Writer's Block: Causes, Symptoms and Cures
Writer's block is a pain for every writer. I've recently been dealing with it so it made me think about writer block and what I tend to do to combat it. My mind ended up putting it into different categories. Here are my categories of block and how I deal with them.
The first type is probably the easiest to deal with and my most common.
Cause: Planning block is when the main thing that stands between you and progress is the lack of a plan. Sometimes this can be fun but planning as you go only lasts so long. For me, this tends to come into effect in two ways. With new pieces, I just seem to find an end of ideas as I've usually rushed ahead with writing without taking time to think of an overall plot. With longer running pieces it's normally because something unexpected has happened. Normally a character has done something unexpected and thrown off everything I planned so far.
Symptoms: Procrastination. (Like writing a blog post on Writer's Block rather than trying to plan...)
Cures: Just need to bite the bullet. It could mean you have to scrap a large chunk of work to fix things (it can be painful), it could mean that you need to invest in some post-its and hijack a wall at home to try put your ideas into a shape that is writeable. Whatever is best for you, you need to step back and nail down a plan to get past this block.
Cause: The cause of this block is usually lack of experience, lack of feedback. For me it crops up when I'm writing about a demographic I'm not so familiar with, writing a plot point I'm not sure will work. Sometimes my writing just generally feels off, randomly. As much as I always say that your first draft doesn't matter much, that perfecting it is the job os editing there is always that little voice in your head that tells you something is wrong. Sometimes something can just feel fundamentally wrong with the piece or sometimes you can just look at your work and just see garbage.
Symptoms: As said before symptoms are usually the feeling that your writing just isn't working the way you want. When you read it back it doesn't sound right. Maybe a character seems a bit off, maybe scenes are giving off the right feeling. Sometimes I can be hard to pin down.
Cures: Through writing Moon 1 and stories before it I would always send my work to a friend to read, chapter by chapter or scene by scene, getting reassurance that it was actually okay as I was writing it. Getting some honest feedback and encouragement has been my cure for this. I've had great friends supporting me through my writing journey helping me gain the confidence I need to write a whole novel. It's scary letting others read your work. I still get scared when someone in my real life says 'brought you book by the way' but, you should try to find someone you trust to read your work, tell them you're nervous, ask for encouragement and feedback rather than just critic. Everyone has to start somewhere. (Note: Minor cases of this can be cured by simply going back over what you have written from the start. Sometimes getting the bigger picture if enough to put you on the right track)
Cause: One known cause of creative block is burn out but other causes aren't so clear. Sometimes it can be down to your general mental state, sometimes it can be random.
Symptoms: Opening your document to write and just staring at the screen. Maybe being able to write a few sentences but for the most part, a general struggle to get anything down.
Cures: With the causes being somewhat unknown cures are hard to pin down too. Everyone is different. For me, taking a step back from my main project usually helps. Sometimes this means just taking a break from writing completely and doing something else creative like drawing or running D+D, playing a video game. Sometimes it means writing something different, a blogs post or something in a different world. A bit of variety can be enough to light that creative spark again.
Cause: The main cause of this is when you come up against a particularly hard part of the story to write. For me, it happens when I have to kill a character or have to start events that will fundamentally change the world. The scenes can feel heavy and hard to push forward.
Symptoms: Much like planning block it's easy to make excuses to avoid it and procrastinate rather than do the thing that seems really hard.
Cure: There is no cure for this one...similarly to planning again you just have to bite the bullet. You just have to push your way up that mountain. Keep opening that document when you have time to write. If you don't get anything down that's fine just make sure you try again. Once you've started it'll be fine. Every time I've come up against this one (including very recently) once I've started it's flowed very quickly and I've suddenly been able to make really quick progress.
These are the main forms of block I've come across.
There is one more I haven't listed which is time block. I haven't because it's very specific to circumstance and I'm not sure there's much I could say on it that isn't extremely obvious.
I hope that some of this advice helps people either overcome their block or understand their block better. When it comes down to it you simply can't give up. Words don't just appear on the screen as much as I wish they did sometimes, and sometimes breaking through that wall takes more effort that you feel is worth it but I promise there is some fun behind that wall, that if you enjoy writing then once you get through that wall you'll be rolling down the hill on a wild ride.
Have fun writing!
Ready to write now but not sure where to start? I cannot suggest more Playlist Writing. It's a fun game to get your creativity flowing. Here's my blog post on it.