One of the biggest issues you see in writing groups is the mysterious ailment we call writer’s block.
When people talk about writer’s block it can be code for any of the following fears
- I can’t get motivated;
- I’m completely out of ideas;
- I need more sleep/exercise;
- I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough;
- I hate my current WIP.
The underlying pathology determines which ‘cure’ will work best for you. So, let’s look at them.
I can’t get motivated.
Writing isn’t about motivation, it’s about self-discipline. Some days the words will flow. Some days they’ll be buried deep and a figurative glacier and you’ll have to hack them out individually. If you only write on the good days, you’ll be lucky to get anything written. If you write every day, regardless of your muses presence you’ll get into the habit. Habit beats inspiration every day of the week.
I’m completely out of ideas.
Read a book, see a movie, go watch the locals in their native habitat. There are ideas ready for the taking everywhere. Even garbage literature is a potential source of inspiration. Just imagine how much better your version could be.
Some quick and easy solutions are
- Do some exercise, it can clear the mind and get those creative juices flowing;
- Read something in a similar genre;
- Listen to music that evokes the same feelings/themes you are going for;
- Re-read what you’ve already written to recapture the tone/voice you have already set.
I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough.
Now we’re getting to the tricky ones. I could answer glibly and say things will get better the more you write, but there is a real psychological weight behind these thoughts. This isn’t an issue that’s easily resolved, and even the greats suffer from imposter syndrome. Maybe your work isn’t good enough. Maybe it is. You’ll never know until you get it out there to an audience. Sure it can always be better, but there comes a point where you have to let it go as ‘good enough’. It can never be perfect, and we need to accept that or go mad.
You also have to accept that some people won’t like your work. Ignore them, they are not your audience. Instead, focus on the people who like your work, they are your audience moving forward and they will be the people who encourage others to pick up your work. Keep in mind people declaring ‘I don’t like your book’ is meaningless. If they point out legitimate structural or grammatical issues, then that is constructive criticism. Maybe your work isn’t good enough, but unless you keep writing (and learning) it won’t get better.
A good trick is to write letters to your critics, then burn them. I’m not sure what you do with the letters afterwards though. (Yes, that was a joke. Please do not set fire to critics, they are almost people too).
I hate my current WIP.
That one is a doozy. You only have two options. Abandonment or perseverance. Only you can now if that unfinished work will become an unnamable horror lurking in your WIP folder. The thing you can not name lest its name invokes feelings of existential dread. Okay, maybe that’s too Poe, but you get the idea. Sometimes it’s easier just to forge ahead, even if you are reduced to writing by the numbers just to get the damned thing done.
There is no writer’s block, just fear getting in the way of you finishing your story. Fear is universal to the human experience and no one will think less of you for experiencing it. The important thing is how you face your fear. If writing is your passion, then you will overcome your writer’s block and keep going. It won’t be easy, and won’t necessarily make the fear vanish, but you’ll learn to continue despite it.
“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert,