We’re all writers here, right? We adore the printed word, devour books and bleed ink. It is a privilege and an pleasure to sit down at our computers every day and create fantastic stories out of thin air. In fact, it’s downright magical. So why the hell does it sometimes feel like performing a DIY root canal minus painkillers and actual dentistry experience would be easier and more painless than facing down a blank page?
Call it writer’s block. Performance anxiety. Verbal constipation. There are several reasons we writers can freeze up at any given time. Here are a three of the biggest stumbling blocks (hence the ALL CAPS) and some ways to get around them:
Don’t feel bad. Writers often battle perfectionism. But even the most complex, beautiful and bestselling works of literature all started from a first draft and, chances are, those drafts didn’t pop out on the page fully formed in brilliant perfection. If you grapple endlessly with sentence structure, imagery and spot-on characterization, it might take you a year to past that first paragraph. By scrutinizing every word that formulates on the page for strokes of genius, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. As the bajillion-time bestselling romance author Nora Roberts said to me just last week when we met for decaf mochas at Starbucks, you can’t edit a blank page. Okay, fine, I read that on Google somewhere. But Nora’s right. Just focus on pounding out a first draft. That’s the most important thing.
2. FEAR OF SUCKING.
This is a common first-time writer’s problem. You compare every word you write to every other writer’s work you’ve ever read and often find yours lacking in a big way. But the fear of sucking is also a second- (and third-and fiftyith-) time writer’s problem. You achieved a miracle and created an awesome story once that some people liked and now you’re afraid you can’t do it again. Or you’re writing the third book in a trilogy and are scared it won’t measure up to the first two. When you start a new book, any previous successes become flukes. The solution? Embrace that fear. Your vulnerability will actually make you a better writer. Also, buy an inspirational cat poster to drive the point home if you must, but know that your voice is worthy of being heard and work through that fear to get to that all important first draft.
3. BRAIN EMPTY. WORDS ALL GONE.
Maybe this case of writer’s block is so severe that it feels like you used up your lifetime quota of words already, but, I promise, there are lots more in there. To jiggle them loose, try the oft-touted technique of just typing gibberish until something meaningful comes out. Sometimes the very act of putting stuff on paper or screen will jumpstart the creative process. Or, go do something different. Take a 15 minute walk. Fix yourself a snack. Go to the mall and people-watch, with a notebook to jot down impressions. Watch a movie. Read a couple chapters out of a non-fiction book or fiction outside your genre. Crochet dog sweaters for your local Hairless Chihuahua Rescue, if that’s your thing. But keep your inspirational side trips on a time limit and always come back to the page.
In summary? Every case of writer’s block is treatable. Just don’t strive for perfectly perfect perfectness yet (unless you’re in editing purgatory, but that’s a worry for another day). Always remember that you’re good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, people will like your books. Just keep that creative well full, repeatedly apply butt to chair, fingers to keys, pen to paper, and the words will come back.