Ten Reason WHY Writers Get Writer’s Block

#ds139 "Writer's Block"

"Writer's Block" (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

Do you ever wish you were able to produce creative prose every time you sat down and wrote? Like a job where you punch a time clock and go to work. You tap away at the keyboard for eight hours, finishing a few chapters, and then head home, satisfied that you accomplished something. Then you get up the next day and do it again, finishing a novel by Friday.

Unfortunately, writing does not come that easily, except for the few lucky ones. I think even they are lying.

Most writers have had days where even though they are ready and willing to get to work, there is no time clock assuring they will be productive.

Why do we suffer writer’s block?

There is plenty of advice on how to overcome writer’s block. Go for a walk. Read something inspiring. Bounce ideas of your friends. And of course, write. Writing prompts are my plan B when my well is completely dry.

I try those things. Those little tips and tricks work for the most part. But sometimes, there is still nothing. All day, thoughts bounce around my brain like a pin-ball during the bonus round. Yet, when I want to rally those thoughts into a coherent paragraph, nothing. Zip.

Why is there a block to the creative mind?

These are just my opinions and no scientific, or even un-scientific, research has been done. But after years and years of being a writer and knowing writers and reading about writers, I think they ring true.

1. We are lazy.

I think sometimes we just don’t want to write. Beginning can always be the hardest part. Like going to the gym. The biggest obstacle is just getting through that door. Just like working out, it can seem overwhelming, especially for the bigger projects.

2. There is nothing new under the sun.

Sometimes I think I have this super great, original idea. Then I realize it has already been said. 463 times. It is so hard to be original, when the original ideas have already been taken. It is not like working on an assembly line where it is actually a GOOD idea to repeat, repeat, repeat. Rehashing ideas into something new is the tough part of being a writer. Yet it is the beauty of it. Telling a story with a new set of eyes.

3. Fear and doubt.

This can be paralyzing. Unlike working for someone else whose ideas may suck, but you don’t care because it is not personal, it’s just a paycheck, writing IS personal. To the core. Everything that hits that page formed in your mind, and often filtered through your heart. Unless you are writing an unbiased technical paper or recipe, writing bears your soul. If you publish it, the world is now privy to your soul. Kind of intimidating.

4. Pressure!

Just like fear and doubt paralyzing us, pressure can keep us from writing our name down. The pressure way be something you created on your own, it may be a deadline, or just the pressure of staying current with your blog. No comments on this last reason, please.

5. Our lives are boring.

If you are uninspired, your life is probably not inspiring. Face it, life’s Pavlov’s response of alarm clock, go to work, come home, watch TV , mindlessly surf Facebook, go the bed, doesn’t exactly spark creativity. Rinse, lather, repeat is not conducive to prose worth reading about. If you don’t want to read it, you certainly are not going to be inspired to write it.

6. Words simply can’t capture what ever it is we are trying to say.

We fumble. We can visualize the scene beautifully on the projector playing in our head. The characters impress the audience, even make them cry. The story moves you to run to your computer or even the back of a piece of mail. Just get it down. Somewhere between the space between your mind and the paper, the words fall flat. The scene is completely unwordable (not sure that is a word).

7. Thoughts dissipate at the speed of light.

Other times, we know exactly the right words, but by the time we can find even a crayon to write with, the words have disappeared into some long-lost Bermuda world of great ideas. Never to be found again. This is why all the great writers suggest that you always carry something to write with. Why do I keep neglected this nugget?

8. Perfectionism.

If we just stare at the piece for another week, it will get better. Maybe the period should be a semi-colon. Maybe the character should be wearing a blue shirt instead of a green one. Is this sentence going to impress the socks off of my readers? Maybe the whole thing is just…stupid.

9. Ideas sound so much cooler in our head.

I remember I had this great idea for a short story. I had the conflict, the climax, and the resolution. I even had the character’s names picked out. My first real short story. Then I started writing it. And I thought, this whole thing is just…stupid. And it really was.

