The Worst Block

Imagine that you’re writing. The words are flowing like water, the ideas coming without thought. Then it hits. You pause, staring blankly at the screen on your computer, watching that little line flashing in and out of sight. What next? You don’t know. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner. Maybe your characters simply aren’t behaving the way you intended, and so you don’t know or want to know how they’re going to react. Maybe you’ve just hit a brick wall. Whatever it is, you’re experiencing the bane of all writers: writer’s block.

Writer’s block is something that we’ve all experienced; anyone who denies it is lying through his teeth. It is one of the most agonizing things known to a writer (along with switching between past tense/present tense and first person/third person, mid-sentence). Whether it lasts a few days or a few years, that little block will seem like an eternity in hell. You know you should be writing. You want to write something. It’s frustrating and terrifying. You, the author, control everything that happens in your story. You should know the ins and outs. If even you don’t know how to fix the problem, then how can you expect anyone to consider you a real writer? You’ve failed. You can’t write; you’re nothing. You’re just like everyone else.

If you’re thinking something similar to this, maybe your writer’s block is telling you something.

You’ve been holed up in your room for weeks or months, just writing. You’ve been so involved in the story that you know it inside and out–and even if you don’t, you’ve invested so much time into this endeavor that you are obligated to finish. That’s a lot of pressure. Not pressure from anyone else; they won’t blame you if you don’t finish this story “on schedule.” It’s internal pressure. You’ve got this idea that you need to finish, and you need to do it now. That pressure grows and grows until it’s too much, and then it flips a switch. Your brain or body or both cry out “NO!” No more writing. No more plot. No more characters. No more words.

Writer’s block is something that many people attribute to a lack of ideas or passion, and that they simply need to find their inspiration again. I don’t believe this is true. I think that writer’s block is your body and brain telling you to take a break, and you need to listen. Step back. Put your story away. Now is the time to focus on other things, like your life, your family and friends. You should go for a walk, plan a date with your friends (or significant other), play some sports. Read for pleasure instead of “research.” Watch a movie. Eat something besides microwave pizza or take-out Chinese. Just…relax. For however long you like, just live. That witty remark your friend made isn’t something that your main character might say in XXX situation–it’s just a witty remark. Laugh and enjoy it. That cat curled up on the piano does not look just like the cat in your story–it simply looks warm and fuzzy and pettable. So pet the cat (and try not to startle it into running away).

The point I’m trying to make is that writer’s block is something most people stress out over when they run into it, but really, it’s just a way of saying you’re already too stressed out from writing. You need a break. If you feel like staring at a blinking cursor will help you write more, go for it. But I believe that taking a break from writing and relieving that pressure you’ve put on yourself will be far more beneficial to your writing. And trust me–your friends will appreciate you for paying some attention to them every once in a while.

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