For most writers, there are inevitably times when the words just don’t come. Some people refer to this as writer’s block, although some prefer not to use that term. I’m not going to tell you there’s no such thing, because it’s not my place to tell you there is or there isn’t. Each writer has their own preference.
What is it that people don’t like about it?
Some people think it is a myth—just putting a name to the fact that you don’t know what to write or don’t feel like writing. And rather than dealing with that and working it out, a name is slapped on like a band-aid and we can temporarily dispose of the situation.
I personally don’t mind the term. I like to give names to things and feelings because I don’t like the uncertainty that comes with not naming it. When I feel writer’s block, I know what it is, and then I can do something about it. For me, naming it isn’t being lazy. It’s helpful.
Whether you choose to name it or not, the issue will happen. It happens to pretty much all of us in one form or another. What’s important is to know different ways to tackle the problem so that it doesn’t haunt you for weeks or months at a time. Otherwise, it’ll be a nagging little gnat that won’t go away.
We all have these great ideas and aspirations and expectations, but we can’t get there if all we do is keep dreaming about them and never getting anywhere. Personally, I think it’s ok to take a bit of *planned* time off from your writing, just like a vacation from a job. (Although, I am not suggesting that you think of your writing as a job!). I think this in itself can help avoid writer’s block you’re giving your mind the mental break it needs.
But when you do lose your oomph and need to get back into the swing of things, it can be hard to find that motivation sometimes. The more we stress about it, the worse it gets. And when we lack the motivation, that’s when this enigma settles down on us. We’ll hear more about this in today’s author interview segment, but for now, let’s look at some ways to battle the block.
- Take a walk. Walking isn’t just good for the body. It’s also good for the soul and the mind. Breathe in some fresh air, take in the sights and sounds and smells around you. It’s good to get some exercise and get the blood pumping through your body. But here’s what I suggest: while you’re walking, take in your surroundings through the eyes of one of your characters. What do they notice? What does it make them think about? Why?
- Grab a notepad and a pen and do some brainstorming. Pick a word that describes a scene or chapter in your book. Come up with as many words or phrases that have to do with that word as you can. Then, use a thesaurus to pick out some other words, and write down the ones that resonate with you. For one, you might learn a new word! And secondly, you’ll come up with a whole list of words you can use to describe things or characters in your book. And not only that—sooner or later, the words will start stringing sentences together in your mind. Write it all down! This is when I find the motivation has returned and I feel excited to get back into the writing. Brainstorming words can lead to ideas you didn’t think of before, so it can sometimes take your scene or chapter in a different direction.
- Build a playlist of songs that remind you of certain parts of your #wip. Sometimes just hearing lyrics or melodies can help jumpstart your writing mood. It can remind you of characters and their personalities, and why they are the way you’ve made them. It can make you think of certain scenes and maybe even spring ideas of things to add to them.
- Take a step away from your #wip and write a flash fiction story. Search Google for writing prompts if you need some help. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with your story. In fact, try to purposely pick something to write about that has nothing to do with your story. This will help generate new ideas while sharpening your writing skills, and it can help put the spunk back into your writing so you can dive back into your #wip with fresher eyes. (Don’t know much about flash fiction? Stay tuned for an exciting episode about flash/micro fiction and short stories and an interview with flash fiction expert, Tommy Dean, gracing your ears on Tuesday, March 15th!)
- Read a book. Yes, take a look at that toppling TBR and pick something you’ve been meaning to read for a while. Bonus if it’s in the same genre you write in (which you should do a lot of, anyway!) because it’s always good to see how other writers approach the bigger things like story structure, scene structure, voice, dialogue, character arc, backstory, time changes, fight scenes, etc. There’s so much to learn. That’s not to say you shouldn’t forget about all of that sometimes and just read to escape into someone else’s world, but seeing how others accomplish these important elements to a story can help you do it in yours.
- Read a craft book. Is there a particular area you’re struggling in? Chances are, there’s a specific craft book for that!
Whatever you call it, being unable to write can be crippling and challenging to deal with. But getting back your writing mojo is important.
Do you have other ways to suggest for dealing with writer’s block? What are your thoughts on the term? Hit me up in the comments below!
Another thing that all writers face at one point or another is imposter syndrome. This happens from time to time when you start losing confidence in your ability to write as good as other people. You start fearing that no one is going to want to read your writing, that you don’t really know what you’re doing, that you can’t do it like they can, that someone’s going to read what you wrote and disagree and point out all your faults. It can happen when you’re trying to get published or trying to find an agent and it’s just not happening. It can happen when you hit that writer’s block and don’t know what to do. It can happen when you write yourself into a corner and you don’t know how to write yourself out of it—your story isn’t going anywhere, you don’t know how to end it properly, etc. It can happen when you get constructive criticism. There are many different things that can lead to imposter syndrome.
And even when you first start releasing your stories into the wild and people read them and love them, you think, “Holy shit, can this even be real? Are they just saying that to be nice?” As if some part of you believes you don’t deserve the praise.
It takes a lot of will and determination to set out on a project and actually finish it. It takes a lot of guts to present it to the world. But remember what I’ve said other times: you wrote a book. That’s badass! So many people don’t even make it that far, and even less go through with publishing it or even letting others read it at any level. The fact that you went through the process of writing, completing, sending it out for feedback, multiple rounds of revisions and edits, learning everything as you go, applying what you’ve learned, going back and changing things after you’ve learned them, sending it out for more feedback, perfecting and polishing it, and then sending it out for potential agent rep and publication? WOW. You deserve a massive high-five! Look at how far you’ve come!
And for those of you who are just getting started, I’m glad you’re here soaking in all the tips each week and sponging up all the personal experiences that writers and authors are sharing through my interviews with them because that is what’s going to help get you to the next level of your writing. Determination, perseverance. Never giving up. Putting in the effort will pay off in the end.
Don’t compare yourself to others. As you’ll hear in today’s interview, you should never compare your work-in-progress to all the finished, published novels out there, because they were once just as messy as yours is, and they went through a LOT of work to get where they are now.
If your passion is strong, you can do it. You can reach your writing goals. And by surrounding yourself with supportive writers, it’ll make your journey all the better.
If you experience writer’s block, don’t sweat it too much. Stressing about it only makes it worse. Try some different things to get yourself back in the writing mindset. Talk about it with other writers. If you’re feeling impostery, share that, too. Others will be feeling it and will understand exactly where you’re coming from. But don’t let it stop you from writing! Keep going, no matter what. Share your writing joys and sorrows, share your goals, share your stumbles. We’ve all been there, and we’re here for you!
And P.S. You are not an imposter!
Today’s guest, Joseph D. Slater, is a self-published author raised in the lonely western mountains of Maine. He is an infantry veteran who has authored three novels: The Vacation Planet, Janie, and In the Sky.
After being stationed in Colorado for a few years, he moved back to Maine, where he surrounds himself with five women (his wife and four daughters), being sure that his children have a nourished and literate life.
His favorite haunt is in his home library, where he can be found cursing under his breath as he works on his next project.
You can listen to the interview here.
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