10. Out of practice.

Write, write, write. Funny how important that is, yet because of many of reasons one through nine we avoid writing. This only perpetuates the creative downfall. It is like avoiding going to the gym because you are embarrassed of your body. Get writing!

Can you identify yourself here?

My First Attempt At Fiction Writing in a Million Years

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, I am exaggerating.  But only recently have I begun to explore fiction writing. As I started looking into writing for Kindle, I realized I have been completely excluding fiction books.

Fiction has been a dirty word in my vocabulary for practically my whole life. I am not sure why. Maybe it intimidates me because I have to create from a completely imaginary world, not a real one. It seems writers gravitate towards one or the other: fiction or non.

Is it possible to do both?

Why not?

I may have to build up the muscle to participate in that kind of writing. Either way, tapping into this foreign genre is a great way to stimulate all kinds of writing, creative non-fiction or fictional story writing.

I took this prompt from the Writer’s Digest. Here it is: (please be gentle, but honest!)

Prompt: This time, you’re in too deep. Your gambling losses have been mounting and, with a recent ill-advised bet, have put you $50,000 in debt. Your bookie, knowing you don’t have that kind of cash, is willing to wipe your debt clean if you carry out a very dangerous mission for him.

The smell was making my eyes water, but I knew I had to face Carlos in order to avoid the confrontation with Cheri. She was already upset over the $5,000 I lost last month. What would she think if she found out about the debt that was ten times as much? That thought, combined with the sour odor, made my stomach flip. I was desperate.

Pacing back and forth, I glanced into the kitchen. Now, I knew where that stench was coming from. As Carlos walked out of the bedroom, he looked as if he had not slept in a while.

My hands shook as I lit a cigarette. “Listen, Carlos, I wouldn’t ask you, if I wasn’t desperate. I mean, you know, I’ll get money. I’ll do whatever to get out of this mess.”

“Whatever, huh?”

Carlos pulled up a chair real close to me, and reached across to grab a cigarette from my shirt pocket.

As Carlos stared out the window, I could faintly hear the muffled sounds of an argument from the apartment upstairs. I just wish I had the money so I could leave.

Breaking the silence, the man who once lived in a nice apartment in the Lincoln neighborhood, coughed and then spoke.

“I’ll forgive your debt.”

“Great.” Now I could get the hell out of here.

“Yep.”

“Wow! That’s great, Car–“

“Except… Except, you have to do me this one favor.”

“Anything.”

Carlos went on to tell me about how he had bosses, too. His red eyes teared up as he told me that he was also placing risky bets and couldn’t pay his bosses back. They were “less forgiving.” Now his bosses were after him. He had to sell his apartment and move to this dump. But it wasn’t enough.

“Rick, listen. I can get the money. I know a guy who lives in my old neighborhood that has serious cash and jewelry in a safe. Before I moved to this hell hole, I was a good friend to him. At least he thought of me that way. Which means he confided in me about his valuables. Maybe he trusted me. Maybe he was testing me. Either way, I can get to the safe. It’s a lot, man. But I really need your help in this.”

I just stared at him, wanting to run away and just take out a loan from a bank. It was only fifty thousand. It’s not as if it was half a mil or something. Yet somehow, I knew that if I didn’t help Carlos, it would end badly. Carlos may be feeling sorry for himself right now, but he had a vindictive side to him that you don’t want to instigate. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I put the cigarette out and stood up.

“Carlos, what are you asking me to do?”

“It’s simple. Are you hungry? I could fix you something to eat.”

“Let’s go out. I want to hear your plan,” I suggested in desperation.

Do People Take Writers Seriously?

One of the things that I have struggled with over the last few years as a freelance writer is getting support from people I know.  Not other writers or all of the great people I have met online, but my REAL friends and family. I wonder if they take my seriously.  Do they think it is just something I do for fun, and there is not real money in this “hobby?”  I think the answer is a yes. I have known this, but every now and again, I get a painful reminder.

