It is a term which strikes terror into the hearts of many a fledgling writer. Like the name of some bogeyman, it has them scuttling for safety, desperately clutching their manuscript to their chest in case it gets infected.
But what is Writer's Block? I mean, what is it really?
As with everything that involves humans (especially creative ones), there is much debate - some of it quite aggressive - on the matter.
As you have come to expect from us; our opinion is rather controversial and goes somewhat against the grain, as it were.
We will start by going off on an apparent tangent;
Writing your Blogs and your Posts
You may or may not be aware that it is recommended that, in order to get people interested in your work and so forth, you should post on your blog or Facebook (or similar) page at least once a day. No more than thrice but at least once is my recommendation.
We'll talk about what we call the 'Writer's Toolkit' later on.
The point is, you need to write a post of decent enough length and which at least you think is interesting once a day. Reinforcing your brand, sharing news about your progress, your day, the humours of your cats, dogs, children, spouse. Your mental state that day, what you ate and how you cooked it, something like this; it really depends on what kind of audience you have and what you kind of audience you want to have. The odd post and share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can't go astray either.
There may well be days when you don't feel like that or no topic appears to suggest itself to you. You start writing a few words or looking for suitable pictures and...nothing. It can happen and it is rather frustrating when it happens.
What do you do? Curl up and forget about posting that day because nothing is coming to you?
Well, obviously that is the wrong answer but you did think about it before replying so thank you for that!
Now, the sharper among you may well see where I am going already. This was not a tangent at all. This was, perhaps, what a sea-food inspired alien might point out as being a trap.
This is a Job
Writer's block then, yes we're back on course.
Before I continue, I'll ask you a quick question, have you heard of other kinds of block? Plumber's block? Driver's Block? No, I haven't either, I was just curious.
Writer's Block...that moment when your mind is a complete blank and you can't think of anything to write about so you end up writing about writer's block...
See what I did there? I gave you what those in the detective and law enforcement business call a clue...
Writer's block isn't a thing, as such, it is more of a combination of things. You can still write, just not about what you wanted to write about; i.e. that scene which you just can't get right or that novel/short story you're really trying to finish. Perhaps you should call it Story Block instead of Writer's Block for accuracy.
A Narrative Interlude
What many of you might not know about me is that I used to and, as far as the lore, still do have a weakness for the Wargaming system of WH40K. Gav, Graham, etc. all know about it. I don't paint or play but I love the lore and the work of several of those who work for its infamous Black Library brand and turn out some excellent novels and series.
What fewer of you know is that I was, from around the age of 14, writing a novel called Bloodstar which I completely loved and had great passion for. I filled A5 notebooks with my scrawl, I sketched character portraits, I wrote background and fluff. I admit to be being inspired by Tolkien somewhat, into wanting to create a sort of knights, orcs, and elves in space thing. I developed the fluff and then I discovered WH40K because on of my friends collected Space Marines.
Bloodstar bore and incredible resemblence to the WH40K universe. My super-soldier humans were quite a lot like Space Marines. It was quite a blow. I tried to figure out how I could make it different enough not to be accused of unintentional plagarism but nothing came. Those aspects I would need to change were so central and entwined into the fabric of the story that it couldn't happen. There were differences but not enough to avoid accusations of plagarism or bad fan fiction. Now, before McNeill comments, the Black Library didn't exist then, we're talking RT 2nd or 3rd Edition times here; I only discovered that option decades later.
Now, that could have killed my writer's ambitions dead cold right there. I'd spent years of my time, poured a lot of my passion into, involved family and friends as beta readers, made plans and dreamed dreams. I'd brought characters to life and developed them in my immature way. I'd come up with some crazy stuff I still enjoy reading today (the manuscript, printed and bound is at the bottom of a drawer somewhere). One thought stuck with me that never went away...
You're bloody good at this, you just need to find what to write...
After Bloodstar, came the Trinity Series. Gabriel was loosely based on what my adolescent mind considered to be an idealised version of me and some downright strange experiences I have had in my life. I exaggerated a lot, the obvious stuff but not all of it. I wrote some bits and played around with the story but my heart was never in the direction I felt that it had to go based on the style of the narrative. It was missing some vital and important thing that's turn it from a half-formed mess into something I'd be proud of.
