Unblocking Writers Block by Diane Wylie
We’ve all have those times when you sit down to write something, whether it is an email or a full novel, and end up staring at the blank screen. Maybe you’ve been writing along without a problem and suddenly you can’t think of what will happen next. It all amounts to writer’s block.
There have been a multitude of articles defining and offering hints on how to deal with this subject. A Wikipedia entry defines it as “a condition, primarily associated with typing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to more extreme examples in which some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years, and some have even abandoned their supposed lifelong careers.”
Whoa! Wait a minute! Blocked for years? Abandoning their careers? Isn’t that a bit extreme?
Maybe it is extreme. Maybe those writers had more problems than mere writer’s block. In fact, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald of The Great Gatsby fame, was said to have been an alcoholic and died at only 44 years old. He supposedly suffered from writer’s block at times in his life. But his problem might be like the chicken-and-the-egg story…which came first? Did Fitzgerald drink because he was blocked or was he blocked because he drank? Only he would know that answer to that question, but he certainly can’t tell us.
I came across a blog that claims there are 10 types of writer’s block HERE
Wow! I had no idea there were that many types. But after reading this article, I guess the technical writer in me came out. (In case you didn’t know, technical writers are trained to make things as short and concise as possible.) In my mind, all 10 things amounted to the same issue…the writer is “stuck” or blocked. As Webster’s online dictionary defines it: “the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.”
Call it what you want, the words are not flowing out of your keyboard or pen.
Let’s get down to business here. How do I unblock myself?
As a romance novelist, I’ve been blocked too. Now, it is interesting to note that I’ve never been blocked in my professional role as a technical writer. Why? Because a technical writer rarely creates something out of nothing. Usually someone would give me a piece of software to document or a part to install on an instrument, and I would proceed to write up the instructions. So, there is a tangible object to write about. When I put on my author hat, there is nothing but the voices inside my head. (No, I am not crazy, unlike Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, I’ve never needed to be tested.)
Once again, inquiring minds want to know, how can a writer get unblocked? Try these things:
- Assuming you’ve become blocked in the middle of writing, go back and read what you’ve already written. I might go back and read from the beginning of the chapter or maybe even from the beginning of the book again. My first novel, JENNY’S PASSION, took me two years to write because I did exactly that. Before I would start a writing session, I would read the whole thing from the beginning again. It helped me maintain the flow of the story because my writing sessions are sometimes weeks apart.
- Suppose you haven’t written a word yet and are just starting at the blank screen? In this case, I might go find my favorite book by another author and read it again. I’ve gotten my creative juices flowing more than once by picking up Diana Gabaldon’s fabulous historical, “Outlander” and reading favorite scenes over again.
- Another way to help get the blood flowing to your body and your brain is to get out of your chair and do something physical. Go for a walk. Clean a toilet or scrub a floor. Go wash your car. Just go distract yourself and stop thinking about writing for a while. Some of my best ideas have come to me while I am scrubbing the bathroom floor. Sometimes you need to give the conscious brain a rest and let the subconsciousness work on the problem.
- Because I am a big fan of using real events or places in my books, I can sometimes get my writing moving forward again by picking up a book or surfing the net to do some research. This worked especially well for my Civil War romances like SECRETS AND SACRIFICES and LILA’S VOW. My Dad left me a whole series of books on the Civil War. I would just pull one out and start reading. Eventually, I would come across something interesting and the story would flow again. For instance, in LILA’S VOW, I sent my heroine off to do some spying for the Union army. I needed something for her to “discover”. I came across a description of an early submarine-type vessel that the Confederates were planning to use against the Federal navy, and my story flowed from my fingertips again.
- Change the story’s point-of-view. If you’ve been writing along in the hero’s viewpoint and the story grinds to a halt, switch to the heroine’s viewpoint and see what she would do next.
- Make something unexpected happen. You could decide to suddenly kill off a character or, as I did for my most recent release, MAGIC OF THE PENTACLE, I changed the direction of the story and sent my characters off to another country. As an immortal magician, Richard Blackstone (my hero), was living and performing in California. After having roamed the earth for over 400 years, he decides to revisit the place where it all began. He returns to Bodiam Castle in England and encounters more trouble, this time of the spirit-world type. So I took my story off in a different and unanticipated direction. Readers love it.
I’m sure that you can come up with your own ideas to unblock your muse and get back to writing. I’d love for you to comment with what you’ve done that has worked to “unblock” your writing.
Diane Wylie’s Biography
Multipublished, award-winning romance author, Diane Wylie, loves books that will take her on an emotional roller coaster ride. What better genre than romance to do that? Adventure, passion, and intrigue are her favorite aspects of any book.
She has four historical romances published, Adam’s Treasure, Secrets and Sacrifices, Jenny’s Passion, and Lila’s Vow, along with short story, “A Soldier to Love.” Readers and reviewers alike love her stories. Lila’s Vow won a 2010 Reviewer’s Choice Award from Two Lips Reviews, was voted Best Book of the Week on November 30, 2009 by Long and Short Reviews, and garnered the 2009 Coffee Time Recommended Read Award from Coffee Time Reviews.
Her first series, The Mark of the Magician, is a paranormal/fantasy romance series featuring magicians whose powers each come from mysterious amulets, but at a price. Book One is Moonlight and Illusions, Book Two is Magic of the Pentacle, and Book Three (to come) is Magic at the Roxy.
She also has two short pieces, A Soldier to Love and Prelude to Magic available for the Kindle and Nook.
Diane makes her home in Maryland with her husband, a former racecar driver; her son; and her crazy Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy. She loves to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren as often as possible.
Visit Diane’s website to learn more about her and her upcoming novels.