Friday, September 17, 2010

Pros of Writer's Block

Pshaw! you say.  There can be no pros to writer's block!  It is the incarnation of pure evil!

Or you could say writer's block doesn't even exist.  It is only the product of our own laziness and unwillingness to sit down and work.

Yup, I've heard both arguments.  For one, I have to disagree with the latter--to an extent.  I think the very real and very annoying condition called writer's block can be abused if you aren't careful.  I do believe that we as writers tend to use the excuse of being blocked when really we're just easily distracted by all the sparkly things around us (e.g. twitter, blogger, facebook, etc.).  In this case, you just need to focus and get back on your writerly track.

However, when we are being blocked, what on God's green Earth can we do about it?  Well, you can patiently wait for it to pass.  I know, I know.  Some say you MUST write through it at all costs, and maybe that's one way of doing it, but I don't know if it's the best way.

Sometimes writer's block is the best thing that can happen to your writing.  It can be your mind's way of telling you it needs a breather, to the betterment of your WIP.

I've discovered three things over the years concerning writer's block:

     1. If I try to force myself to work through it, the product of my labors ends up being garbage that can taint my work for pages, chapters, or even the whole story.  99.9% of the time, I need to go back and change it.

     2. If I take a break, what I come up with at the end of the block is something that knocks my socks off.  It is something I never would have thought of if I hadn't taken a break from my WIP and that dramatically improves the work.

      3. True writer's block only lasts about a week.  Now, I've kept from writing and blamed it on being blocked for a LOT longer than a week, but If I'm being honest with myself, it was usually because I got into a lazy rut.  And I also know that some people have supposedly suffered from a block for years at a time.  Maybe that's true, I don't know.  I personally think there are other things at play there, like fear of actually putting yourself out there on paper, etc.  But for me, I'm usually over the block within a week.  This is the amount of time my mind needs to be refreshed.

And do you want to know what I've found is the best thing to do while being blocked?  Let my mind go on a vacation (aka read a book).  Seriously.  Let your mind enjoy someone else's labors for a little while and refresh your study of the writing craft at the same time.  By the end of the book, your mind will thank you and be raring to go!

But when that week has passed and that book is read, you better get your butt into your seat and work.  This is the time to force yourself to work through it.  If you think you should read another book or work on bettering your twitter account, your mind will take advantage of you the same way a child takes advantage of a mother who just wants peace and quiet.  If you do push yourself and force your mind to get to it, you will be shocked at the brilliance it comes up with.

Discussion: how do you guys handle writer's block?

~Emily White


  1. i powered through my writer's block the first time... now i have a WIP that requires a total rewrite. i realized that a huge plot device didn't have the uumph i wanted a while back (longer than a week! :) ) i tried waiting it out this time. i couldn't come up with the solution for so long! then it hit me two days ago. so, the writing has begun again!

    a lot of times, i become time blocked. with kids and work and blogging and volunteer responsibilities and stuff, sometimes it's hard to get to the computer and actually write!
    i prefer the term time-blocked instead of laziness! :)

    and i've been plot-blocked, but i'm not sure if that is the same thing as writer's block.

  2. Vic--That is such a good point! There are times when everything in my life seems to be getting in the way of writing. Whether it's my husband's change of work schedule or my kids all of a sudden craving CONSTANT attention while also refusing naps, I lose the ability to write. No, that is definitely not laziness at work.

  3. I've not experienced this yet. *knocking on wood* It's good to read about these tips now though....just in case. :)

  4. Um, well, I don't really get writer's block. Maybe it's because I run/exercise almost everyday, and ideas and solutions come to me then. ;)

  5. I'm experiencing my first bout of writers block now. After I "finished" my novel and started submitting it, I knew I needed to start working on something new. I spent a lot of time preparing, but now that it's down to the writing it's just not working for me. I'm now trying to just write 500 words per night, no matter how crappy. I know I can always change them in revision, or throw them out all together. I'm hoping it works for me. Maybe I'll fight my way to a breakthrough and get back on track.

  6. I try to have a couple smaller projects. If I hit a writers block with my novel then I work on a picture book manuscript or a short story for a magazine. I'm also a fan of writing in my journal. This way I feel like I've still written.
    I also like to go for a walk or change my writing location.

  7. To all you lucky ones out there who have never suffered from writer's block: Congratulations! You are VERY lucky!

    To everyone else: Those are some great ideas! Thanks for sharing them!

  8. How true! When I have "writers block" for longer than a week it often is just me being in a lazy rut.

    I usually read a book when I'm stuck but I think its a good rule to make sure you get back to writing once the book is read.

  9. When I get blocked, I edit. I try to keep writing in some capacity. And since I started blogging, I've found it keeps me creative with fiction too.

  10. I usually wait for it to pass, but something I get distracted and take weeks longer to get back to writing...

  11. I do something else - take a walk, stain the windows, something totally unrelated to reading and writing. I almost invariably have my "eureka" moments when my attention is taken by some menial task, and my subconscious is left alone to work things out.


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