Breaking through writer’s block

Ren recently asked how we cope with writer’s block.

Sheer blunt force, I said. There are times I don’t feel like writing, or when I don’t feel like writing what I’ve been assigned to write. I usually just muscle through it, especially in the latter case. That’s one good thing I learned in the news business. If it’s your job to write about GDP growth, you write about GDP growth, even if you’d much rather be shopping.

breaking writer's block

Photo by Gerville Hall •

Until my recent struggles putting together the ending of Book Two, the hardest time I had breaking through had been in writing the fight scene in Alara’s Call when Alara is captured by enemy soldiers. In the original version, It went something like: They fought for a few minutes, and then she was knocked unconscious.

My book doctor firmly told me that was not acceptable. I had fallen into one of the classic blunders (see No. 24).

I needed to describe the whole thing, blow by blow. I didn’t want to.

It took a whole afternoon, and a couple pots of tea, but I did it. I would write a sentence, get up, pace around, try to visualize the fight, go back write another sentence, repeat…and periodically realize half of what I had done was crap. Rewrite. Repeat. Wore me out.

And the story is much better for it.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

6 comments on “Breaking through writer’s block

  1. Very good, Kristen! I’ll have to look at that list of blunders too – and repost it on my own blog. (When I do, everyone here will then have access to my revamped blog and its new address. Shameless plug. 😉 )

    How does the following land on you, as a counselor I know puts it, and on the rest of you? I don’t know how other authors process information but I know that when I have so-called *writer’s block”, it’s the part of my mind which deals with logical systems thinking trying to work out a logical conundrum in “the way my world works”. And I have learned to make this my ally and not my stumbling block. All I have to do is give my mind time to work out the conundrum.

    Anything else – for me – which most might consider “writer’s block” is either fear of what others might think of the results or else pure laziness, sometimes disguised as procrastination. I have to remember there are other parts of my mind which likewise need time to do their proper job and that isn’t wasted time either.

    One thing that helps for me is that if I’m stuck on one mental process, I shift to another to relieve it. I can do one thing openly while in the background, enable something else to advance toward a solution. Win-win. Old trick applied in many ways in the human experience (“no human problem can be solved by the same form of consciousness which created it”). 🙂

    • You are correct that there are lots of different types of writers’ block. There’s just not knowing what comes next; there’s logical conundrums like you describe, and there’s fear. And more besides. Each one needs a different approach, I think. Sometimes setting the scene on which you’re blocked and working on something else gives “the boys in the basement,” as Stephen King calls it, time to sort out the problem.

  2. Reblogged this on Tales of the Undying Singer and commented:
    Very good! Writing Tip #24 on the following page features in this blog: http://www.wherethemapends.com/writerstools/writers_tools_pages/tip_of_the_week–21-30.htm
    For me, “writer’s block” is usually the logical systems thinking in my mind working out a conundrum. I’ve learned to make this my ally and not a stumbling block. It is always worth the time to let that part of my mind be the millstone which grinds slowly, yet exceedingly fine. Likewise with anything else which gives me a hang-up.

  3. […] Whether the point of frustration with your work in progress is boredom, as with John’s colleague, or just not know what comes next, which is what I’ve been dealing with, the only way to really deal with it is to just keep at it. This kind of resistance is just another form of writer’s block that needs breaking through. […]

  4. […] inertia, pressing through resistance, breaking through writer’s block—whatever you call it, we all struggle with it. As much as we enjoy it, writing is hard work, and […]

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