Is there such a thing as 'writer's block'?
I, honestly, have no idea. But sometimes I'm just stuck, and I found a few tricks that work for me. Perhaps they work for you...
What is writer's block? Who knows 😶
The simplest definition would be: unable to continue writing a story. (That's not the same as procrastination, of which we all suffer now and again...)
There could be several reasons why you might be stuck...
- You cannot concentrate, you're empty
- Too busy with other things
- You just don't know what is going to happen in the next scene
- The story is crystal clear in your mind, but you can't find the proper words
Perhaps there is no such thing as a 'writer's block' but there certainly is something like a 'burn out'. Make sure you're not facing a burn-out after pushing too hard.
2. Too busy
Real life can be a disaster. If you are serious about writing don't let distractions eat up all your time, reserve time to write. Be honest about it, are you busy, or procrastinating? (I'm actually procrastinating writing this, I guess.)
I've been stuck for two years, too busy on other projects, work, home, kids. In hindsight I could have poured a little more effort in my attempts to write, yet I did not. My own fault, and it has nothing to do with writer's block.
3. No story
Let's face it: you haven't figured out what the story is you are going to tell. Walk away, and do other things until you do figure it out. Writing is about converting thoughts and ideas into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, so they can be understood by others. If you have nothing to write about, then don't even try. (Yeah, that's blunt. I get away with being blunt by claiming I am Dutch 😎)
4. Can't find the words
Ah, now that sounds like the real deal.
Here's a little list of tricks that just might help. Just try one or more, and you should be fine, in no particular order, and there's no need to do all...
- Find a catchy chapter title... Very time consuming, and you still might not use it in the end but it's fun and inspiring.
- Write a small scene that belongs somewhere in the chapter, which could be as simple as describing how a character takes a sip from her tea.
- Exercise. Walk, run, jog, take the dog out, do some chores.
- Play music. Perhaps a song that matches your chapter exactly, perhaps best on repeat so that after a while you stop paying attention to the song itself. I used Riders on the Storm to write the chapters 'Riders on the Storm' to 'Gunslinger Girls', and used 'Steamy Windows' and 'She's Not There' as an inspiration to write all San Francisco scenes.
- Try to summarize the chapter in five lines. If you can summarize everything in five lines, and wrote down those five lines, you effectively have proven you can write. Now you only have to expand on them.
- Simply skip the chapter and work on the chapter thereafter. Take care before you start working on another story, as you might never return to your current work... Some people can work on different stories at the same time, I cannot.
- Switch off anything that distresses or distracts. So, no Discord, no WhatsApp, no television, no mobile phone, no email... (You can't switch of kids though.)
- Change locale. Go to another location and try to write there. For example, today I wrote a few paragraphs whilst at a garage, waiting for a tyre change.
- Write bad poetry. The worse, the better.
- Write something you like. Even if the tone is wrong, if the story needs description and you prefer dialogue, if the focus must be on character A and you prefer to work on character B, even if you later might have to cut whole sections later. At least you're writing again.
NieLizards is a loserIt's all very sadA bunch of Discord failuresAll the friends he ever hadAt night he dreams of moneyOf fame and a cute chickBut poor Nine is a loserKeeps playing with his... euh... Playstation
Groen is de kleurVan het snot uit je neusKijk maar op je vinger, heusMaar beter dat nog, dan bruin uit je kontWant groen kan naar binnenMaar poep... stop je niet in je mond
Avoiding writer's block
... may not be entirely possible. Still...
What might help is work on a regular schedule, build up a habit of writing.
No need to make things perfect
Good enough is good enough. You can always revisit and make changes during your next revision.
I hope any of the above may be useful to others.