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Writer's Block <Combating It>


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So now that we have a creative corner, I figured I would try and contribute some my knowledge to the wonderful people around here. That and maybe I am just bored and done all of my assignments.  :illya:

 

I am still pretty new around here, but if I can help even one person with this, well… that is good enough I guess.


So, as the title says, we will be talking about one of the main struggles almost every single writer will go through at least once during one of their projects. Whether that project be a novel, visual novel, heck even essays and translations to a much lesser extent; it will strike all of us eventually. It is more than likely that you, the reader, have already experienced Writer’s Block at some point, so you already understand the pains associated with it. Or maybe you are one of the lucky few who have never had to deal with such a thing, in which case I envy you entirely and completely.

 

You could be going at breakneck speed through your manuscript, writing tens of thousands of words without having any issue, but sooner or later… you may find yourself smacking your head against a brick wall of blankness unable to figure out where to go from where you are.

 

 

So first off, let’s talk about Writer’s Block and what it is.

 

 

What is Writer’s Block?

 

Writer’s Block, by definition, is when an author loses his ability to produce new work thus creating a block in his creative train of thought. This block can run you down for a few hours, to a much longer time over the span of years when in extreme cases.

So looking at this as writers, this is not something we particularly want. We want to be able to avoid this sort of thing happening to us. But how do we do that?

Well the tough answer to that is that we cannot just so easily prevent it. There are some ways that help keep our minds fresh and circulating new ideas, but there is no sure fire way to keep yourself safe from breaking against the Great Wall of Blanking Out.

Writer’s Block can be entirely discouraging for an author, and for someone who is just getting used to writing larger works; can be absolutely catastrophic in terms of their will to keep writing. I know when I first started trying to write my first manuscript for the first… second… third… fourth… fifth… and sixth times. I honestly lost track after that, but my real problem was that I would get so far in, maybe about 2000 words and all of a sudden everything I had in my head would simply vanish. The Great Wall of Blanking Out would suddenly raise itself in front of my word count and would not allow it to progress any further.

So let’s talk about ways to prevent Writer’s Block, even if it is in a small way. None of it is a guarantee, as everyone is different; but these are the ways that I have found to work and that have worked for the people I have helped through their own Writer’s Block issues.

 

Preventing Writer’s Block:

 

So as we know, Writer’s Block affects our ability to create new work. This does not mean that it only affects new project ideas, but rather it affects the entire creation process. You get so far in and all of a sudden your train of thought is just gone and you have nothing left you can put out because you have hit The Great Wall of Blanking Out. Some don’t even make it as far as the keyboard, thinking that they have not developed their idea enough, or that they just do not have time.

 

So let’s get down to it:

 

1. Outlines Can Be Your Bible/Insert Religious Text

 

One problem I have seen a lot of people run into is that they can go so far in, but all of a sudden lose everything they were about to write. When they just got an idea and started writing, they did not think ahead, and only knew the general plot outline of what they wanted.

 

That is not to say you can't do this, but you run the risk of hitting a wall sooner or later if you don't really know where you are going. Kinda like wandering around the woods when you have never been inside those particular woods before. Go too far and you may end up a tad lost.

 

Taking time and writing an outline of the events that take place in the story is an excellent idea. It provides you with a foundation to build upon when you go to sit down and write. This outline is merely just an outline, so just like your first draft (which I will get to next) you can spill your raw creativity into it and just let the ideas flow out on to the page.

 

Your outline doesn't even have to make coherent sense, just so long as it gives you an idea of the direction you are heading. As long as you have a general idea of what you are doing, the risk of suddenly losing yourself and your story in the first 5-10k words can be greatly reduced.

 

2. Your First Draft is not Your Final Draft

 

Here is another hang up that can easily discourage anyone who is writing. As writers, it makes sense that we have all read wonderful stories. Masterpieces in our own eyes. So obviously, when writing our own works, we want them to be just as good if not better if you are feeling really ambitious.

