Does writer’s block exist? Some writers say it does not. Many writers say it does. If you are experiencing writer’s block, how do you get past it? The simple answer is to keep writing and see writer’s block for what it is: an opportunity to discover what it is you really want to say.
ROADBLOCK #1: You have a story in mind, but you do not know how to put it into words.
When the pavement ends, take to the trail.
REMEDY: Writers may not be able to put their story into words because they fear that the story will not sound good. This means they may be editing while writing. That’s like putting the horse before the cart. There is something inside of us which we call the inner critic. The inner critic is always telling us that our ideas are not good, or that they need to be written in a certain way, and that people have to like what we write. The way around this roadblock is to ignore that inner critic. Take some time to write your ideas down without wondering if they sound good. Do not even think about structure, punctuation, grammar, spelling, and formatting. Those are all editing. Not writing. The problem is that in school we were told that writing and editing are the same thing. They are not. Writing comes first, then second, then third, then comes editing, once you have your message written in your words on the page. Once you get your ideas written down in rough form on paper, you will have eliminated this first roadblock. You now have something to work with, to improve upon, and to make yours. Writing is the most complex form of communication. When we speak, we can go back, readjust, and clarify our ideas with whomever we are communicating. When we are writing, we are speaking to no one except ourselves while wondering what others may be thinking. This can create self-doubt can create Roadblock #2.
ROADBLOCK #2: Is anyone going to like this book?
Taking a detour is an opportunity to see your message in a new way!
REMEDY: As writers we have to put away the idea of being liked. No matter how many people read your book, no matter how good the story is, no matter how amazing the writing is, not everyone is going to like it. The focus should be instead on readers learning something new or something that will help them or something that will entertain them and educate them at the same time. They need to be willing to at least listen to your message. People do not have to like your message in order to listen to it, understand it and react to it. Again, writing your book is all about the message and the sharing of that message. The message will resonate with others when it touches on a pain point or a common theme or experience. Once you get your ideas onto paper in rough form (Remedy #1), you will want to focus on your message, no matter how inadequately it is written at first. It is now time to use writing as an exploration technique (rather than just recording thoughts and ideas) so that you yourself can understand and refine your message and tell it in a way that compels others to read it. Once you are satisfied with that message, writing should become easier.
ROADBLOCK #3: What about an outline? What is a book supposed to look like? What is a chapter supposed to look like?
Road closed? Time to create a new road!
REMEDY: When you are writing in the beginning, you are first recording then creating. Of course, you may have something in mind, what that creation will look like, sound like, feel like. However, during the process of writing, you may discover something you never thought of before and would not have thought of if you had not been writing about it in the first place. In other words, writing has many purposes. At first, you will want to “record” your ideas and your thoughts. Then, you will use writing to explore and discover the purpose, meaning, and message of those thoughts. This part of writing may take you to places unknown or even unimagined. Writing is freedom. Go with the flow and let the writing lead you instead of you leading the writing. If you have a basic framework in mind while writing, that is okay, but always be willing to stray away from it. Through the course of writing, that framework may change from time to time. The more stringent the outline, the more you will experience writer’s block. It’s okay to create the lines but be ready to color outside of them. Do not write yourself into a box.
ROADBLOCK #4: I’ve started writing but now I’m stuck. I do not know how to continue or even end my book.
Don’t know how your story will end? Let your writing lead you there.
REMEDY: It’s time to be okay with this feeling because you are not really stuck. There is always a way out. There are actually many ways out. One way to get back on track with the writing of your book is to reread what you wrote. You might want to consider putting it down for a few days then picking it up again. Now, instead of a writer, be a reader. Ask yourself the following questions. What is your message so far? Did anything inspire you? What have you learned? Then, try to start writing and see where the flow takes you until you see the possibilities. Writing is always about possibilities. We get stuck when we think there is only one way to do things when in fact there are millions of ways which are yet to be discovered.