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Do I have writer's block?

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Your writing is going great, a daily routine, story and ideas are flowing like a lazy river, steady and consistent. You can hardly believe your success on this project, the ease at which you've been churning out page after page, chapter upon chapter. You think to yourself, this writing thing is so easy. Why do so many people complain about this writing gig?

Until, one day it's as if you don't recognize your own story. The pages, sections, and chapters just seem all jumbled up. You feel like you've lost your storyline, theme and purpose.

What discourages me most about writer's block is the feeling the story I've been working on no longer works. I just don't seem to recognize it, and even knowing at one time I knew exactly where I was going with it; now I feel like my writing GPS broke. My story feels chaotic, disorienting and well...honestly, just no fun anymore.

The pages you've written, and your ideas hit a dam as big as Hoover. You feel like you are standing at the bottom looking up at the huge wall in front of you. As you stare up at the monolith you wonder, Is this writer's block? Dread washes over you as your body turns weak, shoulders slump, head hangs, your chin stopping at your chest, as the anxiety makes you turn and walk away.

We aren't all prolific writer's all the time.

Word has it, these writer's, some of which you may have heard of before, suffered from writer's block on occasion: Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Wolfe, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and quite frankly, I'm sure a ton more.


My Remedies for Writer's Block

It's definitely can be the kind of the thing that comes and goes. And that is good news!

So how do I get myself out of writer's block? I'm glad you asked.

I typically employ a phased approach.

Phase I

My usual, initial remedy is to go for a walk. No music, no purpose other than to just walk and think about where I was when the block hit. I do believe some writer's block is not a block at all, but rather life's priorities. Family emergencies, or situational stress, an ill child or pet, or even stressors from our other jobs can pop us out of alignment with our writing. So not all writer's blocks have anything to do with writing.

Sometimes I contemplate what happened in my life when the block started. Sometimes simply understanding how it got there will also help make it go away.

If the walk doesn't progress me to unblocking my block, I step back from the project. Nope, go more...not far enough yet. Even further, thank you very much. Just a few more steps back. No, come on, bigger steps.


Now, I look at my project again. Does this birds eye view bring any recollection back, mind or feeling wise, as to what I was so excited about on the project before when I was writing like a crazed maniac?

Phase II

If not, maybe I'll take a few weeks off from it, and come back to read it again to see if the old writing spark relights the flame. It's like getting bored with eating chicken. Give it up for a week or two and then the next time you have chicken it will be delicious again.

And sometimes, returning from my two to three week writer's block hiatus, I just need to force the relighting of the flame myself by doing some more research, giving myself more ideas, or redirection. Perhaps reading someone else's book, watching a video or movie related to my topic, or discussing my work with someone that will ask questions and poke at it, to get me thinking about what it is I want with the project, just to create an ember.

Phase III

I might work on, or start another project; sometimes for weeks, or even months before returning to my blocked project. But I'm a strong advocate for having multiple projects on the roster, that can be used kinda like a pinch hitter; where you can step in to one of those projects until your get your groove for the blocked writing back. This keeps me thinking and writing; but also gives my brain time to let go of the disruption that was most likely the cause of the block in the first place.

It's similar to when you get that commercial jingle, or snippet of a song in your head (like the one that's set up residency in my head over the past few days, The Pretenders Back on the Chain Gang, 🎶"those were the happiest days 🎶 of my life.", that plays on repeat for days. How do you get those to go away? You listen to other music.

I think in a way, having the block can be upsetting and discouraging, and even lead to self-doubt. Which only leads metaphorically to adding more blocks to the wall already built that's holding you back.

So don't go there. It won't help you get restarted and, hence, serves no useful purpose other than to keep you stuck.

I know, for me, I will get back to the project that got me stuck, eventually. But all writer's will tell you, just don't stop writing. Write your way around the block, but don't quit.

It's not you, per se, but the process. And sometimes the process itself, just gets in the way of your creativity, organization, or storyline mojo. In the end, if it's a project you really believe in, and at one point had passion about, it's still a story that needs to be told. It just may require you to make a course adjustment.

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