Writer’s block doesn’t exist.
Right, now I’ve got you attention with that click-baity headline, let me tell you what I mean.
Ask any author and they will tell you they have had writer’s block at one time or another, but they won’t be able to tell you why? Like saying you have a cough, writer’s block is, in my opinion, a catch-all term for a number of issues. Just as many things can cause one to have a cough, so many things can cause one to have writer’s block.
What follows is what I consider to be the main causes of “writer’s block.” It is not an exhaustive list, and it is probably quite neuro-typical, so please bear that in mind.
1. You Need A Nap
Most authors, even published ones, don’t make a living from their writing. They need to supplement their income with day jobs until they land that elusive six-figure deal. Plus they have families, and hobbies, and neighbours to deal with, so carving out some time to write can be a challenge in itself. Is it any wonder that, after working six twelve-hour-days, when they finally sit down to write on their one day off they can’t? Not in the slightest.
If you’re too tired to think straight there’s no way you can write anything. Take a nap and try again later.
2. You Don’t Know What Comes Next
Whether you like to think of yourself as a Plotter or a Panster, if you haven’t put enough thought into what your characters are going to do next, you’re going to find it very hard to come up with ideas on the spot. And if you do they might not be what you’re after, or go in the direction you want them to go.
Either make yourself a detailed outline, or spend some time getting to know your characters and their world inside and out. It’ll save you countless hours of sitting staring at a blank page.
3. You’re Bored
It’s surprisingly easy to go off a story once you’ve started. Maybe it didn’t have the legs you thought it did, or it’s just not as interesting/amusing/exciting as you imagined it was going to be. Either way, if your heart’s just not into it anymore maybe it’s time to move on. You don’t have to delete what you’ve done, but it’s okay to put it to one side and try something new if you want. No point carrying on with a story you’ve lost interest in just because you’ve written a hundred pages already.
However! Think long and hard about why you’re finding that story difficult to write. Is it because you’re bored? Or is it because…
4. You Lack Discipline
This is the one your average writer struggles with the most.
Writing is like going for a jog; the hardest part is lacing up your shoes. Once you get going it’s a lot easier after that.
There’s a reason why so many successful writers started out as journalists. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, they all learned early on that an editor doesn’t care if you’re in the mood, and a deadline is a deadline whether you feel inspired or not.
It’s called Seat Of The Pants Writing; seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. It can be hard work sometimes, but if you want to make a career of your writing hard work is what it’s going to take. Remember, you can fix bad writing. You can’t fix an empty page.
Sir Terry put it best (of course):
“If you trust in yourself… and believe in your dreams… and follow your star… you’ll still get beaten by people who spent THEIR time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
Know yourself. Know why it is you’re finding it hard to write, then deal with the reality of that. Don’t use “writer’s block” as an excuse not to do anything at all. Someone, somewhere, is desperately waiting to read the things you write. It’s your job not disappoint them.
The road to obscurity is paved with lame excuses.