Published on: Oct 22, 2014
Every time I hear it all I can think of is the first time I ever heard it. I had read an article about a professional author who had had writer’s block for twenty years. Twenty years! I remember thinking, why was he still referred to as a “writer”? Now, I know better.
Personally, I hate the term “writer’s block”. It’s so poorly defined due to the number of varieties that it’s impossible to diagnose it. Google says it’s “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.” How to proceed with writing simply means the writer lacks the know-how. The answer in that case is simple. Take a class, Google search, read the 8,000 articles online that teach a reader how to become a writer. But I wouldn’t call that “writer’s block”. A writer with writer’s block, in my opinion, knows how to write, but can’t.
The first definition, “being unable to think of what to write” is the most common case I run into in forums. I have had this problem only a few times when I first started building my story. My solution? Research! Because I was “out of ideas” so to speak, I simply read the encyclopedia until I sparked my next idea. So far, it has never failed me.
Stress was definitely a factor. The harder I tried to write, the more stressed I became. The more stress hormones were dumped into my system, the more I couldn’t think. I quickly learned to walk away and did the only thing I knew how to relax me. I read a book. Again, I unwound, relaxed, cleared my head, and soon I was writing again.
At the end of the day, in both instances, I was reading. It was too easy to fall into a rut and deny myself the privilege of reading. Sometimes, I did this to punish myself. If I couldn’t get the work done, I simply was not allowed to play. Bad idea. Pretty soon, I had built up enough anxiety and stress that took days to unwind, making the “writer’s block” unmanageable. I actually ended up developing another problem. I was reading so much to provoke story, that I ended with too much story to track. I had to write it all down in a separate document to track my story’s arc.
It wasn’t the reading alone that helped. It was the question I asked myself while reading. What would I do? How would I have written X?