Writers, especially amateurs, often complain of writer’s block. In general terms, writer’s block happens when the writer gets stuck writing the content. Most often, writer’s block gets attributed to the creation of fiction; however, it can–and does–occur when writing nonfiction.
I seldom suffer writer’s block. That doesn’t indicate an endless creativity of my mind or anything else so superhuman. It merely means I’ve learned how to deal with it. No one single method that works every time for every person. Therefore, the smart writer develops multiple methods for handling momentary crises of creative failure. Following are some of mine:
- Start a new story. Your creativity hasn’t disappeared; it’s merely taken a hiatus on that particular project. Begin something new. Eventually, your brain will return to the story and you can proceed. The problem with this is that you’ll find yourself with a dozen or more started–and unfinished–manuscripts. Guilty as charged.
- Let it rest. Sometimes, like a good soup or marinade, you have to let a story simmer on the back burner or soak for a good long while until it’s ready for the next step. Set the story aside and let your subconscious work on it while you turn your attention to something that doesn’t involve writing.
- Write regardless. When I do this, the content that I force out generally ranks somewhere between atrocious and utter crap and must be deleted. However, when I do force the words, sometimes the blockage disintegrates and the creative juices then spew forth. Just be prepared to delete that awful content forced onto the page.
- Abandon ship. Let’s face it, not all ideas are worthy of being developed. Some just don’t have the depth to become books and others fizzle out within the first thousand words. An infinite quantity of ideas hovers outside one’s skull. Toss the problem manuscript away and don’t bother with it again.
If you happen to be a gregarious sort–unusual for writers–then you might want to beg friends and family members who can be trusted to be candid, but not cruel, to read what you’ve written and offer their suggestions as to plot developments. I never do this, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
Writer’s block isn’t the kiss of death for your creativity or your career/avocation. It merits a pause, indicates that you may need a break, or that there’s another story concept bubbling away that needs to come out now before it implodes and you’ve lost the idea.
Knowing if a story concept is worthy of time and attention ain’t easy. Not all ideas grow organically. One book I wrote, Pure Iron, because I’d read one too many crappy “new adult” novels and said, “I can do better than that.” Then I set out to prove it. Sometimes ideas come at inopportune times and dissolve like smoke in the wind. Other times, I’ll get an idea which will intrigue me for days; however, when I try to develop the story in my mind, it doesn’t go anywhere. And finally, I’ve had a few ideas that I mentally developed, spinning out the story in my mind for months or even years, but cannot write to good effect. Those are best left inside the brain.
The best way to tell a story comes from advice written in Beauty by Robin McKinley: “Begin in the middle and work outwards. Don’t be stuffy.” Not every story must begin with “once upon a time.”