Writer’s Block

You hear about writer’s block a lot when a discussion about writing goes on.  It’s become this kind of cliché that author’s suffer from it, and as an author I often felt myself immune to it.  Because when you think about it, writer’s block sounds like some sort of sad excuse to get out of working.  Folks suffering from writer’s block say that ideas aren’t coming to them, or that it’s difficult to sit down and put words to paper– or that inspiration hasn’t struck.  It just sounds like such a small hurdle, even if it isn’t.

I mean, in many ways writing seems like the easiest career choice you could ever make.  You literally sit down and make stuff up for a living.  You play, like you did as a child, and get paid for it.

I don’t want to digress too much, but I think part of what makes writing so difficult is that by the time we are able to sit down and construct a novel, we’re old enough to have most of our imaginings ‘beaten’ out of us by formal education, our parents and society, who tell us that playing make believe is only acceptable for children under the age of twelve.

So trying to tap back into that vein of imagination that came to all of us so easily as children can sometimes be very difficult, because we have been conditioned to turn it off.  And until we can condition ourselves to turn it back on again, we will occasionally suffer from writer’s block.

It took me a while to realize I was even suffering from writer’s block, because I dismissed the concept of writer’s block as malarkey. (Great word, that.)  When I accepted that I had it, I couldn’t pinpoint the reason.

Sometimes that lack of conditioned creativity is the case with me, but I’m finding that more often than not my writer’s block is not caused by a lack of creativity, or stress, or pressure to write a good story. (Though those certainly are the causes sometimes.)  Most of the time my writer’s block occurs when I’ve written something that doesn’t fit with my story.  Something that isn’t true to my characters, or that just doesn’t feel right.

And as soon as I’ve written my character(s) into a situation that is out of character for them, or is happening just so that I can move the plot forward instead of being true to what the character would do, I freeze up.  I naturally stop writing because as I’m writing something in me is screaming that this is a bunch of crap.  That doesn’t make me a bad writer, it just indicates that I’m taking my story in the wrong direction.

This morning I was thinking about a section of my most recent short story that I’ve been stuck on.  Every time I sat down to write more I had to really force myself to continue, and the reason for that is because I was making my character do things that just didn’t make sense.  A major plot point was being flung in the reader’s face, because I needed to reveal it, not because the character had naturally discovered what was happening.

What I need to realize, and what I felt compelled to write here is that when I get writer’s block (And this may very well be the case for you as well.) it’s most often because I’m not being true to my characters or to my story.  It’s only when I finally sit down, re-evaluate and change the passage I’m having trouble with that I can write freely again.  So much so that it’s like unblocking a dam.  Suddenly I’m able to power through great sections of my story because it feels right.

It helps to remember that I don’t need to follow my plot outline to the letter.  The story is malleable– it can and should change based on what my characters would do, or inspiration that hits me while I’m writing.  If I let myself make these changes instead of forcing myself along the path of my plot outline, my writer’s block falls by the wayside.

Try it.  That may be the case for you, too.

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