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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Two Most Dreaded Words an Author Can Know (Writer's Block)

Author Topic: The Two Most Dreaded Words an Author Can Know (Writer's Block)
Josh Anthony
Member # 5960

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We all have it. I'm currently going through it, so I thought I'd throw this topic up as an agony column/solution display.

So if you feel the pain of WB, cry here. If you have techniques to get over it, by all means post them here. I at least will be extremely grateful!

[This message has been edited by Josh Anthony (edited August 27, 2007).]

[This message has been edited by Josh Anthony (edited August 27, 2007).]

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Writer's block occurs when you get stuck on a project and it usually happens when you haven't done enough planning or preparation to know where to go next. Often, the best way to deal with it is to take a step back and do some more thinking about what you're writing and where it's going.
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I second Christine. The solution to decreased writing is increased thinking.
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Matt Lust
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When I get writer's block I change locations or I change writing mediums (ie computer to longhand or vice-versa). Also since I write SF whenever I find myself without character driven stuff to write, I do a little bit of research to find a science(both physical and social) twist to throw out my characters and let my characeters grow from the crucible.
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I have come to the conclusion that when I personally get writer's block, it's usually because I'm trying to force the characters or the story to do something they shouldn't do. Once I face the necessity of back tracking and starting again from whatever wrong turn I took, everythng goes fine. My writer's block is usually my subconcious objecting to my desire to find an easier, softer way. What a pain!
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Member # 5495

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I'm starting to think of 'writer's block' as an imprecise blanket term that doesn't do much good, like a doctor telling someone with pneumonia that they've 'got the sniffles.'

What kind of writer's block are you dealing with, Josh? Can't generate ideas, can't flesh them out, can't shut off the inner editor, can't stand to sit at the keyboard for more than it takes to write ten words? Different medicines exist for different diseases! :)

If it's the dreaded Overalldifficultitis, getting away from projects and doing some housecleaning while I ruminate has always helped me. Sometimes browsing through writing advice books (the good ones, mind you) triggers some thought that'll get me rolling again.

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Disclaimer: I don't have any publication notches, though I've a couple near hits.

Sometimes, I know where the story was and where it is going, but the block occurs in an intermediate scene. Usually, I find that if I work on another writing project for a while( perhaps a few weeks), I can return to the story and get through the block. Let the story stew in the subconcious for a while.

[This message has been edited by ChrisOwens (edited August 27, 2007).]

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In times past, I considered writer's block a signal that I was on the wrong path with my story, focusing on the wrong elements, not planning properly, and all the other things that have been previously mentioned.

I'm going through a completely different type of writer's block right now, and it's nothing like the above. I had a cancer diagnosis in April, with subsequent radiation treatments for 7 weeks. (No pity, please, I'm doing well and biopsy shows the cancer cells gone.) There is a condition that is jokingly called "radiation brain" and I've learned it's no joke. I have been dealing with fatigue, a sense of disconnection, and a total inability to concentrate on creative writing, or even being on the computer for more than a few minutes at a time.

Getting my creative juices to re-flow is as important to me as being able to get my saliva glands to work again...(and if you don't think THAT is important, try eating food without any spit to moisten it.) Problem is, I am at a loss as to how to get my poor muddled brain to re-engage with my WIP.

I also recall the time in my life I put writing down to raise children. It was simply too difficult for me to have both, so the writing suffered.

I've learned sometimes writer's block isn't about being at the wrong point in the story, it's about being at the wrong point in my life!

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I've been hit hard for the last 6 months because of work, I just don't have the stamina to sit and write like I used to, I want to write, just too tired to think.

I'm up at 4am everyday for work, finished at roughly 3pm, but I'm not home until about 5pm, so after an exhausting day of back breaking labour for crap all pay I'm too wiped to write Even on my days off!

Edit: I have found in the past a method to break my writer's block is to change the font to something absolutely different to what I usually write in. I usually write in Times New Roman, Size 10 (I have a 19 inch LCD monitor which is pretty wide when you're sitting quite close to it) and I have found that if I change the font and size, maybe add bold text to it, I usually like the font I end up with and keep writing, and ideas come and the flow comes with it. Just an idea for you guys to try out

[This message has been edited by Leigh (edited August 28, 2007).]

