Some writers don’t believe in writer’s block. Writers like Lee Child will liken writing to plumbing. If a plumber can’t turn up to a job and say “Oh I don’t feel like plumbing today” then apparently writers can’t do that either.
Bit of a weird comparison.
Others are afflicted with writer’s block on a regular basis. Stories inspire no interest in the writer. All writing projects seem to be pointless.
That scene you thought would end up as a pivotal point just won’t go anywhere.
It’s awful when it happens, and it can leave you staring at your keyboard. You’ll wonder why you didn’t just take up cross-stitch, or watercolour painting.
Hey, maybe I could just learn guitar instead.
But writer’s block doesn’t need to be the huge problem that writers make it out to be. In this article, we’ll explore three reasons why you might be blocked – and what you can do about it!
1) Do you know where the story is going to go?
This is a common cause of writer’s block. You stop writing because you’re not sure where your story is even going. It’s wandered off the rails and you’re not sure how to bring it back. Here, your ‘stuckness’ manifests as writer’s block.
If it helps, think of it more as temporary paralysis. It’s not a problem with the story. It’s a problem with planning.
You might be a “pantser” – someone who likes to make the story up as they go along. Nothing wrong with that at all. But if you don’t want to plan before you start, then it might help to keep track of what characters are doing and where they’re going as you go along. Otherwise, if you inadvertently write your characters into a hole, then writer’s block can happen.
Luckily, it’s fixable.
You can try freewriting techniques. Just talking about the idea with yourself can help. If possible, discuss it with a sympathetic friend. The act of putting an intangible problem into words forces the brain to turn the thoughts into something coherent. You often end up coming up with the solution without any input from another person!
As I’ve mentioned before, you can always just skip forward. You know where the characters are, and possibly where you want them to be. Just move forward to the point where you want them to be and write from there.
You will need to edit it later, but it’s better to edit a problematic section than it is to sit there and not write at all.
If you struggle with planning upfront and you write Gothic or horror stories, then check out my Haunted House Story Framework. It’s a 7-step framework for the elements you need to write a successful and convincing haunted house story. With this method, even if you’re stuck on one element, you can always write up the others.
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2) Do you even want to write that story?
You can be full of good intentions about writing a particular story, but sometimes you stop working on it because you don’t ultimately want to be writing it. The idea might have been good at first, but it just might not stand up to a full story or novel.
Just step away.
Seriously. It’s okay to do that. Put it aside and go and do something else. While you take a break from it, you might have the ‘a-ha!’ moment and realise where to take it next. If that happens, sit back down and get cracking.
But if you’re always putting off writing, then you don’t really want to work on that story. Procrastination is a really big hint that something isn’t right. Don’t worry if you don’t come back to the story later. Just leave it to posterity, and keep it as a writing fragment.
It’s not a waste of your time. And there’s a good chance you’ll find the perfect home for it in a future story.
3) Do you feel like writing isn’t a valuable use of your time?
Some people call writing an art. According to them, you shouldn’t want to be paid for your work, or compensated for you time.
You should just want to share the words.
When you hear things like that, it’s entirely possible that somewhere in your mind you worry that writing isn’t productive. Maybe you’ve got other things to do. Better things to do. Perhaps the people you know don’t make allowances for the fact you need time to write.
Sadly, if you really do want to be a writer then you’ll need to ignore everyone else and what they think of writing. Here’s a truth bomb for you – writers do deserve to be paid. Writing is hard work and words won’t put themselves down on paper. Even wandering bards were paid for their stories with room and board and great artists like Michelangelo and Artemisia Gentileschi always worked for a patron.
But if time management is an issue, then you might need to rearrange your schedule a bit. Can you listen to writing podcasts while doing housework so that when you write, you’ve got the inspiration to do so? Can you do a chore swap with your partner, with them doing something while you write one week, and them having leisure time while you do chores the next?
If you really don’t feel writing isn’t a good use of your time then writing probably isn’t for you. Remember writing won’t just happen on its own.
Writer’s Block is Curable
Whatever the reason, writer’s block isn’t really the problem. It’s the symptom of the problem. Once you figure out the real problem, you can tackle that. Most of the time, that solves the writer’s block itself!
Maybe you need to plan your stories better. Perhaps you need to manage your time. Or you might need to admit that the story you had such high hopes for just isn’t the right one – right now.
Just remember it’s curable, it doesn’t last forever, and it’s no reflection on your abilities!