Wrestling With the Wrath of Writer’s Block

Staring at a blank page and not having the words flow the way they did last week, or even yesterday, is every writer’s nightmare. Writer’s block can feel paralyzing, especially with a deadline fast approaching, and it can often leave writers wondering if they should give up on their craft. Some would say it’s a rite of passage. Others would argue it just takes shaking things up.

To help out, I tracked down willing writers of various genres who have faced the plague of writer’s block, and who were willing to share their cures or tips for preventative maintenance.

Novelist: Hildie McQueen

Writer’s Block, or “Where was I going with this” syndrome affects all authors at some point. While working on my latest book The Rancher, I became so frustrated. My poor hero, Grant Gentry, sat on his horse without a clear destination and I thought, well crud, nobody wants to read this boring crap. So I did what I normally do, I walked away from the story.

That is my secret. When you hit a brick wall, turn around and walk away. For me there’s nothing like a drive down long country roads to clear the mind and get the story back on the right path. Sometimes I even invite the hero or heroine along.

It’s amazing what drives in rural Georgia does to the characters in my head. They loosen up and start talking. Maybe it’s the fresh air, or maybe they’re afraid I’m going to kill them off?

Playwright: Everett Robert

As a playwright, the most important thing for me to write is dialogue. When I’m struggling to hear a character’s voice, I’ll often stop whatever I’m doing, turn off the music or noise and go to a coffee shop, walk around a college campus, or go to a retail store. I find that writer’s block doesn’t come from a lack of “ideas,” but rather a lack of “voice.” Listening to other voices helps me tune in my muse to the character voices I’m struggling to hear.

Novelist: Julie Benson

When I wrote Bet On a Cowboy I suffered from writer’s block. The charismatic man I loved enough to give his own story clammed up on me. My heroine wouldn’t share her internal conflict with me. I feared I’d miss my deadline for my first book written under contract. At a workshop I attended with Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, they said to keep writing until the story makes sense. Trusting them, that’s what I did. When I hit the major love scene on page 137, suddenly everything made sense. I knew the answer — my heroine wanted children but didn’t think she’d ever have a meaningful relationship. I added a scene at the beginning with her checking into having a child through artificial insemination. The rest of the book practically wrote itself from there. Now when writer’s block hits I know that as long as I keep writing, eventually everything will make sense.

Fiction Writer: Daniel Sherrier

Exercise is a wonderful remedy for writer’s block. Writing, obviously, is a sedentary activity, but being sedentary is how cobwebs form in your brain. That might help if you’re writing about cobwebs, but otherwise, they’ll just get you stuck. So, go out for a run, take a kickboxing class, or even just a brisk walk might do the trick. You’ll come back to your work feeling energized, and you’ll have done something your body needs anyway. Your entire self wins — and your book does, too.

Ghostwriter and Novelist: Heather Hummel

As a ghostwriter, my clients often provide me with the basic concepts for their books, sometimes even an outline and some material. However, it’s up to me to organize and write the rest of the material to complete their book for them. To do this, and to write my own novels, I’ve always had two effective muses that prevent writer’s block.

One is cycling, as I have been known to write entire chapters in my head while pedaling on long bike rides. I see my laptop as the tool for putting the words down, but much of my writing actually formulates in my head while riding. (The trick is remembering them later when I go to type the words on my laptop.) For this reason, I tend to ride alone, so I can quiet my mind with only the whirl of tires on the pavement beneath me.

My other muse is photography. Because I’m also a land and seascape photographer, I find the cross-creative roles feed on one another. If I’m feeling stuck with a chapter, I load up my car with my camera gear and my two dogs (they make great assistants) and head out to spend time photographing Mother Nature. By the time I return home, I am always refreshed and ready to write again. Having the mix of visual and written careers keeps me motivated on both fronts.

If you have a favorite muse, please share them in the comments below.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post 9/07/14

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