I equate this lack of support to a scenario of a person who heads to L.A. to try and make it as an actor or Nashville to be a singer.  Even though those career choices might be a real passion, who can take those people serious?  Until they land a supporting role in a movie or produce a CD that sells a million plus copies?  Or write a best seller?

Rejection Always Sucks

What people don’t know is all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.  The rejection letters.  The heart-felt words that never get read.  The hours of knocking out articles for a measly $.02 a word.  It is not glamorous.  It is not New York’s best seller’s list.  But, it is something many writer’s take serious and personal.  Don’t you think?

When you are in the creative art’s, whether you are a writer, painter, musician, or artist, when people don’t support something you have created, it is hard to NOT take it personal.  Often times, a painting comes from the heart, lyrics bears one’s inner soul, and writing reveals your personal thoughts.

Rejection always sucks, but it sucks worse when it something you created from your mind, heart, and soul.

So, when you ask a friend or family member to read your writing and they pretty much blow it off as, “oh, this is another one of Julie’s hobbies she wants us actual take seriously,” I guess it stings a little. No, it stings a lot.

Do you need thick skin to be a writer?

Absolutely!!  Even though you have thick skin, it does not mean that your heart is not vulnerable to the rejection and lack of support on occasion.  It does not mean that even though you have support and positive feedback from strangers that come by and read your articles or blog posts, that you don’t want to occasional, “great writing” comment from someone you love in life.

But, you keep on writing, figuring it out, hoping to make a serious living one day with a real full-time income. and lots of supporters.   Hoping not only for your personal sense of accomplishment, but that maybe then your loved ones will finally take you seriously.

Share you thoughts – do people take writers or artists seriously?

Writing Offers Different Perspective on Same Old Story

How many times have you read about something in the news or a piece of history that sounded like a completely different event?

The beauty of writing is it puts a new perspective on the same old story.  When you read history books, you will get an entirely different perspective, depending on who wrote about the event.  Many historical recollections taught in history books combine these perspectives to get a pretty accurate interpretation of an event that occured.

When you later read the different historical accounts from various personal perspectives, you may be enlightened to read the various interpretations.

Words are powerful.

Writers use words to express a thought, feeling, or an event.  These words are not always articulated in such a detailed and flowing manner when spoken. The written word can be even more powerful.  The written word takes the rough, random thoughts we have in our minds and puts them in a coherent sentence, phrase, or passage.  People simply do not speak how they write.

Sure, some people are great verbal story tellers.  You meet them at parties and they usually have a crowd around them anticipating in the next punch line.  But, that person has rehearsed the story and it is probably not the first time he or she has spoken it to an attentive audience.  Imagine if that person had the written skills to express that story.  I am guessing it would offer a different answer to the question: what happened next?

Same Event – Different Story

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in American history.  Those who were alive on that day will never forget it.  Now, imagine the different perspectives you will read depending on who wrote a recollection of events.  The event was the same – two airplanes crashed into the Word Trade Center leading to a collapse of both buildings.  The same ten people who witnessed the events offer a different angle,depending on how their written lens interprets that horrific day.

The bits and pieces of events we have all experienced throughout life accumulates in our brains. Writing shares with all if it’s readers a completely different spin, only seen from the author’s lens.

Writing can always be new, even if the story is old.  One author may have a completely different style and perspective of writing.  A different voice.  This is not just with historical events, but an opinion piece (the same opinion).  Writing makes each story or article sound fresh and new because it is looked at through each writer’s lens. Each perspective provides different words that readers may have never thought of before. Even the SAME writer!

Writing offers descriptive words that flow from the abstract depths of the mind onto the concrete paper or computer screen.  Often times, it does not come out the same.  Our moods, our experiences, our education, our audience, and even our values. This can change on a regular basis.

Take a look at some old writing of yours, an old article, journal entry, or a fiction piece.  How would you write it today?  How would someone else write it?

4 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before You Finish Your Novel

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bethany Ramos. Please read more about Bethany in the footer.

