Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writers Block

Anyone who has written regularly for a period of time has likely experienced it.
Writers Block.

That feeling of dread when you know you should be writing, and you are desperately looking for something else--anything else--to do instead. Laundry gets done, pots shine, and floors get mopped. Offices get organized, cars washed, vacuumed and waxed. Even toilets get cleaned, all while the manuscript you should be working on lies there, waiting unfazed. The guilt looms closer.


What causes writers block? Is it simple procrastination? Is it just a need to spend some time apart, only to come back and find writing effortless? Or is it something you can power through, if you just sit down and begin to type?

I think it depends.

On what? Well, I think it depends on why the writers block is well, blocking. I've identified a couple things that cause my writing to become blocked.

One, my story doesn't make sense, or my characters don't have motivation. This is a big one for me. If either of these things happens, everything grinds to a halt. I simply cannot power on through this type of block, until I identify the problem, and fix it. Once the story makes sense, or the characters have believable motivations, goals and conflicts, the writing comes easily again.

Two, I'm emotionally empty. I find that in order to write, I have to have at least a tiny bit of emotional energy left in me by the end of the day. Sometimes, that doesn't happen. This kind of block is short term, and is more exhaustion than block. Having a long bath and going to bed early goes very far towards making this kind of block go away. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves. Sounds simple. But, with little kids, demanding day jobs and demanding characters, sometimes we don't take decent care of ourselves.

Those two reasons cover most writers block in my experience. Of course, there is simple procrastination. Sometimes writing is hard. Its work. Its hard work. Then, procrastination often plays a large part in my failing to sit down and write. This though, is the easy thing to deal with. It's essential then to sit down, and start typing. Power through. Commit to ten minutes. Likely, you'll look up an hour later, amazed at where you've gotten and want to continue on to.

What do you guys think? Have you ever had writer's block? Did you figure out what caused it? How do you overcome it?


  1. I think number 1 is an important reason for me. If the motivation of my characters isn't clear then they are not "real" and nothing flows logically from what I've written before. I ran a poll on my website a few months ago and "fear of failure" was the number one reason voted as the reason for writer's block. But I think you have an important slant on the common phenomenon.

  2. I tend to procrastinate more when a scene isn't coming together the way I'd like it to. When I know I have to delete it and start something new, but don't want to. Some scenes fly from my brain to my fingertips. Those are good days!!! Others, I'd rather do laundry and dishes than try to sort them out.

  3. Number 1 is the hardest to get past, isn't it? I'm guessing that's because it involves something unpleasant, like admitting that something isn't working in what you've already written.
    It used to kill me to delete scenes. Once it was down, I wanted to keep it, even when it obviously wasn't working. I've gotten much better at deleting now, but it still makes me sad to have to do it.
    BTW--my house is spotless this week. :) Assume what you will from that. lol

  4. I'm suffering from some kind of block right now. I keep hoping when I sit down to write the words will flow, but they haven't and I think part of the problem is I'm writing about things I don't know anything about right now. I think I need to do a little bit of research.

  5. Good luck with your research, Mary. Hopefully it'll inspire all kinds of creative new directions for you to take your work.
    What kind of research are you looking to do? If it's legal/police related, I may be able to help or get you in contact with someone who can. If it's cooking, or competitive ice skating, I'm afraid I won't be much help. lol

  6. Number one is a definite for me. I can always write, but there's that frenzied insanity that comes when I've pushed through and it's been forced all the way through. I just get crabby. I write in the morning, and blog at night. I never have an ounce of emotional energy left at night.
    If I write less and let it marinate, it always comes through in the end. Wishing you lots of great ideas tomorrow...thank God, tomorrow's another day!

  7. Thanks Gael! That's what I've been doing--letting it marinate.
    By the way, one of the characters in my manuscript that I'm currently submitting has your name!
    I just loved the name the moment I saw it, but I've never met anyone else with that name. So, Glad to meet you!!