You hear so much about it. Writers complaining they are blocked, they cannot progress, they’ve been stuck on the same scene for weeks and just can’t seem to get it written. Writing it is like wading through treacle, and every time they try to write a bit more they end up getting nowhere.
I know the feeling. It is like repeatedly banging your head against a huge boulder, trying to smash the rock with your head so you can get past it. I’ve been there and done that, it’s not nice. But I have found a solution.
Don’t try to break through the blockage. Go around it instead.
That scene you’re stuck on – leave it. Just leave it half-written. Write something else instead – the next scene, the next chapter, a bit near the end of the book which you’ve had in mind for ages. Or if blocked on a short story, start another one instead. New characters, new problem, and see where you get to with that.
You can always come back to the unfinished scene/chapter/story later. You might then find it is easy to finish. Or even that it is no longer needed and you have thought of a better way of getting your characters where they needed to be at the end of that difficult scene.
Writing novels is all about forward momentum. But if there comes a time when going directly forward is not possible, you’re blocked, then deviate slightly to the left or right and find a new forward.
It works for me.
Great post Kath, and I too find the idea of ‘Writer’s Block’ silly. A painter doesn’t get painter’s block, and I don’t get cleaning block in my morning job… If I get stuck, or wonder what to write next, I do a diary, and just write what comes to mind. Sometimes the problem that stopped you from moving forward then comes on the page, and you’re away again.
Absolutely – write something else and you soon find you’re not actually blocked.
Encouraging as ever, Kath – Yes I Can surge forth into fame and fortune!
We all can! (dream of it if nothing else!)
Thanks for this interesting post, Kath. It struck a chord with me – not because I’ve got writer’s block but because when I was at Swanwick I did a 2-part ‘Wild Words’ workshop and in the second part, we had to sit by the lake, watch the water and think about ‘block’ and ‘flow’ (hmm, also in relation to our bodies!). I’m afraid I could only think about constipation..and er, other things which you don’t want to know about.. from that point. But your post explains it all much better than the workshop leader, I have to say. If only she’d said ‘if you get blocked do what the water does – go round the block’ (ie: try doing something different!) the whole thing would have made much more sense. Perhaps she did say it thought, while I was still giggling over my lavatorial humour…?
Hee hee! But yes, flow around the block. Or get a plunger to it….
Sue Blackburn said:
Very encouraging post, Kath. It makes such sense to leave it alone, do something else and go back to it if you’ve a problem with anything doesn’t it!
Yes, time away from the problem always helps its resolution.
Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith) said:
This method also works for me, if I get stuck, I leave off what I’m doing and move onto some flash fiction. Sometimes the block clears within a day or so, but if it goes on longer, I go for a long walk.
Oh yes, get physically away from your writing and the ideas flow again. I find running helps too.
Captain Black said:
When faced with a fallen tree across the road, who in their right mind would try to drive through it? Of course we’d drive around it or go in another direction. Makes perfect sense to me.
According to Jane Wenham-Jones, there is no writers’ block, only writers’ “can’t be arsed”.
Yes, it’s just an excuse. I don’t get blocked programming, in the day job. Well, I do, but not in the same way.
That’s what I do when I get stuck – write something else. Often when I come back to the sticky bit I see there was a problem with it or that I don’t need it anyway.
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