 

So you sit down and you start writing. You get through the first chapter and you feel pretty darn satisfied, but you take a look through what you have written… and realize that it is not to the quality that you want it to be… so you start editing… but all of a sudden, you realize there is more wrong with it so you start editing that stuff too. Before you know it you have spent two hours editing the first chapter/portion of your work and you just feel absolutely drained from the ordeal. Most people I talk to end up losing their creative flair for the work after that, or if they get any further, end up losing it after subsequent bouts of this over editing process.

So what is the problem here?

 

Editing your first draft to look like a final draft before you have even written the whole thing is just bad news. The Writer and the Editor within you coexist, but they should not be working together at this early stage in the game. The first draft, just like outline, is where you can poor out your raw creativity and just roll with it. No author just sat down, puked out 100k+ words and created a masterpiece… and if they claim to have done so, I am going to call absolute bullshit.

 

Writing a good work takes time, and one needs to force their inner Editor to just calm down and be patient. While the Editor is critical and meticulous, the Writer is freeform and creative. The critical side of the Editor can stifle the creativity of the Writer if they are working side by side at the same time. They do complement one another, just… not at the same time.

 

3. Keep Writing

 

Another pitfall that one might want to avoid is not continuing. You may start with the intention of finishing, but maybe tomorrow you just “don’t feel like it”. But then, the next day after that… you find that you “don’t feel like it again”.

 

Once you start making an excuse not to write like that, you are already on a road to pain when it comes to finishing your work. Writing a story is a time investment, and you are going to have to want it in order for you to even think about finishing it. “Not feeling like it” just isn't in the equation.

 

The problem with this, is that after enough days of not feeling it, you might decide to come back to it. However, this is another lead in to allowing The Great Wall of Blanking Out to encroach on what you are trying to write. Writer’s Block will settle in and all of a sudden you have nothing for what you want to write.

Even if you only write a single sentence, coming back and visiting your project each day is a good way to prevent it from fading in your mind. For one of the main things that Writer’s Block thrives off… is stagnation in the creative sense.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I struggled for years with Writer’s Block. I first started writing original works back in grade four. Until about four years ago, I had never finished anything. Writer’s Block would simply come over and snatch my ideas away from me. Once I hit Grade 9 and came up with a new story (where my Username originates), I just kept in my head, afraid of having development of that halted by another bout of Writer’s Block.

These are just a few techniques you can use to prevent it. Curing Writer’s Block however, is a lot easier than one might think. It requires a lot of willpower, but it can be done.

 

LinovaA’s Method for Working through Writer’s Block:

 

Now while it is no guarantee, as with all of the things in this guide (oh gods this has become a guide?), it may help you if you find yourself in the middle of a particularly long bout of Writer’s Block.

So what happens when you hit this Great Wall of Blanking Out? You run out of ideas. So where do you even go there?

 

The best way to explain is to show an example of what I did.

I sat down and looked at the paper and decided I needed to come up with something of my own creation. Doesn’t matter if it is cliché, but it needs to have a small level of originality to it.

So the best bet was to just come up with a random scenario. However that is normally impossible with Writer’s Block. So here is a format I came up with

 

<Adjective> <noun> <verb> <noun>.

That is all.

 

It’s best not to agonize over this. Seriously just pick any random adjective and any random noun that fits for the first two.

Of course it ended up being this for me:

 

Purple Elephants attack Earth.

 

Not exactly the most elegant of scenarios, but we’ll work with it. So now that one has this completely strange scenario, you need to expand it somehow. So you simply need to add one detail at a time.

 

Purple Elephants attack Earth and enslave humanity.

 

Great. Just great.

 

Add a few details, but after adding a few more details in this fashion… you take your pencil and scratch out something and edit the grammar of the sentence. I of course edited out Purple Elephants.

Earth is attacked and humanity is enslaved by pseudo-Humans from Titan, enforcing a dystopian society.

