writers resources / writing

Why I Don’t Get Writers Block

Writer's block got you? Try this.

Writer’s block got you down? Try this.

I know the popular lore is every author gets writer’s block–that frozen brain that blocks all efforts to put two words together, much less three. It’s that underlying conspiracy that would make the 9/11 Truthers proud.

Not true for me. My problem is too many things to write about. It might even be considered a focus problem. When I sit down to write, my brain skitters like a stone across the surface of a lake.

Truth, I find writing strenuous. Always thinking through someone else’s head (my character). Living in a virtual world where stuff happens that I’d never face in real life. There are a couple of things I do about that:

  • I start with a solid outline. I go through it like a nit picker, to be sure I include all the steps, transitions, plot twists. Is there logic in what’s happening? Or dislogic where required? My outline covers only plot, but it must integrate each character’s traits so it becomes their actions and reactions. If I get stuck writing the outline, I force my size ten feet into my character’s shoes: I sit back, stare at something far off beyond the confines of my property line and invoke that imagination the world has relentlessly tried to drum from my cerebral skillset. What would my character smell, feel, as she’s walking the corridors at 10pm on a moonless windy night? Stale food? Cigarette smoke? I’m thinking she’d be frightened, all alone, footsteps echoing off the bare walls.
  • I also start with a solid character fact list. I put everything down about the character that I would know if it was me–background, history, past traumas, foibles, passions, speech quirks, what drives them, their strengths and weaknesses, what their typical day would be, their part in the story, etc. I need to know them as I know myself.
  • After the character fact list, after the outline, while I’m struggling through the Writing, I pay attention to Point of View. Sometimes, I realize I’m writing a narrative, not the believable story of a single mom with money problems whose computer is being hacked by terrorists. I back up, find the spot I fell out of character and start over. Some people can work in an omniscient Point of View, but I can’t get involved enough in the story unless I’m in my character’s head. I have to think like her/him, feel as they do so I can write their parts authentically. This-all takes a long time, but along the way, I get a better understanding of my story. I believe it’s a significant reasons why I don’t get writer’s block. It’s also the reason why many good writers say the story “just unfolded” for them. Well, it did, because it was real.

If my imagination takes me somewhere I know nothing about, I…

  • Research. God I love the internet. If I’m trying to imagine what the Hudson River smells like in summer, Google has an answer. People blog about stuff like that! In this case, it was an efriend. If I’m wondering what stores I’d pass walking down Amsterdam in New York, Google Streetview takes me right there. It took me to the front of my character’s apartment (which turned out to be a factory, so I had to move it–thank you Streetview)

If you find the traditional cures like these four don’t work:

…try mine.

___________________________________________________________

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUBCSG Master TeacherEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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14 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Get Writers Block

    • Absolutely. Properly motivated, we recognize material everywhere. I’ve even taken to people watching because I learn from it. in my pre-writer days, I thought that was a waste of time.

  1. This was a great post on writer’s block, but I feel it the most important part of it hasn’t been addressed — the paralyzing fear some reach after making an outline, character studies, completing tons of research…but then you attempt to start the writing process and freeze up. The fear and anxiety of failure, of not being good enough, that you’re wasting your time. Sometimes, as mentioned before, it could be a lack of motivation, but it could be deeper than that for others…depression, anxiety issues, etc.

    • That’s a good point. I don’t have that problem, but I read other writer blogs and they do. I think I used to, but did everything I could to make my writing good (classes, seminars, conferences, online groups, self-eval), shed the worry that ‘no agent/publisher will like me’ and replaced it with ‘I can self-pub’, and settled in. I have lots of books published, but all non-fic. I’m looking for my first fic!

  2. I sometimes find having too many ideas and researching on the Internet a far bigger problem than potential for writers block. I have started to make lists for myself about what order I am going to do things in otherwise I would just get lost.

    • That happens to a lot of writers. We start a project, get into it and then distracted because editing/fleshing it out isn’t as much fun as the research and organizing. Luckily, I don’t suffer from that big an imagination either, merely hoping (praying) I’ll have another idea by the time I’m done!

      Right now, I have two themes working in my head. That’s it! I have no idea where to go next!

  3. I write from the seat of my pants, Jacqui ;) It’s the only way I can get through multiple WIPs at once (and it’s the only way that works for me). As you say, the internet is fantastic when you’re writing. You can instantly see pictures of places you’ve never been to, try out the local cuisine, and get the good the bad and the ugly on just about anything.

    Great post :D

    • A pantser! I’m not surprised. There are not a lot of writers as obsessively organized as I am. It’s probably why I’ve succeeded nicely with non-fic and await my acclaim in fiction.

      But I’m patient!

  4. I agree about the POV issue – I can’t engage fully with a character if I’m using third-person. Writing in first person enables me to step into their skin (even if my protagonist is a 5 foot one female paramedic!) and feel what they feel – even their fear.

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