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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, April 20, 2009

Writer’s Block: What does it really mean? by Diane Gaston

You have a deadline. Maybe it is from your publisher, or maybe it is for a contest, or even self-imposed. Whatever the reason, the deadline is important to you, but for some reason you sit at the computer and no words come. You have Writer’s Block and none of the tricks you’ve learned to unblock yourself are working.

Time to analyze why you have writer’s block; what is stopping you from typing away at this story.

1. Are you healthy? Is there any possibility that you are ill? Some possibilities might include thyroid problems or depression or Guillain-Barré syndrome or some other medical problem.
Solution: see a doctor.

2. Maybe it isn’t a medical problem, but it still could be physical. Are you eating lots of junk food? Are you getting enough sleep? A poor diet or lack of sleep can affect how you think.
Solution: Eat in a healthy manner. Get enough sleep.

3. Are you stuck in a plotting problem? Have you written yourself into a hole and you don’t know where to go from here? Getting stuck in the plot stops a writer cold. Solution: Go back to reevaluate your plot. Reread your manuscript from the beginning, if necessary.

4. Have you been working working working and now the words just came to a halt? Maybe you need some distance. It is hard to see the forest when you are merely trying to run past as many trees as possible.
Solution: Take a break, a rejuvenating break. Two hours doing something else may help you make that deadline.

5. None of these fit. You should be writing but you find yourself pining to rearrange your underwear drawer; you pick this time to clean out that closet that’s been cluttered for the last ten years; you spend time playing FreeCell instead of writing. So what’s going on? Has something happened to erode your confidence? Poor contest scores? A bad review? A painful rejection? Have negative thoughts taken over? “I’m no good.” “No one wants to read this drivel.” “I’ll never write another good book.”
Solution: Stop the negative thinking! Do you love to write? Then write. Write a book you’d want to read. Write for yourself, not anyone else.

If the first step to change is recognizing a problem then figuring this out will help you on the way to solve writer’s block. Go to it!

What other factors affect Writer’s Block? Have you experienced any of these? How did you get out of it?

Take a look at my website, all updated for April. A new contest, too.
You can order The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor from eHarlequin right now, a month before it arrives in stores. My estory The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is instantly available from eHarlequin and other ebook vendors.



At 7:03 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I think a lot of the time writers just get stressed and freak themselves out, particularly if their deadline is fast approaching and they feel they are behind.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

How about all of the above, O Divine One ?

I really have no idea WHY I am sitting on the revisions of my last three chapters without ANY movement at all! I am revising my 2009 GH manuscript so I can send queries out while the GH glow is still on. For some reason I cannot make myself revised these chapters and I KNOW THEY NEED IT ! These are the chapters I rushed through to get my entry in the mail. I KNOW they need help and yet I get up and vacuum, bathe the dogs, visit Facebook ANYTHING except write. My CP is ready to fly down from Oklahoma and KILL me!

She says I am as frightened of success as I am of failure and she may be right. I need to get an agent. I need to sell this book, but here I sit ... and sit ... and sit.

I don't get enough sleep and I do eat junk. My job is making me crazy. My CP just had gamma knife surgery for three brain tumors and I am so very worried about health. AND to top it all off I think I am in the first stages of menopause. I read the symptoms and I think, now wonder I'm nuts!!!

The thing is, I KNOW if I have a hope in hell of doing this writing thing for a living (not a rich living - just a living) I will have to write when I don't want to, when I don't think I can, but it is SO HARD!

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I'm guilty of sometimes taking on too much and letting my volunteerism creep into my writing time, which then makes me too busy to write. What helps me is getting to my chapter meetings and having friends ask me if I've finished the book or how the writing is going. Sometimes just being with other writers renews my love for what I do.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Trish, I so agree with this. I remember talking a friend off the ledge because she had a deadline fast approaching. I divided the number of pages she needed to write by the number of days and it was something like 5 pages a day. She calmed down.

O Doggie One, you are in that special place where, if you stay right where you are, not moving at all, you have all the hope in the world and very little of the reality. You don't have to face either failure or success. I wonder if it is more failure that you fear, that you will be stuck in your job forever if you get one more rejection...
Just remember, the only guarantee of failure is to STOP.
You have a chance of living your dream if you persist, and you must feel that your chances are good. A two time GH finalist can write well enough to sell.
But it's a journey and you don't know how long your journey is. Just keep plugging away and success will come when it is supposed to come. (Right, Trish?)

Mo, I think you are on to something there. My critique group decided to report our progress every day so we become more productive. It changes your thinking. Already I'm more aware of how much work I want to accomplish.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Although I don't call it "Writer's Block" (if writing were easy, everyone could do it), my slowdowns are usually plot related. Since I don't plot very far in advance, when I'm getting started, I'll have lots of possible threads, and sometimes a detail I threw in ends up creating a problem. Like why the heck did I decide to give that car Florida plates? If the driver drove from Florida, then there's no way he could be where he is when he's there.

So -- have to figure out if the Florida angle is needed, or if the driver stole the plates. :-)

Other times, it's writing the scene from the wrong character's POV. Sometimes, just writing it the other way will get things moving.

But, as Robert B. Parker said, "It's hard work. And you don't call the plumber and hear that he can't show up because he's got plumber's block today."

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Judy said...

All of the above and Diane's, too, not to mention outside forces, ie, helping an ill friend, work problems (the work that pays the bills), family issues, etc. Writing seems to be the easiest to drop for a while. But you're right Diane, I miss the writing. I want things to change, but they aren't going to do so until I make some changes. So first, I'm re-organizing my work space so it's friendlier to me. There are so many things I work around simply because they've always been there. Yes, doing the organizing will take some time, but once finished, it will free up space for what I truly do use regularly. I've been doing this a bit at a time all weekend, and I already see and feel a difference. I suppose it's deciding what truly is important to me, and doing something about it. The choice is always mine to make. Great post! And very helpful. :-)

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I have been writing every day just like I'm supposed to, but I noticed recently that I feel like I'm in a hamster wheel going around and around and getting nowhere. I keep revising and nothing's good enough and I know I'm not ready to send my agent another book and then have yet another book rejected... I keep thinking if I revise and revise it will finally be good enough. I don't think I'll ever be done with this I'm writing a thriller...clearly out of my comfort zone. Sigh...

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I don't really call it writer's block. I just call it being too busy. Sometimes, I just can't write until I have all the other stuff taken care of. That's why I often write at night. All the daily routine stuff is done. My mind feels less cluttered in the evening.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Judy, I think organizing your writing space is another solution that I didn't think of. We might get stuck because our writing space is too cluttered!
But our underwear drawer shouldn't keep us from writing.

Theresa, I get paralyzed sometimes if something discouraging happens, like a bad review or something. Then I feel I can't ever write a good book again. The only cure for me is to immerse myself in the book. Usually I have to stop because of a deadline. Maybe you have to impose a deadline on yourself.

Being busy is a whole other topic! I have great admiration for writers with busy lives, or day jobs, or young families. Time is so limited. It's good that you can write well in the evening.


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