Is Writer’s Block Real?

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Ernest Hemingway fought bulls in Spain, dodged bullets as a war correspondent, and hunted big game in Africa . . . but when he was asked to name his scariest experience, he said, “A blank sheet of paper.”

Recently I received an email from a buddy of mine who’s convinced she’s got writer’s block. Convincing me, though, is a tough sell. You can quote Hemingway all you like, but I think writer’s block is a scam.

Hold on. Before you sharpen your pitchforks and/or chastise me for being a heartless friend, allow me to explain.

Just because you can’t pump out fifty words to save your life doesn’t mean you’ve contracted the dreaded Writer’s Block Virus. It simply means you’re going to have to work. Yes, indeedy, welcome to Realsville. More often than not, writing is work. Grunt work. The kind that makes you sweat.

Oftentimes when one thinks they might have writer’s block, it’s simply a case of having to search deep inside to come up with a sentence or two. Sometimes that’s super hard, but it’s never impossible . . . unless of course you’re in a coma and/or your fingers are broken.

Granted, you might not have a clue what to write on your current work in progress (WIP), but writing isn’t just about a WIP. You could write a letter to a friend, an encouraging note to your pastor, a measly shopping list for crying out loud. Writing is writing. It all counts.

I hear you, though. You want to make progress on your Great American Novel, yet you’ve all of a sudden skidded to a stop. Instead of throwing your hands in the air and crying, “I’ve got writer’s block!” give one of these ideas a whirl:

• Write something completely different. A sonnet. A piece of flash fiction. A rebuttal to a letter to the editor.
• Walk away and refuse to think about your story for a day, a week, or two even.
• Kill off a character (one of my personal favorites).
• Add in a new character.
• Do something creative with your hands. Paint a poster. Bake bread. Color with your kids.
• Begin work on another scene.
• Go to a mall and eavesdrop on conversations.
• Write the last scene.
• Think of an event that would make your protagonist weep. Write it.

What do all of these ideas have in common? They put your mind on something other than the spot you were stuck in so that hopefully when you do eventually come back to it, you’ll have a new perspective.

But what if you’re still stuck?

That’s when you need to pull out the big guns. Call a trusted writer buddy and cry on their shoulder, then brainstorm like nobody’s business.

I refuse to believe that writer’s block is real. Is that naive? Cold-hearted? Ignorant? Perhaps, but those are the least of my sins. I serve a pretty big God. If He wants me to write, I will, block or no block. Therein lies my confidence.

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This entry was posted in Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Craft and tagged by Michelle Griep. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michelle Griep

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

5 thoughts on “Is Writer’s Block Real?

  1. When words aren’t coming easily, or I’m not sure where to take my story next, one thing that works for me is to stop and do research on something I need a little more info about for this story. Looking at pictures and maps of the setting, reading about a technical, historical, or other aspect of the story, usually results in more ideas than I can use and I find myself writing again. I may not be writing the same scene I was struggling with, but I’ve overcome inertia and I’m rolling again. Sometimes I keep a list of things I need to research a bit more, then refer to the list when the words aren’t coming easily. And, unlike Hemingway, I love a blank sheet of paper. There are no constraints on a blank page but the limits of my imagination.

    • I agree. When you get that brains-fried feeling, there’s no use in trying to continue writing. At that point, I’ll just write gibberish, if anything at all. Take a walk, a run, or a nap. Sip some coffee. I can generally separate fried brains from that thing people call writer’s block. One requires mental activity, the other mental rest.

  2. One certain cure for writers block is attending law school. After three years of unreasonable deadlines to produce legal “writing”, and the mind games that are part of the system, I can promise you that you will be able to write on demand, pretty much on any topic. I don’t promise you will write well, but you will be able to get something on paper.

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