Then I sort of allowed things to slide. Bloodstar fell away into the obscure regions where nobody remembered it but me, Trinity hit a wall and went no further...that began around 2001 or so.
Then, as often happens in these case, narrative causality realised that it was missing out and decided to lift its head and bring my two favourite miniature ladies into my life. It's funny how things just happen isn't it (thinking about this is what inspired me to write the short story "Oh, what the Hell" which I'll share on here shortly)?
I will summarise; as my daughters were arriving, my wife and I were in what one might call tight financial circumstances, things were tight without having the girls to care for, tighter yet (though we'd never begrudge them a drop) when they came.
I thought to myself "what am i really good at?" and, as the cliche often repeats, the rest is history. I doubt I'll ever get a place in any history book not written by myself but that is undoubtably another story...boom boom.
Years and years ago I'd thought about a seed of an idea of a story maybe I'd play with one day, as a short or commission probably. Just a single question at the time; what would have happened had Alexander the Great not died in Babylon in 323 AD?
I decided to sit down and scribble out a story, just a short, involving just that premise and, to cut it short, it somehow evolved rather rapidly into what has become the Hegemony series. Characters from Bloodstar cropped up, the Trinity series actually became a part of that universe and a minor character or two from each decided that they would like, thank you very much, a decent role in this here new story.
I rewrote a number of fragments I'd worked on years ago and created over 10,000 words of new ones in around three weeks. I spend every waking hour on this new project and wrote some of the best material of my life to date. Plotlines which had previously escaped me appeared to be developing themselves, the story just unrolled, apparently beyond my control. The wellhead of creativity had been uncapped and everything that had built up in there over the years was very keen indeed to get out.
Then we have, of course, The Chronicles of Enoch. The Hegemony will be back one day, when I have time from the Chronicles to give it the edits it needs but, for now, it is all about The Chronicles.
So, your assumption that there is a point to all of that is a valid one. My writer's block was, indeed mostly in my own mind. My uncertainties, insecurities, priorities, and anxieties were responsible. I was suffering an issue of will, a lack of direction, not inflicted with a nebulous malady. I believed I could not write the thing and I did not.
The second I rekindled that belief, I was unable to stop.
Just like this article here before you now. I'd spent close to an hour fuffering around and writing nothing. I was, though, determined to meet my commitments and so wrote about the very thing I was experiencing and look at what happened! It ended up a little longer than I'd anticipated.
The point is this; you do not suddently lose the ability to write. You fail to see how to write what you want but this is not the end of the world. You are a writer with ink in your blood and therefore could write about anything you choose to write about. You are a slave to The Words and they will exact their price on you.
Do not be afraid to abandon or set aside a project you have been working on for days, months, or even years, you can come back to it later. Chances are that if you cannot find a way to make it flow, gel together, or go to the next level t, you won't be able to in an hour's time. You could write a cracking short story or excellent blog post instead and inadvertantly find the answers that had been evading you at the same time.
Or maybe you need to leave the story to die because it was never supposed to be written the way you were writing it and needs time for you to realise this. Trust your instincts. If the story is fighting and resisting you so much, you need to ask yourself why.
The block is internal, not external, so if it's resisting, it's because you see something that needs to be fixed. Let go, stand back, separate.
It will come to you later and if it doesn't, your new story will be better. You've just learned something vitally important; the story is bigger than you, that's why it needed to get out, the other one wasn't ready yet.
Writer's Block does exist, don't get me wrong. It exists for as long as you allow it to exist for.
You beat it in the usual way. Think of that time you were struggling to solve a crossword. That one clue just will not come to you not matter how many times you read it or stare at the board. Eventually, you either step away in rage or thirst/nature's call overrule your stubborness. Within moments, the answer often just pops into your head out of nowhere, as it were.
You always knew the answer but your intense concrentration, frustration, and other emotional attachments to the solution meant you could not see it. The second you allowed your mind to wonder onto unrelated events, the answer surfaced calmly on its own.
As there always is - in life and in these articles - there's a lesson in that.