Tips from Writers on Overcoming Writer's Block
By Marcelle Hutchins
For some writers, one of the scariest moments of writing is starting the first sentence. Writing the first part can be tricky, and sometimes when a writer sits down in front of a blank sheet of paper or computer screen there’s nothing. Other times words just flow out.
Famous writers like Mark Twain, Ralph Ellison, and F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered from writer’s block. Maya Angelou wrote the acclaimed memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and yet experienced periods of writer’s block.
So what is writer’s block? And how do we define a condition that prevents writers from producing new work? Professor of English and author Pat O’Donnell says writer’s block happens when writers are judging their work before they begin. In fact, adds O’Donnell, “If you can’t write something great, write something okay. If you can’t write something okay, write something bad.”
O’Donnell’s experience with writer’s block is that it tends to come with the mindset of the individual. “If I start worrying if it’s any good, if it’s going to be published, or if someone will hate it, then I might get writer’s block.”
If you begin to give up or stop writing, remember that writing takes a long time and it’s simply part of the process. You don’t have to write a lot says O’Donnell, “If I give myself two hours to write, and stay there, something will happen. Just don’t get up—or if you do get up, come back right away to what you were doing.”
While writing her novel Necessary Places O’Donnell realized that she had to be patient and wait for the story to unfold: “I wrote a book in which a woman takes her father, who is in a wheelchair in a nursing home, on a trip from Maine to Iowa. The plot grew out of that; I didn't know what it would be when I started. I figured it out as I went along. You can't decide too much in advance, because you need to let the story lead you sometimes.”
Fortunately, there are so many ways to deal with writer’s block. Story Shares writers give tips to overcome writer’s block for the 2015 Relevant Reads Story of the Year Contest.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment to write
Angela Dell’Isola, author of Leap of Faith suggests making time to write. “Don’t wait for the “perfect moment.” Don’t write only when you have an idea in mind, or when you have some extra time. Make time for your writing, and then just write something.”
Get to know your characters
Another technique writers can use is to get to know the characters during the writing process. For instance, says Dell’Isola, “If I’m not sure what my character is going to do next, I make a list of ten to twenty things about him/her that my readers will never know. Getting to know your character’s details makes them more real, and can point you in the right direction.”
Write whatever comes to mind
Kelly Winters, author of Jacob and the Bee Man and Jacob’s Trouble says when a writer first sit down to write, don’t worry about the edits because it can be done later. The most important thing a writer can do is “write as freely as you can, believe in yourself and your story, keep going, and finish it completely before you go back and revise it. Enjoy yourself and make it fun.”
Writer’s block is not a dead-end
Jennie Ford, author of In The Pines encourages writers to always keeping going. “It is not the end, but a challenge to dive deeper into your thoughts. Don't keep driving down that road to nowhere, take a new road, and most importantly, keep writing!”
Written by Marcelle Hutchins
Write a story for the 2015 Relevant Reads Story of the Year Contest!