick one. I get frustrated, simply because my mind is flooded with too many ideas at once. Some of you might say this is a silly thing to be worried about, but it’s not. Because when I’m near the end of a story, I have this sort of imaginary dialogue with myself, in which I ask, “What’s next?” And I dig deep inside my brain (or inside my laptop) for the next project. And because I’m panicky, I end up with too many ideas, just because I’m afraid one is not enough.

The only way to fight this type of writer’s block is by forcing yourself (yeah, in this case you can actually force it) to work on just one idea. Pick one at random if you must, but you have to work on something, anything.

It’s just a matter of understanding that the muse is never gone forever. The muse will never abandon you; it might take weeks, months, maybe even years, but the muse always returns, as long as you’re willing to let her inspire you.

And then there’s this other interesting bit.

Whenever I work really hard on just one project, I end up feeling as if there are no more words inside my head. I feel like a dog chasing his own tail, as if I’ve written the exact same words before, and now I’m just re-using old sentences.

That’s when I know I need a break.

Or this next advice: work on something else. Especially if you feel stuck; if the chapter you’re working on doesn’t feel complete, or you’re just short of what to put in it, work on a next chapter or on a short story, or try to blow off steam by doing something that isn’t related to writing.

Then, I suppose, is another type of writer’s block, one I’ve heard of but never experienced. You finish the next Great American Novel, and there’s nothing left. No ideas, nothing. I think that happens on rare occasions.

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find stories. More than you can handle, actually. Because everywhere we look there’s something worth writing about. Whether in our own actions or the actions of those around us the last thing a writer should fear is the lack of influence an environment can have over him.

So keep this in mind. Whenever you don’t feel like writing, don’t panic. Don’t go into the first bar and get drunk. Don’t shoot yourself in the hand. Just wait. It will come to you. When you least expect it.

This muse chick works in mysterious ways sometimes.


12 thoughts on “Overcoming writer’s block

  1. It’s so frustrating that every time I face my computer to compose, no words seem to flow in my mind. But when I’m in the shower, my head is filled with billions of words and ideas I’d like to write about; and I wish I have a notepad with me in the shower every time.

  2. I remember reading somewhere that there’s no such thing as writers block just indecision. Strangely that kind of lines up with your second version of writers block, the only kind I’ve ever really experienced.

  3. I hate writers block.
    Unfortunately, the way I approach it is the same way I learned to run marathons. I set the next telephone pole as my goal, and then the next one after that. In this case, it’s an idea on where I want to go, but getting to the next sentence becomes the trick..
    I also distract myself. When I run, I write books in my head. When I’m writing, I often times indulge in a separate passion, history. In a recent chapter I was struggling with, I began talking about Bob Ford, the man who shot and killed Jesse James. The next thing I know, the words were flowing well (until I hit the next issue, and had to talk about riding horses).
    Sometimes, that produces good results. More often than not, I find myself rewriting what I’ve done.. Not liking that, and then someplace in that mess, I actually come out with something that isn’t half bad. Guess it would be like running the same marathon over and over and learning how to use the course to your advantage.

  4. I find that I get struck with the first type of writers block all the time and usually it’s due to personal issues I’m trying to deal with. I find that instead of writing what I’m supposed to, I’ll write about what I’m frustrated about. No one will ever see this writing but it helps to get those creative juices flowing again!

    • Well, I think those are exactly the things you should write about. What is eating you up? What do you care deeply about? People want to read those sort of things. Honesty. Passion. The emotions and feelings that define another human being.

  5. Great article. A subject close to my heart. The second one is the one that gets me all the time. Too many ideas to focus. And if only I had the third problem. Unable to write because of my previous masterpiece.

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