On Writer’s Block

Feeling “stuck” is a common experience for many writers. At some point in your writing career, you will probably find yourself in this predicament. I’m going to explore two versions of stuck.

Meditation on Writer’s Block

So, let’s talk a little about that insidious constipation referred to as writer’s block. Often, it’s a sense that the writing isn’t flowing. There’s simply no idea coming for the next chapter, next plot twist, line of dialogue, and so on. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, whatever you’re working on. Perhaps it’s just a momentary “stuckness” or it’s a more chronic problem. Here are some ideas to jolt you out of the muck and back into the “flow.”

  • Stop writing—Solving your problem can be as simple as this. Instead of wracking your brain, take some time away from the computer and go dance, work in the garden, take a walk, call a friend, read a book of poetry, have a cup of tea. Anything to break up your current frame of mind.
  • Meditate—Again, stop trying to write and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Think of a memorable moment in your life. Think of someone you love, a joyous occasion you shared, a time when you kicked ass, an unforgettably beautiful place you visited—a mountain you climbed, a river you paddled, a city you strolled!
  • Call on the universe for help—Perhaps explain to yourself what is happening in your story and that you don’t have any more good ideas. Then ask for assistance. Don’t expect an immediate answer, but I guarantee one will arrive, either in the middle of the night, while you’re in the shower, or when you least expect it.
  • Work on another story—Stop agonizing over whatever you’re fretting about and work on something else. Write a blog, a poem, a joke, a love story, whatever.

Most importantly, take a break!

The Writer’s Groundhog Day

One of the keys to success as a writer is to spread your fiction writing wings by writing a variety of pieces. I mention this, because as an editor I’ve encountered numerous writers with one novel under their belt, and nothing more. Another form of being stuck. They’ve woken up each day and worked on that novel and reworked it, then revised it yet again—Groundhog Day revisited—but somehow it’s simply not ready for publication.

At that point, my advice: it’s best to move on. Don’t let one novel or memoir become your writing albatross.

I realize it may be difficult to let go of the dream of getting that story published after you’ve put so much effort into it. But think of it as your writing primer, and now that you’ve learned so much about plot, character development, setting, point-of-view, and dialogue, you’re ready to tackle your next novel or short story. Perhaps you’ll switch to memoir?

For those of you struggling with this attachment, I can commiserate because for years I worked on a novel dear to my heart. It was semi-autobiographical, as many first novels are. And that novel received both the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist in Literature fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Seems logical that it should have been published, but after a number of rejections, I decided to take the advice of a veteran editor: “Put it on your shelf and move on to the next one.”

I did. It was my next novel, Saving Phoebe Murrow, that got published and recently won the 2016 New Apple Award in general fiction. The idea for this story came from a newspaper article about a girl who was cyberbullied and then committed suicide. It brought me up short. Almost immediately I knew that I wanted to write a story about cyberbullying and social media.

If you’re lacking inspiration, ask yourself what turns you on, what do you love? I recommend reading voraciously—papers, magazines, and books; watch movies, the news, and talk shows; take a trip to a place you’ve never been; keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you; observe people. Imagine their lives. Jot down notes, stray lines as they arrive, keep a story concept file.

Soon you’ll get an idea for a new book, I promise.

This post is contributed as Guest Post by Author Herta B. Feely

Her novel, SAVING PHOEBE MURROW, won the 2016 New Apple Award in fiction and is available from all major book retailers, indie bookstores, and Amazon. Released by Upper Hand Press (US) and Twenty7 Books (UK).