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Robert Nowall
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On and off. Right now I'm in a relatively prolific period, expending effort mostly on my novel but a few other things pop up. (The last week was a washout, though, but I'll detail that elsewhere.)

The last time I had it, I broke out by typing out a short story one page a day on my old typewriter. (Back to Square One.) It worked; it made me eager to return to the story every day. I even liked the story enough to send it out to market. (Rejected, though.) I worked through another one that way and went back to the word processor at a little higher pace...a while later I had a breakthrough and have worked at something on the bulk of the passing days ever since.

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franc li
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I got started on a different project. I had entered a segment of one novel in a contest, and decided I couldn't work on it until I heard back. Well what a relief that was! I think it can help to walk away from a story for a time.
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Pyre Dynasty
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You know Michelangelo had a writer's block and now we have David. (Oh wait I guess that was a sculptor's block.)

Well I like the Butt-in-Chair method, pick a time frame and promise to sit there until the time runs out. (If it helps you can loop your belt around your leg and the chair leg if you try to get up it will stop you) Eventually your mind gives up and works.

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That's what I like about you, Pyre - practical solutions for everyday problems: Put your butt in the chair, strap yourself in, and don't get up for anything. Although, it reminds me a little bit of Young Frankenstein, where Gene Wilder tells the others to lock him in the room with the monster, and not let him out no matter how hard he begs.
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We all have it. I'm currently going through it, so I thought I'd throw this topic up as an agony column/solution display.

I'd actually have to disagree with that. I don't know that I've suffered real writer's block since I made the decision to start writing almost two years ago. I'm not bragging, it's just how it's been for me.

What I more often deal with is lack of motivation. That usually happens when I finish a draft. For example, I finished the first draft on a new novel and since then lost motivation to work on that project. I'm guessing that happened a couple weeks ago, which is normal. Now I'm starting to get interested in going back and working on it again. That's also pretty normal.

I suppose that's a good thing. It's good to get away from your work for a little bit so you can come back with slightly fresher eyes. What I'll do next is go back and just read the first draft, using Word's comment feature to just add thoughts as I go.

Real writer's block, at least as OSC has defined it, is not having nothing to write, but getting stuck with what you are currently writing. You don't know what to do or where you're going. Maybe you're stuck in a scene and just can't move forward. When that happens to me I realize (as OSC stated in one of his writer's lessons) that I've gone in the wrong direction. For some reason the scene is going the wrong way, or the characters are doing the wrong thing. So, go back to what was working and reexamine. Do I need to do something else first, or should I shoot the scene from a different perspective? That usually helps a lot.

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I'm with RMatthewWare, I haven't ever really suffered writers block either. The closest I get to it, is when I just don't know how to start a scene, and have to sit for ten minutes before I can begin it. I remember someone saying on this subject that writers block can occur when the writer hasn't fully planned the story or novel in advance. I rarely plan in advance, it doesn't stop me from knowing where the story is headed.
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A few years ago I visualized an explicit scene of a fat cowgirl so big she could sit comfortably on two bar stools at the same time and chug down a mug of beer in one swallow. So I wrote it up and had fun with the first 1200 words. However, I had no idea where to take it; I tried writing all around it but could never bring it to a reasonable conclusion. Eventually I gave in to WB and put it aside to work on later.

As I concentrated on creating other stories, I never lost sight of the fat woman sitting at the bar waiting for me. After 2 ½ years slipped by, a new idea finally popped up. I was not only able to conclude the story, but I had fun extending it into a funny and heroic yarn. I felt good about salvaging it and today it is one of my all-time favorites.

Lesson learned: If WB brings the story to a full halt, set it aside, think about it from time to time and eventually a breakthrough will come.

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The G-Bus Man
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I don't have writer's block.

I have minor to moderate anxiety attacks instead.

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So far, I've never had writer's block. I think the reason is that I typically just move on to another project if I don't know what to write. So, whatever block I've experienced has been limited to a single manuscript, which I let sit until something resolves. Sometimes, it never does.

The difference is now I'm dedicated to a novel, which I feel I must complete. I have a niggling feeling I might experience writer's block at some point. Especially the middle, where I don't feel so confident.

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