How Do You Overcome The Dreaded 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.

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13 thoughts on “How Do You Overcome The Dreaded Writer’s Block?

  1. Great post. I’m in the thick of #1 right now, so I’m focusing my attention on the home improvement projects that got neglected while I was riding(writing) the wave. A different kind of creativity will hopefully call her back eventually. I will not panic. 😉 Amanda

  2. I don’t drink, I don’t do anything anymore really. I’m just trying to breathe and focus and… trying to not fall apart like my life around me.

  3. I used to think there was something wrong with me, because my mind is always overloaded with things to write about and I feel frustrated because I can’t quite focus on what it is that I need to get out on paper. I feel so much at once sometimes and it can be overwhelming. So, I end up not writing at all, until I rest my mind. Lately, I’m finding that the thought that keeps popping up the most in my head is probably the thing I am meant to write about. It’s the one thought that overpowers all the others. Sorry for rambling, but I was just happy to read I’m not the only one that suffers from this! This was really a very awesome post, Christian!

  4. I experience this sometimes in my blogging. I’ve found that I can’t really force myself to write because then it leads to a lot of second-guessing on the quality of what I’ve just written (like an instance on Sex and the City where Carrie was going through a dry spell in both her love life and her writing, and at one point she submits as a column “socks and the city” and comparing men to socks, and then she ponders the possibility of writing a column comparing looking for love to “finding the perfect French fry”). So I usually just end up waiting for inspiration to come, whether it’s something going on in my life or something I’ve noticed across my countless journeys around the Internet that seems interesting enough for me to add my own commentary on it. Granted, blogging is much different than writing fiction, but even bloggers experience writer’s block to a degree.

  5. After I finished my Great Southern American Novel, I felt empty. On a whim, I embarked on a series of found/remixed poems from the text on cans. Because the text came mostly from the cans, it was as if I had a collaborator. And I like how they’ve come out, and so have other people, including a reviewer on New Pages. So a chapbook was born. And I’ve now moved on to other ideas, too.

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