Perhaps you are already sitting on a completed manuscript that you are just itching to get out to a literary agent. Still, it is not always that simple… Any seasoned author can tell you that you must edit, revise, edit, and then revise again. To get your creative juices flowing and help you take an objective eye to your manuscript, here are some important final questions to ask yourself about your work:

1. Does your opening grab the attention of your reader?

It is always helpful to open while the story is already in action because you may lose the attention of the reader if you spend too much time warming up. The intro to your story should also reflect the tone of your novel, so make sure that all descriptions you use are consistent with your tone and mood. You also need to introduce a story tidbit or action in the first chapter that will compel your reader to continue to read. Whether your lead character is in danger, there is a relationship conflict, or there is even a hint of mystery, your reader needs something to carry them through the entire book.

2. Is your lead character captivating for the entire length of the novel?

This is a very important question indeed since you definitely don’t want your reader snoozing or losing interest halfway through the novel. You need to go back to your manuscript with an objective eye to make your lead character literally jump off the page.

As far as your other characters go, determine if they sufficiently contrast one another and are each interesting enough to stand on their own. You definitely want your reader to bond with the lead character, whether it is because he or she is funny/irreverent, an underdog facing the odds, has a relatable dream or desire, or even is in jeopardy or danger. Make sure that your reader is attracted to your lead character, and you can’t go wrong!

3. Is there any point in your plot where your reader may want to put the book down?

If that is the case, you need to iron out those kinks STAT. If there are any areas where the plot feels forced or unnatural, or even if the story is out of balance with too much or too little action, objectively edit that scene to determine how you can make the plot flow more smoothly.

4. Does your conclusion leave any loose endings?

A reader won’t appreciate any loose threads left in the end of your story, so you need to make sure that you resolve the story in a way that doesn’t take away from your main plot. The best ending will leave the reader with resonance and a sense of meaning so that they feel satisfaction as they end your story.You overall want the reader to feel the way you want them to feel as they turn the last page of your novel.

    Are all of these four points achieved within your story?

    If not, that is perfectly okay, but go back and read, revise, and revise again!

    The Artist’s Way Reminds Us of the Gift of Free Writing

    Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Hannah Conti.  Please read more about Hannah in the footer.

    Hart Crane once wrote, “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”

    Imagine a the writer’s equivalent of a long, hot bath. All the stress from writing under deadline or the frustration from editing and re-editing your manuscript drift away with the steam. You can relax, breathe deeply. Here at the writer’s spa, you are free to simply write without worrying about an editor, publisher, or even your SEO.

    I discovered this freedom when I was about eleven years old. I was flipping through the books located in the art section. The title, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, intrigued me as I was interested in becoming an artist when I grew up. (You may remember the review that Julie wrote a while back about this site.)

    I was especially interested in Cameron’s insistence of completing “morning pages.” This is a method of free-writing three-pages before starting the day. Cameron describes the process in her book:

    “There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing… Pages are meant to be simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included” (The Artist’s Way, 10).

    At eleven years of age, I was determined to do follow Cameron’s advice and faithfully complete my morning pages. In the beginning, writing three whole pages of anything seemed to be too broad, too difficult. Eventually, I became accustomed to grabbing my pen and allowing the words to tumble from my mind. Now, at the age of 23, I have amassed over 30 journals of scribblings.

    At eleven years-old, I enjoyed reading The Artist’s Way (although the idea of finding one’s “inner child” confused me at that point of my life). However, it was the idea of free-writing that remains the most influential creative and spiritual technique in my life.

    The other day, after a long day of creative productivity, I was feeling burnt out in many ways.  I picked up my pen and starting writing. The process of emptying all my pent-up thoughts, energy, prayers, hopes, and fears allowed me process and re-energize.

    Here’s YOUR challenge!

    I challenge you to give free-writing a chance. After a long day of double-checking Strunk and White, the OED, and the AP Stylebook, check in with you. Relax in the writer’s spa; “drench” yourself in words. Allow yourself to let the torrent of words hidden within to be released. It is a gift we have been given as writer’s.  Appreciate it, be thankful for it. And enjoy it!

    Be sure to check out an excerpt from Cameron’s book here as well as her general website.