Jacquelyn Smith

Writer’s block? Never heard of it.

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

 

There. I said it.

 

Now, I’m not saying I don’t think it’s possible for a writer to get a little stuck from time to time. It happens to everyone. The problems range from having too many ideas (none of which fit the story or characters), to having no ideas at all, to maybe not yet having the skills, voice, or experience needed to tackle a particular project. I guess what I’m saying is that ‘writer’s block’ isn’t a part of my vocabulary.

 

The problem with writer’s block:

 

Often when people think of writer’s block, they imagine tortured artists with ink-stained fingers, agonizing over their grand masterpiece. For many people (especially non-writers), the idea of writer’s block has been romanticized, and is even seen as admirable.

 

Haven’t written anything in two years? Boom: writer’s block. Suddenly, you’re not one of the non-writing masses, but an artist that spends an infinite amount of time pondering the meaning behind each word before committing it to the page.

 

Here are a few reasons of why I’m not a fan of the phrase:

  • It’s melodramatic
  • It encourages an immobilizing, perfectionist mindset
  • It’s an excuse
  • It’s potentially permanent

 

The longer you go without writing something, the smaller the chance you’re ever going to write anything. You just end up with a terminal case of writer’s block. No one wants to go out that way.

 

‘Writer’s block’ vs. ‘being stuck’:

 

To me, ‘getting stuck’ is a much better way to view things. It feels much easier to handle and work through. Maybe it only seems like a simple/lame vocabulary shift, but when you tone down your language and labels, it can really change the way you view things. (The power of the word, and all that.)

 

For example, I never use the word ‘bored’. It’s just not a part of my regular vocabulary. And you know what? I never get bored. Sure, I may feel a little out of sorts at times, but I’m never full out bored. It just doesn’t happen—just like the way I never get writer’s block.

 

It’s a way of bolstering yourself against the things you don’t want to experience, much like you would take extra vitamins or supplements in preparation for cold and flu season. That way, when you do get hit, you only end up with a mild case of the sniffles instead of a debilitating, week-long vomit fest.

 

Getting unstuck:

 

Since getting over being stuck is much easier to manage, there are lots of approaches we can use. Here are some of my favorites:

 

  • Push yourself by asking: “What if ‘X’ happened next?”
  • Get something on the page. Don’t worry about being perfect. (That’s what edits/revisions are for.)
  • Change your environment
  • Talk it out with a friend

 

Sometimes, you might come to the realization that this isn’t the right time for you to finish the project you’re working on. Maybe you’re not the writer you need to be yet. When this happens to me, I always make sure I have lots of notes, so I can pick up where I left off when I’m ready to come back.

 

If you are going to let a project sit, it’s important to move on to something else as soon as possible, and see it through. Trust me, the confidence and experience you’ll gain will help you in the long run. ;)

 

How do YOU deal with getting stuck?

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6 thoughts on “Writer’s block? Never heard of it.

  1. Ava Jae

    I love seeing posts like these that debunk the infamous writer’s block.

    I agree with you and I think the change in vocabulary is smart–you’re right, getting stuck doesn’t sound nearly as nefarious as writer’s block.

    Usually when I get stuck it’s because I don’t know where to go next, in which case I find the quickest cure is to plot out what I’m going to write, so I have some sort of end goal. If I’m still stuck even after that, chances are it has to do with not being satisfied with how the writing is turning out, in which case I write anyway and ignore the fact that I think it’s terrible because, as you said, you can always fix it later.

    Great post! :)

    1. Jacquelyn

      Thanks! Yeah, I’ve known some writers who allow the perfectionism trap to keep them from moving forward. (As if all writing masterpieces come out perfectly in the first draft! :P) Creating a more clear-cut plan with an end goal to focus on is a great tip. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Grace

    I like this post! I’ve never been a fan of the term “writer’s block” either. I frequently get “stuck,” but I’m never blocked. “Writer’s block” sounds way too permanent.

  3. James Garcia Jr

    A week long vomit-fest, huh? *shakes head* Mine is usually a three week period where my nose suddenly thinks it is supposed to produce yucky stuff that I’d rather get rid of or not produce at all. TMI?
    I really don’t know about writer’s block, either. On the other hand I do not write regularly, but space my projects out. I usually don’t write until my brain has been sufficiently prepped and has all of the answers before I begin typing. It is definietly a good way to think about things. Thanks for sharing.

    -Jimmy Raisin… (Damn! That’s not it.)
    -Jummy… (No!)
    -Jimmy Sue… *sigh*
    -Jimmy. (That’s the one.) *wipes forehead*

    1. Jacquelyn

      Thanks for that lovely visual… :P

      It sounds like your pacing is working for you. It can be tough sometimes not to plunge ahead with a project before you have the details clearly fixed in your mind, but taking time to plan probably helps to avoid getting stuck in the long run. Even if you already know where your plot is going, it definitely helps to know how you’re going to get there!

      Thanks, Jimmy! (See? I got it right this time.) ;)

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