Writer’s block sucks. Seriously. There are almost 7 million results when you Google “How to get through writer’s block,” but I like to think that my advice is different. Because I’m going to tell you to suck it up.
You see, writer’s block isn’t a physical block. I’m not going to hold your hand and tell you to drink tea and take a vacation to a relaxing tropical destination. I’m going to tell you a little secret.
The only way to get past writer’s block is to write.
Now, this seems pretty obvious, but some people don’t treat it as such. They act like the only way to get past writer’s block is to do yoga and meditate until you get an answer from above on how to write your next scene. The truth is, it’s a lot simpler than that.
However, I believe there are two different kinds of writers block. First, we’ll talk about the hardest type.
“I don’t know what to write next. I have no ideas on how to continue the story!”
Alright, I know that feeling. It sucks. You get the princess out of the dragon-guarded castle, but then what? Is she going to go on an adventure? Sail the world? Fall in love?
Lots of time this type of writer’s block comes from improper planning. You get started on a story without really knowing where it’s going. This is how I first started writing back in middle school. “Oh! I know! I’ll write a story about two girls running away from an orphanage to find their real father!” So I would write them slipping out of the orphanage… walking along the highway…. then nothing. The story ended there. I didn’t know how to continue.
Unfortunately, there’s sometimes no way to salvage a story in this state of writer’s block. Sometimes your brain won’t give you the answer when you ask “What happens next?” You can try to write another story or a few poems, or to look at pretty pictures and listen to music for inspiration, but if there’s no spark, you’re not going to get anything. Some stories don’t have the potential to make it to their final draft. It’s sad, but true.
However, maybe your story isn’t lost to the world. Visit plot generators (even though their suggestions are always completely off the wall) or visit this forum for ideas. If you know that the story started with A and ends with Z but just don’t know how to get there, make something up. Zombies, vampires, random volcano, new girl at school, a death in the family, anything. Write literally anything just to keep the plot moving. If it’s a terrible idea, you can always edit it out once you’re done.
“I’m stuck at this scene. It’s really important and I don’t want to get it wrong.”
This is the second type of writer’s block, and it can be a bit trickier. However, I’ll tell you the secret to getting that scene over with: Stop caring. Unless you’re writing an essay for the SATs, you’re going to be able to go back and fix mistakes. That means fixing the sex scene where both characters acted like cardboard ducks and rewriting the tearful confession that was so bad it brought tears of laughter to your beta reader’s eyes. Honestly, in longer pieces, it’s better to write “JESUS THEY KISS OR SOMETHING MOVING ON” and keep going than to sit there staring at the screen wondering how to word everything.
Luckily, this is the easiest form of writer’s block to get past. You just have to sit down and force yourself to write. Tell yourself you’re not eating until you finish that scene (though I recommend against this if the scene is going to be upwards of 5000 words). I had a tricky sex scene that I put off for days that I finished by locking myself in my room until I got it out there. It really hurt my writing since those were days that I had set aside specifically for writing. Had I gotten that scene out of the way, I could have written a lot more.
Basically, this is all about tough love. Suck it up and write it. Write nonsense if you have to, you can go back and fix it later. Give it a day or two to stew if you MUST, but no longer than that. Momentum is very important when working on longer pieces. If you are away from a project for too long, you’ll not only forget where you were, but you’ll forget the voices of your characters. I once stopped a project for so long that I changed a character’s name from Joy to Hope and didn’t notice until I went back through for editing. Just force yourself to write. Even if your wrists hurt and your fingertips are sore, you’ll thank yourself later.
What was the worst writer’s block you ever had, and how did you get rid of it?