Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dear O'Abby, Is Writer's Block Real?

Dear O'Abby,

I've been in such a writing funk for the last few months.  None of my projects really interests me, and I can't seem to figure out how to fix the plot and/or pacing problems in any of them.  I've never faced 'writer's block' before, never even believed it was a real thing, but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm wrong.

Is 'writer's block' a real thing, or is it just an excuse writers use when they don't want to write?

Best wishes,


Dear Blocked,

I don't really know if writer's block is a real thing or not.  I just know it feels real when you reach a point in your story where you realize you don't know what happens next and nothing you try seems to move the plot forward or toward the next piece of plot.

Generally speaking, when this happens to me, I leave the project alone for a few days.  I work on something else - a revision, a critique for another writer, a short story - and that usually unsticks me.

But it isn't always that simple.

Sometimes what we call 'writer's block' is your brain telling you there's something else wrong.  Maybe you've been working too hard and need a break.  Maybe your mental health is wavering a little.  Maybe you've just been writing too much and are burning out as a result.

It's important to listen to that voice, to pay attention to what your body might be trying to tell you.  Maybe it is just that you made a wrong turn somewhere around chapter 17 and if you go back and straighten that out, all your problems at the current point in the story will miraculously disappear, but maybe it's something more.

I know most of us write in our downtime.  We have day jobs and families and friends and responsibilities.  These things all take time and energy to maintain - and it's important to maintain them.  Sometimes writing and feeling the responsibility to write adds more pressure to an already pressured situation.

Maybe your hours have been cut at your day job and that means you're struggling to feed your family. Trying to write with that level of stress hanging over you might prove difficult.  Maybe you can't even do it, even though you now have all those extra hours to write available.

It's okay to take a break.  It's okay to stop writing, even if you're on a deadline (just make sure you get in touch with your agent and/or editor and explain the situation).  Sometimes we all need to take a break and do something different.  The writing will still be there and it will probably be better if you're not forcing it when you don't feel it.

It's okay to be kind to yourself.  A little time away from the page is sometimes exactly what you need to figure out what the problem was in the first place.

I still don't know if writer's block is real, I just know that if you are feeling it, it's something you should pay attention to.

X O'Abby

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