W is for Writer’s Block

There’s a debate over whether or not this actually exists.  I’ve heard convincing arguments against it, but I still believe this exists.  Anything that prevents a writer from being able to sit down and write the story is writer’s block (at least in the way I define it).

writers block

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The sources of writer’s block  varies.

It can be real life demanding you tend to more urgent needs (such as an illness or filing taxes).

It can be exhaustion.  (This is why I recommend taking two days off a week from writing to refresh yourself.  I don’t believe a writer needs to write every single day.  Setting up days off to regroup can really help for the longterm stamina needed to consistently publish books through the year.)

It can be something in the story that isn’t going right.  Maybe the character is leading us in one direction, but we think the character is making a huge mistake so we try to steer the character in another direction.  (Most of the time, this is why I hit writer’s block.)  Sooner or later, the character totally rebels and stops altogether.  You can force the issue, but the story ends up sucking when you do.  (And yes, I’ve done this, only to regret it.)  This is why I believe in letting the characters lead all the time, even when it scares me.

Whatever the issue, there are times when you can feel stuck.

What can you do to help combat it?

The hardest part can be pulling yourself up out of the writing funk.  I have a few tips.  If anyone has any they’d like to add, feel free to add them.

  1. Work on something else.  The only problem with this is that you might get sidetracked and end up ditching the original story.  You want to finish the original story.  This probably works best if you can write more than one story at a time.  But if you can work on the second story, finish it, and then get back to the original, you’ll be okay doing this method.
  2. Write ahead.  If you know for sure a scene will be coming up in the story, go ahead and write it out.
  3. Try writing 250 words and see how things go.  I learned this tip from a podcast Joanna Penn did with James Scott Bell, except he said he does 350 words.  I thought he said 250.  I just read the transcript and see I was wrong by 100 words.  But I think the principle is still a good one.  Try a little bit and see if it gets things going.  Here’s the site for the podcast info:  http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/28/writing-discipline-james-scott-bell/
  4. A tip I just learned from another podcast at The Creative Penn that Joanna had with Michaelbrent Collings sounds promising.  The basic idea is to put something ridiculous into the scene to get things rolling.  So if you’re hero is trapped in a room, and you are trying to figure out how to get him out, you can do something like have a bird come into the room and say, “Let’s get out of here.” The hero would ask the bird, “How are we going to do that?” Then the bird might say, “There’s a window over there.”  Then you take out the bird and write the scene.  I’ve tried this a couple of times already, and I think it actually works.  I don’t write in the bird.  I just imagine the bird.  I hate rewriting anything, so the less typing I do, the better.  But you can modify this idea to fit your personality as a writer.  Here’s the link if you want to hear more from this podcast: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/04/04/write-faster-michaelbrent-collings/
  5. Step away and take a break.  Sometimes you just have to do that.  And there’s nothing wrong with taking time off to regroup if you need to do it.  I know being vigilant is important, as I wrote in my last post.  But I also know there’s a time when you have to take a break.

The blog is part of the Blogging from A – Z Challenge.


About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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11 Responses to W is for Writer’s Block

  1. Sleep is one of the best solutions I’ve seen. If nothing else works, a good night’s sleep will reset the brain’s chemistry.

    If you don’t have time for sleep, or it’s the middle of the day, going for a good run also helps, as the increased blood flow also resets brain chemistry.

    • I completely agree. When I skimped on sleep, it has put me back in my writing schedule because I’m too tired. I noticed when I’m relaxed and well-rested, I have a much easier time writing. And yes, exercise definitely helps!

  2. I read a Wikipedia article which states there has been scientific research into writer’s block and the science guys seem to think it is real.
    I think each person with writer’s block or writing problems may have different issues to work with. Some of us are so disorganized that we need to deal with that before we can overcome writer’s block. Others of us have such low opinions of ourselves we need to build our confidence.

    • I agree. I definitely think different issues will affect why a writer gets writer’s block. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. What will be a sensitive area for one person won’t for another. I love the examples you gave. They’re spot-on.

  3. Great advice! I have done several of these during the A to Z Challenge. When we reach Z, I plan to follow your advice and take a few days off 🙂
    Molly http://mollyscanopy.com/

    • Oh, me too! It’ll be nice to get some rest from all this posting. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m glad I decided to do it, but yeah, it sure will be nice to take some days off. 🙂

  4. The sleep thing really resonates with me. I’m always tired, thanks to hypothyroidism, but I can usually combat that enough with extra vitamin C, but if I get too tired because of other responsibilities, it’s hard to put two words together much less a sentence, scene, or a chapter. Trying to explain this to family though … that can be challenging.

    They love what my writing income can buy, but they also love for me to be available to them whenever they need me. I think we’ve talked about this before – the fact that writers don’t punch a time clock somewhere, but work from a home office means it’s not a real job (their opinion, not mine, lol). So I really need to set some hard and fast hours. Unless it’s an emergency, pretend I’m working somewhere in town. Just forget I’m here until quitting time.

    That, unfortunately, is the biggest cause of my writer’s block. But I’m working on it. 😀

    • It’s like they can’t understand why we need time to write. I’ve found it doesn’t matter if we make money or not. They think we can sit at the computer and magically come up with a book in a week. (I wish!) Even when I try to set down boundaries and go to another room, they still come to interrupt me. It’s amazing we can get anything done at all, isn’t it?

      I really wish they would treat our job like a real job. I think our ability to write would get easier. 🙂

      Hypothyroidism would be horrible to have to deal with while trying to get everything done. I honestly don’t know how you manage. 😦

      • Ha! I haven’t done nearly as much since the beginning of last year as I had been doing (largely because of too many out of town trips and the baby, lol), but I’m trying to do better.

        But yes, it would be nice if our families would realize that we can’t just snap our fingers and boom! There’s a new book. It takes work – from conception to publication – and we’re the only ones who can do it.

        Just updating my back and front matter last week, I had fourteen hours invested in it across all the platforms. And I’ve barely scratched the surface on Google+, and I’m going to need new covers to use there so if they do a big discount, Amazon can’t follow suit. Some authors, instead of selling single copies are selling sets of two to make sure that doesn’t happen. And then there’s marketing.

        And none of that includes figuring out the stories, coming up with the characters, writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting again, formatting, and publishing. Or keeping up with readers on social media, newsletters, research, and everything else we have to do to make sure our readers don’t forget us between books.

        Yeah. So not a job, right? 😀 😀 😀

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