 

Voila. A scenario. This generally will not work the first time to fix your Writer’s Block. You need to do this over and over again until your brain starts easing up and those little details start coming to you much quicker. Or perhaps until you no longer need to use the simplistic format I laid out earlier.

 

While a lot of people would say to go out and wait for the ideas to come to you, I believe and more proactive approach of force starting your creative engine to be the more efficient way when in a deep rooted bout of Writer’s Block. Of course, the less proactive approach may work with you more. I can't tell you if it is or not because everyone is different.

 

The End:


I do hope I have helped someone out here. I understand Writer’s Block being a huge challenge for a lot of people who are into writing like myself. Hopefully you come out of reading this learning something new, and if you didn’t… well thanks for giving me the time of day regardless. ^_^ None of this is guaranteed to help, but hopefully I have helped give you some tools to help you keep writing and avoid Writer's Block, and perhaps even conquer it.

 

So yeah, thanks for stopping by and giving this a read.

 

 

Edit: I will be coming back to fix any typos when I get home. :)

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A very nice article! :)

 

Overall, I believe writer's block is a mix of several things :

- A sense of perfectionism that actually prevents you from writing "crappy" drafts : you subconsciously prefer writing nothing than writing trash that will need to be improved later.

- Trying to write only with "concepts" in mind, and not concrete examples. For example, the writer wants to have "character X and character Y have a fight." Except he doesn't try to find a reason, how does each character react, what does it influence... 

- A lack of planning between your ideas (as you said yourself) not knowing where you're going prevents you from finding concise ideas and transitions between your scenes / ideas. 

- And more generally, the lack of idea as a whole. But imho, lack of idea for a story is merely a sign that the lore / universe is not enough elaborate, or that the characters lack depth / traits / quirks / personality. The more elaborate all the elements of your story are, the easier it becomes to find links / relation between the lore and the characters, thus making it much easier to find content to write.

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Really great article, thanks a lot for sharing, I'm sure it will help writers out there.

 

- A sense of perfectionism that actually prevents you from writing "crappy" drafts : you subconsciously prefer writing nothing than writing trash that will need to be improved later.

- And more generally, the lack of idea as a whole. But imho, lack of idea for a story is merely a sign that the lore / universe is not enough elaborate, or that the characters lack depth / traits / quirks / personality. The more elaborate all the elements of your story are, the easier it becomes to find links / relation between the lore and the characters, thus making it much easier to find content to write.

 

I used to try writing stuff but mostly failed due to the first reason, even if it wasn't a complete trash, I would discard it because I didn't wanted anything below a 8/10. The second is a real problem and many writers should consider developing more their universe before jumping into the real story.

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Does music generally help keep a steady flow of writing and assist in combating Writer's Block for you guys? It helps me brainstorm ideas for an outline, however that's it usually. When I attempt to write while listening to music it ends up being a hindrance. I guess the music should correlate with whatever you're writing... I don't know. I love listening to music while I write but I don't usually get much done in that time, and silence ends up being more beneficial.

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Does music generally help keep a steady flow of writing and assist in combating Writer's Block for you guys? It helps me brainstorm ideas for an outline, however that's it usually. When I attempt to write while listening to music it ends up being a hindrance. I guess the music should correlate with whatever you're writing... I don't know. I love listening to music while I write but I don't usually get much done in that time, and silence ends up being more beneficial.

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If the mood strikes me and I want to write while listening to music I strictly lean toward instrumental tracks. The reason for this is that I tend to focus on the lyrics and on the meaning behind them if listen to them for too long XD. This is an unnecessary distraction for me so I just resort to instrumental music when writing or studying.

 

A couple of hours of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi and other classical composers I'm all set to go. My ideas flow better when under the influence of classical music. It's more soothing and seems to elicit more provocative and interesting ideas this way. I tried listening to heavy metal when writing, but then I started headbanging and there went my muse...

