Don’t Talk Yourself into ‘Writer’s Block’

 

Here’s what I think of writer’s block:

I don’t.

I don’t think of writer’s block. I don’t think about it. I don’t expect it. I don’t believe in it. I don’t get stuck in it. Ever.

Let me be clear. The state of staring at a page and having nothing to write there isn’t foreign to me. The experience of not knowing how the hell to solve this plot problem or how to answer this story question or what word to choose here — all familiar. 

But I don’t acknowledge that experience as a “block”. It’s just something that happens. I’m not actually stuck. If I talked myself into getting stuck, it’d become a bit like agrophobia (which is the fear of having a panic attack, a self-fulfilling condition).

The phenomena people call writer’s block is really a bit like being on a three lane highway and finding your lane has come to a standstill. But there’s a lane either side of you that’s moving. So it’s your choice: you can sit in that blocked lane if you want and you can change lanes if you want. Completely your choice.

Do NOT talk yourself into writer’s block. There are so many other things you can do besides freaking out that you can’t you can’t you can’t or the words won’t won’t won’t:

  • Lane 1: another project: getting out of one headspace and into another: notes for a story idea, a fun scene in another project that’s easy to write, etc, etc…
  • Lane 2: a writing exercise that breaks through the blockage: for example, asking yourself what are four other options here, or WWSKD (What Would Stephen King Do), etc…
  • Lane 3: Letting your mind wander: lying down with music you like playing and letting your mind wander until it comes up with cool ideas … or it takes a nap … win win …
  • Lane 4: Doing something else and coming back to it later…
  • Lane 5: Forcing your way through the block: just write something and don’t worry if it’s complete crap or doesn’t work; just write something that moves you on through the tough place and into an easier part of the project to write.

My long-suffering writing buddies are familiar with seeing me do this in the middle of a draft: “[INSERT SMART SOLUTION HERE]. Tony picked up [SOME KIND OF GROOVY WEAPON] and threatened the zombies with it.” Those [placeholders] are a way to keep me moving instead of getting frustrated because right then and there I don’t know the SOLUTION and I haven’t chosen a GROOVY WEAPON.

Fellow wordsmith, do not talk yourself into a block. Keep moving. You can do it.

2 Responses to “Don’t Talk Yourself into ‘Writer’s Block’”

  • Devin Madson:

    Thoroughly agree, Pete! I also don’t think about it as writer’s block and do exactly the same thing with placeholders. So many people and places and things are called XX until I go back. If I find myself resistant to writing a scene I sprint it.

    • Pete:

      I love that concept of sprinting the scene. Brilliant.

      A lot of creatives are misinformed that unless we are in some magical inspired zone where the muse is speaking, then there’s something wrong. 95% of what we achieve is from sheer bloody mindedness or simple effort.

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