Sometimes the words flow, scenes practically write themselves, and everything is fine in the world. Other times, crafting a single sentence seems like an impossible feat. When this happens, I always wonder whether this is it. The end. I'll never write anything worthwhile again.
Yeah, this probably sounds a bit melodramatic, but it's how it feels. For a writer, not being able to write is awful. It can feel like the end of the world, but of course it's not. There are ways to defeat writer's block. The best way depends on the underlying problem.
So here are some common problems and the solutions that work for me.
Problem: The manuscript isn't working. If there's an issue with my project, my writing grinds to a halt and my passion fades.
Solution: When this happens, I need to accept that there's a problem and focus on fixing it. Instead of trying—unsuccessfully—to plow ahead, I need to stop and reassess the manuscript. This generally involves reading what I've already written, adjusting the plot and/or characters, and cutting the parts that don't work. It can feel like a step backward, especially if I'm losing a lot of words, but it's the only way to move forward and to produce a finished manuscript I can be proud of.
Problem: I'm thinking about another project. This usually becomes a problem when I'm waiting for feedback on a finished manuscript. When I try to write something new, I find myself obsessing over the coming response—what it's going to be and when I'm going to get it. I may also worry that as soon as I get really into a new project, I'll have to stop to do revisions on the other manuscript.
Solution: Write something other than a novel. I'm at my happiest when I'm working on a project, so I don't want to take a long break, but sometimes starting a new novel just isn't a good idea. Instead, I should focus on something else—blog posts, short stories, picture books, etc. These things aren't easier to write, but they are different, which can be refreshing. They're also shorter, which is perfect when I don't want to invest in a big project.
Problem: I'm feeling down. When I'm having problems in life, it can be difficult to muster the energy and motivation needed to write.
Solution: Commit to a short writing session. If I tell myself that I only have to write for ten minutes, it doesn't seem so daunting. When the ten minutes are up, I may decide to stop, but more often, I'll have gotten into the project and I'll want to keep going. A good writing session always makes me feel like I've accomplished something. It boosts my mood, making it easier to write again later.
What triggers writer's block for you? What helps you defeat writer's block?