Yeah, I said it. And I’ll say it again: Stop your whining and sit your ass in the chair. Even if you’re blocked. Especially if you’re blocked.
See, the thing is that writer’s block—or whatever you call those
miserable minutes, hours, days, or weeks in which the words just won’t
come (or are really, really bad when they do come) is the symptom, not
the disease. If you’re stuck, there’s something else going on. Maybe
your characters are flat and underdeveloped. Or you’ve lost track of
your plot. Or, quite simply, you have no idea where the hell the rest
of the story should go.
I ask you: How are you going to find
answers to any of these questions (and they are questions) by ignoring
your work? Yeah, sometimes you might get a quick flash of an idea in
the shower. Or something your spouse says might spark some insight
about one of your characters. But these moments are rare and
superficial; they don’t actually solve the problem. So if you’re hoping
the block will unclog itself, that the words and characters and story
will revive on their own, they won’t. They need you,
the writer, to invest time and sweat and effort that makes you want to
cry and drink and never write again. If you’re not willing to put that
kind of work into your book, stop here. Writing is not for you. You are
not a writer. Quite frankly, you don’t deserve to be.
If, however, you are dedicated to your book, if your story excites you, if it’s all you can think about and even dream about, then stop your whining and sit your ass in the chair.
And don’t even think about procrastinating by “working” on something
else. Face the block head-on. Pull up all of your character development
notes and go through them; add another fear/desire combo or two to the
list, and create scenes where the new fears and desires do battle with
When that’s done, refer to your outline. Don’t have an outline? Make
one. Write two or three paragraphs per chapter—one or two sentences for
each major scene. Create a detailed map that summarizes your book so
far, and continue to do the same for future chapters. Knowing
approximately where your characters and story are heading is an instant
cure for writer’s block. But make sure to allow for spontaneity. An
outline is only a map, after all. Often it’s allowing your characters
to deviate from a scene you’ve planned that gives your story the most life.
Remember: Writing is work. Overcoming writer’s block is work. So if you’ll allow me to say it again, stop your whining and sit your ass in the chair. Got it? Good!