Saturday, June 09, 2007

Writer's Block

This is a topic I’m seeing on a couple of loops I’m on. And I think it’s important to talk about it.

Every writer I know worries, to some degree, with every book they write. We care about the stories we tell—sometimes too much. We worry that it won’t be good enough or that it won’t matter in the way that we want it to matter. If our last book didn’t have the numbers we want, we worry our books never will. If our books got great reviews or sales or nominated for an award, we may worry that we’ll never be able to do it again. If we worry enough, we get paralyzed and that’s writer’s block.

Writer’s block is one of the big things that can bring a writer to me for life coaching—that or the desire to have me evaluate a manuscript so they can know if they’re on target or not.

I give workshops on Book in a Week as a way to write better and faster, yes, but really as a way to out run the fear so many of us deal with at some point in our writing careers.

I believe that when we are having fun we do whatever we’re doing better and with less fear. Often when I coach someone I spend a fair amount of time on how to make writing more fun and how to build self-confidence. Some of the things I suggest for everyone:

1) Make a list of every success in your life. In a sense, this is your list of reasons to believe in yourself.
2) Make a list of things that make you smile and do at least three things from that list every day.
3) Make a list of why your writing matters to you—what you love about your work and what you value—so that you remember why you WANT to write.
4) Try writing in short burst where you don’t let yourself second guess what you write—that can come later when you’re doing revisions. Odds are your muse or subconscious knows things it isn’t telling you and it will be okay.
5) If you’re really stuck, stop and do something fun and creative. Odds are that will jump start your muse and you’ll see the solution to the problem or what to write next.
6) Play around with something you write just for yourself so that you can tap back into that joy that got you started writing in the first place.

And if all else fails, close your eyes and remember playing make believe as a child. That’s what we’re still doing as writers—we’re just putting it down on paper (or into the computer) too.



Aline said...

Many years ago, I attended a lecture by Elmore Leonard at the Detroit Working Writers/Oakland University annual conference (it was actually the Detroit Women Writers at the time). Leonard was insightful, but not particularly "warm" as he delivered his remarks. During the post-lecture Q&A, one poor unfortunate young man asked "How do you deal with writer's block?" Leonard glared at him and said "Writer's block? Writer's block? You either want to write or you don't."

While it was very uncomfortable and particularly uncomfortable for the young man who'd asked the question, I've never forgotten it because I think he really hit the nail on the head. We do either want to write or not and we really have to ask ourselves whether we want to write or whether we want "to have written." Is it the writing or is it what comes after the book has been written, is sold, is successful, and brings us some form of validation?

April said...


Great questions! We do have to know what matters most to us and if it's the writing, then we write. Life does happen, emotions do happen, and it's useful to have a series of tools that let us get past the roadblocks. Kudos to anyone who can JUST WRITE. For most of us, it's helpful to have just a tad more information than that I think.

Thanks for posting!