I think “writer’s block” is a catch-all term for a lot of different ways we can get stuck with our writing. When you identify exactly what a problem is, you have a better chance of overcoming it. See if any of these sound familiar to you!
1. You’re not in the habit of writing.
If you’re not used to doing something, whether it’s exercising, writing, or whatever, it takes a ton of effort to get yourself to do it. If you do it regularly, though, it’s easy.
I think if you pick a certain writing time–before work, after dinner, whatever–and just write anything at that time every day for a week or two, it will get a lot easier to work on your project. Alternately, try writing really fast at any time for just twenty minutes a day for a week–again, any kind of writing at all–just to get into the groove.
2. You’re scared your writing won’t be good.
You probably know the old adage, repeated by so many writers: you can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank page.
You’re allowed to write some bad stuff. There are all kinds of people out there doing awful writing, and some of them make a good living at it.
But besides that, writing bad stuff is the actual only way to learn how to write not-bad stuff! It’s a crap system, obviously, but as always, nobody consulted us. Celebrate all your efforts. Congratulate yourself wildly for the work that you get done, regardless of quality.
Writing longhand rather than typing on a keyboard can sometimes make me feel less perfectionist about a first draft.
If it helps you to think in this way (and it’s not useful for everybody), tell God or your patron goddess that you’re going to be writing a lot, and you’ll be doing your best, but it’s on Her/Him to make it good.
3. You’re scared no one will read your writing.
Maybe you’re scared no one will publish you. Maybe you’re scared you’ll finally put your fanfic up on the website and nobody will comment.
But consider this, señora. (<– I have linked to the literary reference here, which is a novel by the National Book Award winner Harriet Doerr, who published her first book at the age of 73.)
If you write something, it’s possible that no one will publish you, or even read the thing you posted on a site. If you don’t write something, it’s 100% guaranteed that no one will publish you, or read your thing.
Besides, you yourself are a worthy audience. You’re not no one.
Either way, you enjoy the actual act of writing itself. It’s wonderful to get lost in your own thoughts, your own characters, or your own world, and writing makes you a more interesting and intelligent person in general. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure.
Time spent writing is never wasted.
4. You’re scared that people will read your writing.
Of course you are! The very act of writing can bring up all kinds of experiences we pretend never happened, emotions and attitudes we pretend we don’t have, and all kinds of things we deny in order to get along with everyone else.
Here’s the thing, though. Other people have gone through what you have gone through. They feel what you feel. They would love to know they are not the only one.
Write it, put it out there if you want, and let people do what they want. Like everything else, the more often you do it, the easier it gets.
You know how in the movies, there will be a big explosion and some badass who doesn’t even look back–s/he just keeps on walking? That’s you.
5. There’s something wrong with your story, and you don’t know it yet.
You know what, it took me forever to figure this one out. When I’ve lost enthusiasm for a story, it’s because something about it needs to be fixed.
I sometimes find it difficult to pull back and analyze what’s bugging me about it. It helps me to write at the top of a piece of paper,
OK, Bryn, what’s bothering you about the story?
And then I free-write an answer as fast as I can.
Sometimes we want to avoid changes because we think they’ll be hard. But once we know what’s wrong, it’s usually takes less time to fix than we expected.
6. You’re completely stressed out by life and can’t focus.
I sympathize, and I don’t have an easy answer. Maybe there are responsibilities you can relinquish and activities you can drop out of. Maybe you can figure out a way to get more sleep every night, which is crucial to stress reduction and mental health. Regular walks might help, and you might also try meditating for a few minutes before you start writing.
Honestly, you’re going to do a better job than me of figuring out how to fix this. But if you recognize that being this stressed out is unacceptable, and taking care of your mental state is a priority, that’s a great start.
7. You haven’t found enough time to read lately.
I find myself in this situation sometimes, too. Reading books feeds your writing, and scanning bits and pieces on the internet or watching television just isn’t the same.
Do you get blocked for an entirely different reason? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I hope your writing is going great right now!