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.
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.
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