The Painful Affliction of Writer’s Block

Stumped. Stuck. No longer moving and you can’t figure out why. You’ve got all the right ingredients and they seem to be mixing together, frothy and active–like yeast eating sugar and water before making bread. At the cafe of your plot, your characters and devices are commingling over lattes and cappuccinos like real people, but then everything stops.

Where do you go from here?

There’s no dialogue, no motion, no inventory to work from. Everything is frozen and you can’t find the defrost button. You know this isn’t the end, couldn’t be; but you just don’t know where to go from here–except to the land of muses and inspiration.

What will get things moving?

Writer’s block, the moment–possibly mid-sentence–when you’re smooth as silk and then the fabric catches on an unforeseen hook and you’re going nowhere fast. You’ve lost your inspiration, your muse. What are some things you can do to fight the big block keeping you from the keyboard?

1) Try picking up a pen.
Yep, you read that right. Switch your media of choice. If you’re normally clacking away at the keyboard, switch to a legal pad and pen. Try the cocktail napkin left by the casino waitress and a scoring pencil from the mini-golf course next door. Or if you’re normally gripping that last inch of a pencil with the lead worn to a nub, try picking up an old Underwood Touchmaster 5 and punch it out like Jack Torrance from The Shining.


2) Get out and experience life.
Sometimes all you need is a little bit of perspective. Those lines of dialogue in that major confrontation scene not quite coming out? Go sit in a bus station or in a park. Head to the mall, and just sit and observe people. Listen (without overtly eavesdropping) to how people talk to each other; watch how they interact with each other as they talk. Put your characters’ faces in those interactions and you can figuratively watch your story come to life.

3) Work on another project.
Now, this might not work for you if you’re working toward a deadline or if you have superhuman focus and just can’t pull yourself out of a project. However, when you focus your attention elsewhere, it can give your subconscious a chance to reconfigure what you’re stuck on. Sometimes if you’re working on a longer work try your hand at that short story you’ve had simmering for the last few months. Or, on the flip, if you’re pumping out short stories and you’ve gotten stuck–focus on an outline for a novel or novella.

There are plenty of others out there, but these are a couple that I use a lot when I’m plugging away at a story that just won’t leave me. Just this week I had a breakthrough on the first novel in a series I’m working on because I followed that first point. Apparently, my characters like to interact with me old school, through a ball-point pen and spiral notebook!

What are some of the methods you use to fend off writer’s block?