I think one of the most difficult things about writing is actually getting words on the page. And that isn’t because a person who considers themselves to be a writer doesn’t have anything to say. If anything, that person might have too much to say, and can’t seem to sort it out. Or maybe it’s because that person feels like what they want to write doesn’t fit with what they’re supposed to say.
For example, I currently have 50,000 words (approximately) on my next novel. That should put me at at least 50% completed. However, nothing I’ve written down feels true to the story I want to tell. It will feel right at first and then will veer off into some unknown territory that just isn’t what I’m hoping to convey with these characters and this storyline.
I started with an idea, and somehow, I let a number of different factors push me off course. The issue I’m facing is likely a combination of:
- fear – of not making my deadline, of telling the wrong story, or letting down my readers;
- self-confidence issues – with wondering if I can do overlapping storylines and thinking nobody will want to read the crap I’m writing;
- disappointment – in my inability to write faster, in the words that are written down but feel pointless, and in the fact that I can’t seem to get things right
Having that mess of emotions in your head will always – ALWAYS – screw with your ability to put quality words on the page. Or even shitty words on the page.
The problem, though, is that there isn’t any solution to facing these issues that doesn’t require you to sit your ass at your computer or laptop or notepad and keep putting words on paper.
As Anne Lamott says, “A shitty first draft, while not a thing of beauty, is a miracle of victory over nothingness, inertia, bad self-esteem. Secret? Butt in chair.”
So. I have a few recommendations for figuring out what’s going on with your writer’s block, which (again) I don’t attribute to your lack of words. You have those words. They’re there, waiting to explode onto your paper or your screen. And here is my list of ways to get them moving”
- Go back and edit: I see a lot of authors saying not to do this. But this has been the number one tool in my belt for figuring out where I went wrong. Where I veered off course. I go back to the start and read through my words, weighing character decisions with who I know those characters to be. Usually, I realize I forced a character to make a choice that didn’t feel true to their nature, mostly because I needed to progress the storyline.
- Take a one-hour break to read something else: Now, you have to be disciplined with this. Because it’s so easy to start reading and then suddenly, six hours have flown by and you’re watching bullet journal videos on YouTube (*guilty!*). But I truly believe that reading something in a different genre than what you’re writing (for example, I read self-help books when I’m not writing romance) causes your brain to think about things differently. It takes you out of the funky headspace you’re currently in and plops you down next to an alien instead of a hunky alpha male, or thrusts you into learning Korean instead of trying to world-build an historical thriller. Just make sure you don’t forget to set a timer, and be disciplined to get up from your couch and go back to your writing space one that hour is done.
- Go to a different part of your story and start writing there: This is something I’m personally trying right now as I battle my own issue with writer’s block. Normally, I have to write in chronological order. Have to. No buts. However, it’s not working for me right now, and I have to be willing to try something different if I want to move forward, because what I’m currently doing – the way I’ve always done it – isn’t working. If you’re struggling to figure out what’s next for your characters, or you just can’t get the sentences to come out right, jump forward to a scene that you know you can write. Maybe that’s the scene that sparked the book idea in the first place (which is what’s going on with me), or maybe it’s an idea you came up with but you aren’t sure how it fits in yet. Regardless, the point is to find a way to keep moving, even if you’re branching off temporarily.
- On that same line of thinking, write something completely unrelated to your current piece: I did this with my fourth novel. My characters in Like You Want It were just being real bitches and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. So I popped over to a new Word document and began to outline my fifth novel, Promise Me Nothing – and if you know anything about the way that I write (hint: I don’t know how to outline at all) you’ll know that a part of me thought this was a complete waste of time. I kid you not, within two hours, I was right back into Like You Want It with a solution on what was wrong. Sometimes, you just have to get outside of the story for a minute and let your mind move around.
- Be true to yourself: don’t allow other people’s opinions get in the way. Whether it’s your boyfriend or your best friend or your editor. You have to write the story that you have to write, regardless of their thoughts on it.
Hopefully, these tips are helpful. But no matter what, push yourself to keep moving. Even if it feels like you’re moving backwards or in a way that doesn’t seem right. Because in the end, sometimes you have to work through all of the things that seem wrong before you find the right direction.
Comment below if you have other ideas on battling writer’s block, or if any of these ideas were helpful for you!