Writer’s Block: When your imaginary friends aren’t talking to you.
Writer’s block is no joking matter. We’ve all heard of it and most of us have experienced it at least once in our lives. My writer’s block lasted a couple of years and I worried I’d never write again. It was caused by stress. We lost our home to fire one January and my father died the next January, followed by the loss of my mom’s home due to hurricane flooding and then she fell and broke her hip. That was a really f-ed up couple of years and writing well, it took a backseat. My brain couldn’t even function.
Illness, stress, overloaded with work, family obligations or other things that stretch us too far, can impact our writing. Is this writer’s block? It’s probably a lot more than just writer’s block but for a creative who is unable to create whether it’s writing, painting, or crafting, that feeling of being stopped up and fuzzy, not ourselves is a very real problem. It’s how we express ourselves and when we’re dealing with extra stuff being able to express ourselves is often how we cope. Take away our best coping mechanism and well, shit happens. It’s like being on an infinite loop. We can’t create because we’re stressed, we want to create to relieve stress and become more stressed because we can’t create. Yeah, that’s not an eruption ready to explode.
This type of writer’s block may require more than a few simple steps. If you can’t solve this on your own by taking a break, changing your creative outlet, or asking others to take on some of the work, then you may need to seek professional assistance like a counselor or doctor. There is no shame in asking for help. If you need to see someone for a mental or physical health problem, please do so. I cannot say this enough, you cannot take care of others until you first take care of yourself.
If your writer’s block isn’t health related or due to stress, then it must be about the writing.
If you are just beginning your project and you are having trouble getting started. Have you really thought about your story? As a pantser much of my story is worked out in my head but each story is different. Some I start with a scene in my head, and I need to understand it. Some I have a character and I need to put them in a situation. Other stories I have pieces I need to string together, and some come to me whole cloth and just need to be stitched together. If you are a plotter or planner, perhaps you can’t get started because you’ve not planned enough. If you are a pantser or someone who visualizes their story, perhaps you’ve not thought about it enough and got a complete picture. What can you do to get excited about writing this story? Maybe it’s not the right time to write this story. Maybe you need some more research. Maybe you need a picture of your characters or your setting to jump start your story.
If you’re in the middle of your story and suddenly everything comes to a screeching stop, you may have written yourself into a hole you can’t dig out of. Back up. Read what you wrote before. Go back to the last place you felt was moving along well and read from there on. Usually, once you go back you can see where you’ve gone off the rails and get back on track. If not, ask what needs to happen in order to get to the ending you imagine. How will they have they reach their goal? Or if you want to keep them from achieving their goal, what needs to happen to keep them from getting what they want? Keep asking questions until you find the answers to set your story back on track.
If you are at the end and you’re stalled for how to bring it all to a close. Imagine the final scene. What do you want the reader to feel when they close this book? Are we going to have a happy ending? Or maybe, we’ll have an ambiguous ending. When you decide on the final page of the story. Write it backwards to where you are stuck and then edit. If you’re not sure how you want to end it, try a couple of different ways. Save the other endings for your newsletter or website as alternative endings.
I hope this helps. As we continue to plod our way through NaNoWriMo and other deadlines, remember to stay hydrated, take a few breaks and stretch not only your muscles but your mind as well, and keep on writing. Happy writing, y’all!