Have you had a great idea for a story,
a ghost in a haunted castle, a hunt for buried treasure, or maybe alien gun runners from another solar system?
Maybe you sketched out your characters, created a goal, and jumped in (hands on keyboard) and started typing. Perhaps you prefer to plot the whole story in minute detail before you begin.
Either way you are on fire to write, your muse has inspired you and your fingers fly through the first several chapters. Then suddenly things grind to a halt. You find yourself staring at the page and don’t know what words to write next. You feel drained.
Social media and on-line games quickly suck up your writing time.
A week goes by, maybe two or three, and nothing happens with your story. Friends and family ask how your writing is going. You say, “Good,” because who wants to admit aloud that you have the dreaded ‘Writer’s Block.’ You’re stuck.
Being stuck can quickly erode your self-confidence as a writer and if you ease your anxiety with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, writers block can lead to guilt, weight gain, depression, and even cause you to put your manuscript away and quit writing altogether.
Writers have a deep-seated need to write.
Getting stuck can cause us (because we’ve all been there many times), to lose sight of who we are and what we’re doing with our lives.
So how do we motivate ourselves to write again?
First acknowledge that there is a problem.
Tell yourself, “I’m not just busy or procrastinating. I’m finding excuses not to write because I have writers block.”
Orson Scott Card says not to just power through writers block because it might not fix the problem.
Second identify the problem.
Last year I lost my dog, my uncle, and my brother in the space of a month. I couldn’t write at all. It even took months just to answer my emails. Sometimes life is hard, and it’s okay to recognize that sometimes we need time to heal. Our characters thrive on the page because as writers we are able to convey their emotions by tapping into our own. Allow yourself that time to heal. Don’t force yourself or feel guilty because you need that time. Eventually, those characters will start nagging you again.
Another reason for not being able to write is fear. Do you think you aren’t good enough? Are you afraid people won’t like your work? Do you fear their negative criticism and or judgment? Though most writers are introverts it’s important to align yourself with other writers. We’ve all suffered through self-doubt and fear of failure. As a whole, writers are generous and supportive. Their encouragement can often inspire us to keep going.
I write primarily historical and while writing my Civil War novel I had to do a lot of medical research as well as hospitals and battles. I believe in double and maybe triple checking your research, but I was so paranoid a die-hard Civil War buff or someone with medical knowledge was going to find the information in my novel wrong, that I couldn’t stop researching the same things over and over again. I ended up spending so much time researching I couldn’t write and the novel took years to complete.
So go ahead and double check or triple check your facts. You don’t want to be lazy and throw anything out there. The reader will know. But, if you’ve put in the research, at some point you have to learn to trust yourself and in the work you’ve done. Let it go. If down the road you realize you’ve made a mistake you have to learn to forgive yourself, and let it go. Don’t obsess over it. Don’t let it keep you from writing your next book or short story.
Last, is there actually a problem with the scene or the direction your story is headed? You might have to go back to the drawing board and review some of the elements of craft. Look at your character arcs, at goal, motivation, and conflict. Does your scene need to be there? Does it advance the plot or show character? You may have to reread some books, attend workshops on craft, or brainstorm with other writers.
Your answers to writers block are out there you just have to work through it.
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Writing is hard work. Don’t let that stuck-in-the-middle slump keep you from being who you were meant to be.
If you would like to explore this problem more in-depth, Kathy will be presenting a four-week work shop on being stuck-in-the-middle, beginning Oct.21st.
A Civil War Romance from Kathy Otten and The Wild Rose Press
A Place In Your Heart
Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.
Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.
But Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.