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  • 2 weeks later...

A very nice article! :)

 

Overall, I believe writer's block is a mix of several things :

- A sense of perfectionism that actually prevents you from writing "crappy" drafts : you subconsciously prefer writing nothing than writing trash that will need to be improved later.

- Trying to write only with "concepts" in mind, and not concrete examples. For example, the writer wants to have "character X and character Y have a fight." Except he doesn't try to find a reason, how does each character react, what does it influence... 

- A lack of planning between your ideas (as you said yourself) not knowing where you're going prevents you from finding concise ideas and transitions between your scenes / ideas. 

- And more generally, the lack of idea as a whole. But imho, lack of idea for a story is merely a sign that the lore / universe is not enough elaborate, or that the characters lack depth / traits / quirks / personality. The more elaborate all the elements of your story are, the easier it becomes to find links / relation between the lore and the characters, thus making it much easier to find content to write.

 

for the last point, does it mean that its better to come up with more detail about the universe and then fit the plot into these elements? One of my biggest (and current) writer's block is in a work in which I have a lot of details of the universe but can't really find a way to fit half of them.

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Also whether you want to create a detailed world first really depends on what kind of writer you are. Some writers need an outline before they can write, on the other hand Terry Pratchett types out 10,000 words of his story before he even thinks about things like "plot". Different strokes for different folks.

 

Precisely this. One of my friends creates the world as she goes, while I myself spend weeks upon weeks fleshing out a world fully before even think of touching down on paper. I mean, my main project has been ongoing for over five years now but I only started writing the story about six months ago.

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for the last point, does it mean that its better to come up with more detail about the universe and then fit the plot into these elements? One of my biggest (and current) writer's block is in a work in which I have a lot of details of the universe but can't really find a way to fit half of them.

 

Not everything in my world will crop up in the story, but they do run in the background help shape the world and give it breath. Events affect other events, which affect other events, and so forth.

 

 

 

-- sorry for this double post.. my internet hates me.. figured I would just make it something relevant instead of complaining --

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Being somewhat of an amateur scribbler myself, tis was a nice thread, especially the bit about purple elephants, never thought about that. 

Here's some opinions and stuff:
- Setting goals and outlines can sometimes work in reverse. You spend all that time telling yourself, once I'm done with this or that part, that's fine. Now I've just got to put this part here... and in doing so, your writing becomes a chore, just a collection of tiny text blocks... So sometimes, you've got to allow yourself to get lost in what you're writing. Try getting inside your character's head for once...

- On music, I generally find that listening to anything with lyrics makes it impossible for me to write anything. So, I'd sometimes try stuff like instrumental jazz, post-rock and even electronic music, but then again, (I don't know how this is for others) the mood and genre of the music has a huge impact on the writing...

-Last but not least, It helps if you've got a friend, an editor, or even just a place online where you can get some feedback and help with spinning out new ideas. We're all blind to our own faults, so if you lose your confidence, you'll fail to recognize even the interesting parts and stall the development of your story before it begins. But other people can see things like that more easily, not that their opinions should drive your writing, but it's a ghost-in-the-shell kind of thing, your own mind is your only yardstick so trying to measure something which comes from your mind can be very hard at times.

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  • 2 months later...

I have always had problems with writing characters. One day I read in a book about novel writing that you have to imagine yourself sitting in an interview room with your main character. Then start bombarding the character with questions: why do you feel that way? Why do you want to kill this person? What plot are you scheming? What changed your attitude towards this character?

 

I found this very helpful for setting a character. It also prevents you from putting too much of yourself into the character you're writing.

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you for this thread. I am actually struggling with writers block myself at the moment. I never thought about the purple elephants thing before and it could possibly be the answer to this annoying "great wall of blanking out".   ^_^

 

The other tips have been helpful too. I'll probably end up making an instrumental music playlist on YouTube to listen to while I write. 

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