Writer’s Block

Sep 27, 2012 by

Writer’s Block

The problem with trying to write about writer’s block is that to write about writer’s block you can’t have writer’s block and it’s very difficult to write about a block you are currently experiencing.

Follow that? Then the rest of this will be very easy to understand.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be an author to experience writer’s block. Anyone who writes at all can be hit with it – from the pen-pal to the executive editor. It’s better described as “blank page syndrome”. You might, in fact, have a topic already in mind when you sit down to write, pen in hand (or fingers on keys) but nothing comes. You stare at the white space in front of you and fifteen minutes later wonder how it could be possibly that you haven’t written a single thing. So then you write out the title. And maybe, if you’re a student, you put in your name and class information, and the date, and maybe the chapter and topic, and there! Look at that! You’ve written *counts* twelve words. Of a two-thousand word essay.

And depression sets in.

It’s worse if your very livelihood depends on the words you’re trying to put to paper, as for a large magazine or a five-book contract (the current standard for Romance writers). Now you have the added pressure of knowing that you can’t buy that next bag of groceries if you don’t put words to page, but that leads to thoughts of what you’ll do if you can’t pull this off and a good hour later you’ve built yourself into a horrible mood, you’re crying as your inner eye sees you evicted, and guess what? You still haven’t written anything.

Which is nothing compared to the time you’ll lose if instead you start thinking about all the things you need to do with the money when you do have it – rent, gas, electric, insurance, groceries, cell phone, cable bill…wait, maybe you could drop the cable bill and just pay for internet. In fact, wait, you could cancel your internet and cable and just pay the ten dollars a month for tethering on your phone. That’d save you a good two-hundred a month, and you could put that towards the new suit you’ve been eyeing for your next business meeting because the editor at the magazine is always wearing the latest style and you’re starting to feel a bit like a shlub going in wearing the same old plum-colored suit you’ve had since college.

Hey, look, it’s now two hours later and you haven’t even started the article that’s due in two days.

The key to beating writer’s block is obvious and yet not – it’s to simply start writing. If you can’t force yourself to write at all on the topic you need to, or if you can’t even think of a topic, there are a few tricks you can use to jump-start your brain and actually get something down.

If you have no topic at all, an actually fool-proof way to find one is to start ranting on the page. Start with the thing that’s most bothering you and complain about it as if there’s an audience full of people you’re going to read it to who will care and agree with you vividly. You may be saying “But nothing’s bothering me right now! I’m fine.” And if you are saying that, you are lying. There’s always something bothering you. Maybe it’s minor – and seriously, that man needs to stop squeezing from the middle of the tube or one night, you are going to get the tube, go back into the bedroom, and fill his bellybutton with toothpaste! Or maybe it’s major and it’s been there so long that you can’t imagine ranting about it, but really, if your grandmother tells the story about how you were taken from her at six weeks old when your parents had the audacity of going back on the road to make a living, you’re going to get pregnant, have a baby and drop it on her doorstep just so she has the kid and will stop telling every boyfriend you bring to family parties this story and freaking them the hell out.

In those rants are topics, and by the time you reach them, you’ve already been writing for a while and they stand out – how to deal with minor annoyances and preserve a relationship. How to deal with relatives telling embarrassing stories. What not to do when you first have a child (go back on the road as traveling musicians – seriously. This was not a good idea all the way around. An error in judgment, that was.)

If you already have a topic, however, you don’t have the luxury of ranting one out and using the momentum to get you writing. Instead, now you must be more creative in your efforts.

So, write down the topic. Then, instead of doing what most of us are prone to and staring at it for the next fifteen minutes, start breaking it into sections.

For example, if your topic is “getting past writer’s block” you’d break it into “introduction”, “definition”, “explanation”, “solutions” and “conclusion.”

I bet you see what I did there.

You want to start outlining each area, but the problem of course arises in that introduction is first on that list. And yet the most pain in the butt to write is the intro.

The thing most people don’t think of: do not write the intro first.

Instead, take a section that’s easier and write it. For example, defining writer’s block is much easier than introducing it. And from there it’s fairly easy to explain what it is and how it affects different kinds of writers. Coming up with solutions may be more difficult, but by then you’re already writing. By the very definition of writer’s block, you’ve beaten it because you’ve put words to page and you’ve gotten over that hump. The page isn’t blank anymore, and you’re not having deep issues figuring out what exactly to put next, because you have a nice list and you fall easily from one section into the next.

Honestly, the only way to beat writer’s block will always be to just simply write, but getting past that hurdle can be one of the most daunting things your brain faces. Staring at blank space that you need to fill with intelligent words and cognitive thought may seem overwhelming. The trick is to get a few words on the page so it’s not so empty.

And no, your name and the date in the upper right corner do not count as “words on the page.”

(photo via srbichara)

Related Posts


Share This