I don’t care if you disagree with me. It’s time someone said it, and did something about it.
I’m writing the damn book. You know the one. It’s called Finish the Damn Book! and this is the title of one of my favorite chapters. I’m calling out writer’s block, right now.
Quote from FTDB:
Let me tell you what writer’s block really is. It’s the monster under a child’s bed. The novice writer is the child. It’s terrifying to go to sleep, and no night light or teddy bear is going to save you. You fight off the monster by standing up to it. Toss off the covers and shout at it, “do something.” When you call it out, you’ll realize that it can’t hurt you, because it isn’t even real. You’ll take a stand and come up with your own creative ways to fight it off. You’ll be writing, just to annoy it, the way it has annoyed you. It’s your way of telling the monster that you aren’t afraid. Adapt that mindset, and writer’s block will crawl back behind the screen so you can get your work done.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.
Steven Pressfield calls it resistance. I call it lack of drive or motivation. Doesn’t matter who the writer is or what name they choose to pick for it, it CAN be overcome. It absolutely can. Blockages are real, they happen, but the stigma of this being some kind of mind wipe that sweeps writers and artists, is a cruel fabrication played on us. It gives us an excuse not to write. We don’t have to feel bad if we throw up our hands and say, “writer’s block.” We can sleep easy, because some force beyond our control has denied us the ability to create.
I’ve never, ever, believed in that crap. I’m here to drop it on your doorstep and set fire to it, if that’s what it takes. Writer’s block doesn’t come from some mythical outside force, it’s inside us. It’s that age old mind trick of your inner dialogue talking you out of something because it involves work. Don’t let it. While ultimately, I believe we all have it inside ourselves to outsmart the monster. In the end, it’s a matter of motivation. It’s a question of how bad you want it. How badly do you want to write that novel? How badly do you want to be a musician? How badly do you want to build that business, or make that new gadget on your bench the next big thing? How badly do you want to be in control of your own life?
I’ll leave the helping hints from Finish the Damn Book! below.
If you’re tired. Sit down. Open the document. Tell yourself that you are going to write one sentence and then go to sleep. That first sentence might spark another, but write one sentence, and consider it a win. Your first victory against the dreaded writer’s block. The battle that turned the tide forever. And all it takes is one sentence. I’ve had days where I literally added three words to my manuscript and went to bed.
Can’t get work done where you are? Move. Take your notebook or laptop and go to a coffee shop, a bookstore, the park, a museum, a library. Anywhere but where you are at, and grab some caffeine on the way.
Train with treats. Grab a bag of candy, and eat exactly one piece after each paragraph, or each page, or whatever. Any kind of positive reinforcement will work for this, but my favorite is SweetTarts.
Follow the main character. Don’t worry about the excess crap words. Just picture your main character in your head and write what he or she is doing. They might stumble around for a while, but once the words are flowing, they tend to create more words, and before you know it, the story is moving again.
Work on something else for a while. Write one sentence on your story, and then draft a piece of flash fiction about something else. You can write it about writer’s block. You can start a journal. You can write up a news story and post it on Facebook. Whatever. Then get back to your story.
As far as taking action, here are some more strategies for overcoming blocks, not only in your writing pursuits, but in life as well.
- Unplug the internet during your writing sessions.
- Switch format. Try jotting notes down with a fountain pen rather than typing, get the idea right, then go back to work. (I’m always adding new pens to the shop)
- Set a ten-minute clock and write a piece of flash fiction as quickly as you can. Just hammer something out, it doesn’t need to win a prize. Then return to your book.
- Skip ahead to the next chapter. Forget about being stuck, assume it all resolved itself nicely, and start wherever your characters were supposed to end up.
- Light a candle, burn an incense stick, or move a favorite plush bear beside your laptop. Whatever lucky charm you can find, use it. These items tend to work because we believe they can, just like how writer’s block works. Fight it with a dose of its own medicine.
- Coach yourself. Remind yourself that if you had been typing instead of brooding, you’d probably have a couple pages done by now, then start typing.
Probably the best thing you can do is a mental trick. Sit at your desk, back straight and feet flat on the floor, and put your fingers where they go on the home row of the keyboard.
Start a sentence. Let go of all the stigma about this being some grandiose work of mastery, and just write a sentence. What happens next? What does your character see? What are they thinking about? What kind of nervous twitch do they develop while waiting on you to chart the next course of action for them?
Stories are living things. They play by in real-time. You can’t simply freeze the clock whenever you want. Stuff is happening in your fictional world at that exact moment. You know what it is, so write it down.
Worry about editing after you finish the first draft.
If you are past the drafting stage and tidying up, then just do it. We all know that it’s grunt work. You have to slough through it and get to the finish line. Use your thesaurus, move your commas around, delete paragraphs or chapters, or add new ones. Do it. Get it done. Stop reading posts about writer’s block.
It’s all a mind game, all of it. Are you willing to do the work? I’m not going to blow sunshine up your butt and make you feel better. There’s hard work to be done, and the only way it will is if you punch in and do it. Nobody else is going to do it for you, and no experienced author worth their salt is going to feel the least bit sorry for your “block.”
That said, get to work. No, seriously, like right now. Go.