All writers hit a point where they experience some from of writer’s block. Many non-writers believe there is only one kind of writer’s block – and they draw up the image of the harried and frustrated writer, hunched over a keyboard, fingers poised and ready, sweat pouring down the sides of the writer’s face.
But it isn’t always like that.
There are as many forms of writer’s block as there are causes for it. Sometimes it is personal stress in the writer’s life; worries about bills or family members, or just the ordinary stress of life. At other times the cause may be looming deadlines. While a lot of people think they work better under the pressure of a deadline, that is seldom true nor does it produce the best results. Often, that pressure hanging over a writer’s head serves to distract rather than motivate, and thus results in a form of writer’s block that creates added pressure for the writer.
Another form of writer’s block comes courtesy of self-doubt. Often, a writer feel’s insecure about a story, or about his or her ability, or about the writing process. Ever hear someone say “I’ve often thought about writing a book,” and then you find out he or she has never written a word of it? These people are blocked so completely because of their insecurities about writing that they can’t even consider giving it a try!
Then there are those times when the block is caused by the writing itself.
There are times when your story just isn’t working for one reason or another. I recently confessed to my writing partner that I have about a dozen different novels that I’ve started that have been left in various states of unfinished because I got stuck on them. At first when I told him this (he asked, I wasn’t bragging or anything), Jared had a hard time understanding how you could abandon a story once you’d started it.
“Easy,” I said. “You quit working on it and move to another one that is working more effectively for you.”
Now I know why he asked. He got stuck with a story. It’s a great book – or it will be when he comes back to it, but right now isn’t the time for it. Other things are calling his attention, and there are deeper issues with this story that his is only now beginning to realize. But this story has blocked him for more than six months, and it’s time to try something different. And when he comes back (assuming he does, but maybe he chooses not to), the story will benefit from a renewed commitment, and he will benefit in having grown as a writer.
It’s a hard choice to make. I know. I’ve done it a dozen times or so (those are just the stories I started and saved on the computer. I didn’t count the ones that are lost in notebooks and binders somewhere). Many of these I’ll get back to in the future – or maybe I won’t. Often I find that the ideas I had a few years ago are not as strong or marketable as what I come up with now. When I go back and look through those abandoned “babies” of mine, I no longer feel regret or guilt. One of the many painful lessons I’ve learned over the years is that my stories are a commodity whose value changes over time. I’ll create more, and they may or may not be excellent ideas, and I may or may not finish them. I’ve got several that I’ve finished, I’ll finish many more. Shelving a few that aren’t up to par doesn’t make me feel bad at all.