Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writer’s Block

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         There are, from what I’ve seen and heard before, two types of writer’s block.

There’s the “I don’t want to sit down and work on that book right now!” type of block. This is basically procrastination and just not wanting to make time for a difficult activity.

There’s also the second type…and I know they do exist because I received an email from one of them recently…of people who are staring at a blank screen with panic. And I think the problem is that they don’t know why their block is happening or what to try to do to fix it.

I’ve heard it said that there isn’t any such thing as writer’s block. That handymen don't get handyman's block and doctors don't get doctor's block. That’s true, but they’re not building worlds in their heads. I’ll admit that I don’t get writer’s block—but there are some days when I do hesitate a lot while writing. I know it’s all coming out wrong. I know it’s going to have to be fixed. I know it’s bad writing.

But I just keep on spewing out crappy writing because I know I’ll fix it later.

I think, though, that people who genuinely see a blank screen and freeze up for long periods of time are really just afraid. They’re afraid of failure. They want so badly to write something well that they just choke up.

I think the best way to deal with those feelings is to continue writing. To give myself permission to completely fail while expressing my ideas on paper, with the knowledge that I will make it all better with revisions.

These are some helpful posts on writer’s block that I’ve come across in the past:

21 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block
Writer’s Block—the Pros and Cons of just writing through it
A resource roundup to solving writer’s block
Overcoming Writer’s Block
The underlying cause of writer’s block—fear of failure

If you’ve gotten blocked before, how did you work through it. If you don’t get blocked, what advice can you offer folks who do?


Keith Raffel said...

Even reading those two words, w*****'s b***k, gives me the willies. I'd rather you posted on painful dental procedures.

Jess Lourey said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I'm with you. You can't overcome writer's block, you can only overthrough it. :) I mean, there's no way around it but through the center, even if that means writing temporary crap. Write on!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Keith--Next time, I'll report on root canals for patients who haven't had anesthesia. :)

Jess--I love writing crappily! Because, in some ways, it means I've WON--I've kept writing, even when I knew it wasn't good.

Alan Orloff said...

Writing crappy is my solution. Hey, that's what the 31st draft is for--fixing all the putrid prose!

Alice Loweecey said...

Over on a large writer's forum, we have a mantra: "I am allowed to write utter poo." It's how many of us get through the dry times, when staring at a white screen makes us want to run screaming from the room. One technique I use is to plunge into research I'll need for later chapters. That way, I'm working on the book in some way, and what I'm doing will benefit me when the words start to flow. So far, the research has sparked an idea that contiues the book. Win-Win.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Alan--And some days, mine is REALLY putrid! Maybe even after the 31st draft. :)

Alice--I like your idea. :) So you're still WORKING on the book, and making progress...just in a different way.