Disclaimer: This is going to sound either a bit self-righteous, a bit harsh, or both. However, that’s kind of the point of a blog, right? Being able to share one’s opinions? These are my opinions, welcome to them!
I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about writer’s block, saying that it has stopped them from writing for hours, days, weeks, or years.
But is it actually a valid excuse? Can you plead “writer’s block” when you can’t come up with something new to write.
In my somewhat humble opinion, I think that writer’s block is kind of an excuse for being lazy with your writing. Why is this?
Aside from my midnight jaunts as a fiction writer, I spend my days writing marketing copy, blog posts (often not unlike this one), and articles for marketing purposes. I write social media posts, video scripts, and press releases. If it needs to be written, I write it!
So, morning dawns at 7 AM, and I’m sitting at my desk with my projects ready to go. I open that first file, and I stare at the blank page. Do I get the luxury of claiming writer’s block when I can’t figure out what to write?
Abso-damn-lutely not! If I claimed writer’s block, my clients would tell me, “Hey, fancy writer friend, we’ve now found someone more reliable and less whiny than you. Good luck with your writing!” They would simply hand the work off to another writer who is not claiming writer’s block.
Now, translate that into your fiction writing, or my fiction writing. I came to a few spots in my book In the Days where I didn’t know how to continue. I wasn’t sure how to take the characters from Point A to Point B. Did that stop me?
For a few minutes, sure. I took a break, visited the little men’s room, ate something, or just got a change of scenery for 5 to 30 minutes. It helped me to clear my head, and freed me from the confines of the scene I had found myself stuck in.
But when I sat down to write, did I stare at that blank page? No, because I couldn’t afford to! I had a very limited window for my writing, and I had to make progress towards the completion of the 30+ chapter, 113,000-word novel. Writer’s block wasn’t something I could allow myself to have, so I approached my fiction writing the way I approached my marketing copywriting: I prepared beforehand.
Before I ever sat down to write out the chapter, I knew more or less where it needed to go. I am an Architect (add link) first and foremost, so you can bet your pretty little boots that I had some structure/framework in place to get me from Prologue to Epilogue.
Of course, I still had to write plenty to fill in the framework, but at least I had the place where I was going. That, IMO, is what stopped me from suffering the dreaded writer’s block.
“But,” you may whine in a nasal voice, “I don’t have a structure for my book! I’m just telling it and seeing where it takes me.” Great! Good for you! It’s a hugely enjoyable way to write, and there’s nothing wrong with doing it that way.
All I can say is: treat your writing like you would any other job. When you get stuck at work, you can’t claim accountant’s block, lawyer’s block, or street-sweeper’s block. Don’t let writer’s block be the excuse that stops you from pushing forward.
How can you deal with writer’s block?
Write gibberish. Put down the first 100 words that pop into your mind. You can often find something helpful from total nonsense.
Move on. Start the next scene or chapter. You can always figure out how your characters got there later.
Take a break. This doesn’t mean to leave it for days or weeks. Just take a few minutes off to recharge your mental batteries, and get back to hammering away at the keyboard.
Don’t start unless you have an idea of where it’s going. Gardeners may not enjoy this as much, but it’s helpful. You don’t even have to know the ending, but you need to know all the crucial plot points.
Is writer’s block a valid excuse? In my opinion, I’d say heck no!