Whereas last week focused on not having motivation to write, this piece focuses on not having a plot and story to write about. In the writer’s world, this is known as “writer’s block”. Some writers believe that this is real and some think that it is laziness. I myself am a tad unsure what to think of this. I can see both sides. On one hand, if you are not experiencing difficulty with what you are writing—in any stage—then you are probably not pushing yourself hard enough. If you wanted to write about what you saw outside of a city, for example, you could probably write, “I see buildings, I see people, I see a Starbucks, I see a taxi, I see another Starbucks, I see someone talking on their phone, I see someone texting while driving, I see a third Starbucks”, and on and on. Just with the amount of Starbuck locations in town, you would probably never run out of material. However, this would make a very dull list. Words like “people”, “buildings”, “taxi”, and “I see” are all very uninspired. They have written before and they will continue to be written throughout history. They may be fine when combined with more powerful imagery, but when standing alone, they all fall down.
This is why writers need to push past this to create something new and something that feels unique. If you are going to try and make something unique, though, you will inevitably hit the wall at times. It is just bound to happen. Your mind is not a machine that magically produces words. A common misconception is that writing just “comes” to people, when the majority of writers have to work—and work hard—to create.
Just because you hit the wall doesn’t mean you should stop aiming at the target, though. You will eventually get there, but your journey may be longer than you anticipated. Too many times (myself definitely included), we stop when things get difficult. This is when we need to push the most, though. Creation cannot come without uncertainty.
So what can one do when they reach this point? One thing is to pick up the books in the bookstores that deal with this problem. I admit that I have not done this, so I will offer an alternative point for the cheaper people like me: determine if your struggling is worth it. If it is, then you are in the lucky crowd. From here, try to determine what went wrong. At some point, you got stuck on your story and became knotted up. The key to unknotting yourself is to trace all of the steps that you took. For example, did you create characters who were not fully-formed yet? If you are someone who needs to know everything about their characters before they begin to write, you may have to go back and add some biographical information. Whether or not this extra writing makes it into the final version is not the point. If it helps you to continue on, then you are probably on the right road.
thing to do is to read a really great story and then a really horribly-written story. Examine both. What elements does your story share from both stories? Most likely, you are doing some things right, but the parts that you share with these poor stories are costing you. Take notes to figure out how and why one story was successful while the other was not. The more you can be aware of what to do and what not to do, the closer you can get to a well-developed story.
Finally, you may want to take a break from the story. If you feel the need to write still, focus on journaling or sending e-mails to people you have not seen in a while. There is no rule for how long this break can extend for, but I recommend a minimum of a week. Try to make the writing you do in this period as different as the subject of your work so that, when you get back, you will have renewed eyes.
While I do believe in writer’s block, I also believe that there are steps that you can take to get back on track to your story. Inspiration is not always there, but that does not mean you should wait for it to come to you. Grab your shoes and find it for yourself.
Reader, have you struggled with writer’s block before? If so, how did you deal with this period? All comments about this are welcomed.