While I don’t usually blog that much anymore, sometimes I do come up with something that I think needs to be shared. Like this, for example. Writer’s Block is often the number one excuse why writers can’t do their job, but its easy to chalk you inability to be creative to something mystical and just say it happens because it happens. We, as societal animals, are experts at projecting our blame onto other things.
But in all honestly, the whole idea of writer’s block is just bullshit. For one thing, it doesn’t exist in any other profession – I’ve never heard of plumber’s block, or architect’s block, or IT guy’s block (I refer to anyone who works with computers as an IT guy because A. I was brought up on Dial-Up, and B. I’m about as tech-savvy as a piece of chalk).
In my experience, writer’s block is a result of one of two issues: either you failed to plan properly and that’s sending your mind on the fritz every time you think of writing the next word; or you have too much on your plate already, and anything else is just going to rip through the seams.
Both of these scenarios have one thing in common—stress.
Admittedly, there is a certain amount of natural anxiety that exists when engaging in art, especially when doing it for a living, and even more so if you are conditioned to think that a job should not be fun, or a source of love and joy. I grew up with that, and the wiring does not go away. There are days where I question this whole crazy enterprise, where I think I must be totally insane to even fantasize about hitting it big, let alone make a decent living.
Those are not my most productive days. In fact, if one were to check my browsing history on such a day, they might find a few dozen whimsical Youtube videos and/or more power ballads than any man is comfortable with revealing.
All I’m saying is, if you are doubting yourself, you are not alone. Now get over it.
Many of us fancy ourselves as either pantsers or plotters: essentially, either making stuff up as we go along, or planning out every minute detail and leave nothing to chance.
Successful writers do both.
Knowing what you’re going to write about is kind of important. It’s so important in fact, that not having an outline—a guide of sorts for all the cobwebs in your mind—is the leading cause of writer’s block.
You’ve done this before, starting something, and feeling all excited, only to realize you don’t know where to go. You stare at your half-empty (or half-full, depending on your prerogative) page with an intense glare, hoping that some green Dragon Ball-esque deity will zap your brain into writing that awesome bestseller you thought of last night–before eventually giving up, and proceeding to eat a whole jar of Nutella with a rolled up pancake you suddenly had the urge to make.
Perhaps that image was a tad too detailed. I’ll try to keep my flashbacks to a minimum.
The point is that having a reference for your own story is a way to ensure you won’t get lost in your own mind. It’s reassurance, a safety net, and yes, even if you deviate wildly from what you originally planned, having a reference can still keep you within the parameters of that story.
I’ll give you a personal example.
I once had an idea for a book called The Royal Scribe. I won’t go into much detail (mostly because I can’t remember) but the story involved a rich kid who takes creative writing lessons despite his parents’ wishes and ends up teaming up with another guy. Together they write, and self-publish stories, and it’s a great success. It’s a little autobiographical I suppose (read: masturbatory) but I liked it very much. I drafted a little plot for it, thinking that I could fiddle with it on the side. That plan was a bad idea. The story was half-developed, the characters weak, mechanics that could have been out-thought by a fifth grader, and it began giving me anxiety.
I quit that story 2 years ago (though I’m sure I still have the original files… somewhere).
Which brings me to point number two. This is a problem that compulsive creators often face. We like writing stories. We like thinking of different ways and means to make our characters suffer, and you, the reader, along with them.
It’s a sickness, but we indulge like the addicts we are.
However, there is a breaking point, and trust me, you don’t want to find it. I’ve experienced this firsthand with a little book I like to call The Pandora Chronicles Book Two. That book was a pain in the ass to write, from the annoying convoluted plot, to the tone of the story.
I was really disappointed by what I had written for it so far, and it was not getting any better.
So, I took the easy way out. I looked at my schedule and made a list of all possible things I had to do, before I wrote Pandora 2.
This was around the same time my publisher shut down, leaving me dangling into nothing. In retrospect, that was the best thing that could have happened to me, but at that moment, I was panicking. More than that, I was determined to make it through this. It was either me or the world, and I sure as hell wasn’t backing down.
So I began to systematically rebuild by career: by re-editing and proofreading the first 2 Legacy books; formatting them properly; taking a course on how to market (Nick Stephenson in a genius); implementing what I learned into my existing platform; creating, curating and maintain a mailing list; redesigning my website; setting up Facebook ads; re-editing and proofing the first Pandora book; recording the audiobook as both a proofread, and to have an extra product to sell…
And a bunch more I am forgetting.
Needless to say, my mind was 90% preoccupied with all that stuff, that by the time I went to bed I was too exhausted for anything else.
So make sure that when you write, you can give it your all. If something is pressing you and you know it’ll stunt your progress, then go take care of it immediately. Once I cleared all the urgent stuff, I took a second look at my Pandora 2 work. It wasn’t bad at all. If anything, a decent improvement over the first (which is the best news for a writer).
So, to recap, if you want to avoid writer’s block, make sure to know what you are writing about, and make sure you have enough mental space for it. Once you clear those hurdles, you are good to go, and the world is your oyster… unless you’re allergic to seafood. Bacon—the world is your bacon.
There, everyone’s happy now.