Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Questioning Writer's Block

Since I visit so many blogs a day there are so many times that I have ideas that pop into my head for a new post due to a bloggers post for that day. This happened last week, the wonderful j.leigh.bailey had an amazing post! I'm going to steal a little from her but of course I'm making you all aware she grabbed the information first! She's been reading Writer's Digest and with it came a free mini book when she signed up the book was asking if you had what it took to be a writer. She's been posting the weekly columns they have and Week four is the one I want to showcase.

Here is what it said:

Ask twenty writers what causes writer's block, and you'll probably get twenty different answers. The causes of writer's block usually don't have anything to do with writing, but rather are connected to factors that distract writers, keeping them from concentrating on the craft....


You may not have a clear understanding of how you want [your work] to turn out. You may be writing it one way, when you know subconsciously that it would be better if it were treated some other way....


Anxiety about the quality of one's writing is frequently cited as a cause of writer's block. Novelist Dean Koontz claims this is easily solved: "Read a novel by a really bad writer whose work you despise, and tell yourself 'If this junk can get into print, publishers will fight one another for the rights to my book.'"

I was immediately intrigued by the first paragraph only because it couldn't have been more true. So I figured what better way to test this theory then on a blog?! So I ask you... and I'm hoping I get more than twenty responses! When asked what causes writers block what do you say??

My answer: Too many ideas. I find that when I'm in my current WIP I get a major case of writers block when there are so many options, so many paths I could take and so many full flowing ideas running through my mind, I don't have time to sort them out fast enough which causes a blockage I can't break. Thanks to the hubs he listens to all my ideas, offers input and from there normally I am freed from my writers cage! Thanks j.leigh.bailey for posting this!!BTW Dean Koontz's comment still cracks me up!

60 comments:

Aubrie said...

What causes writer's block for me?

I don't know what happens next! I have to think about the next chapter before I can start typing. If I don't: Voila-writer's block!

Susan Fields said...

Have you tried writing down all your ideas and putting them into an outline? A lot of times I'll make a list of all my ideas and then cross out the ones I don't want until only the best are left.

What causes writer's block for me? I honestly don't ever remember having it. Usually there's just not enough time to write as much as I want to write.

I love Dean Koontz's comment, too - very good advice! :)

Candyland said...

LACK of ideas for me. I'll stare at a screen until I eventually surrender.

Amy Saia said...

I went through a horrible round of WB back in December. Finally I just told myself to sit down and write, and once I had established the 'habit', I found it easier each day that came.

Once you get a ball rolling, it will roll until it hits a wall. You break the wall and get the ball rolling again. This is a writer's life.

MissV said...

I would say (among others) that it's wanting to get a scene right. Maybe the scene is tricky or maybe I'VE got my expectations for it set too high. I work hard on pushing forward through this by giving myself permission to suck...but it's hard, really hard!

margg. said...

finding the right words to say what's in my head.

JustineDell said...

Stress!

Lack of ideas or the plot of my current WIP is never a problem. When stress hits (from home/work/etc) my brain shut down and says "No! No more creative thinking for you...chill out first!"

;-)

~JD

vmichelle said...

Two things come to mind. First is... something doesn't "feel right" isn't flowing, is all wrong, but I can't see straight to fix it. I'm overwhelmed and discouraged. When this happens, it's a sorry state of affairs. Maybe I need to follow Dean Koontz's advice.

Second is... I know what I want to do with a scene, I know the basic events, but I can't figure out where I want to enter the scene - the first words. Usually once I figure out how to "enter" the scene, it flows. So I stop trying to write and just imagine or play with words for a bit before it comes to me.

Joanne said...

I don't think there is any one thing that causes writer's block. It seems more to be a part of the writing process, the words ebbing and flowing as we contemplate our work, and life, at the same time.

The English Writer said...

When I think about the handful of times I've had writer's block, it's been when something really big has happened in my life - a break up or meeting someone new - something that takes most of my time and energy away from creating characters I guess. Great post, K xx

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I experience writer's block whenever I'm not sure where I want my plot to go next. I usually take a break from writing and re-work the scene. Then low and behold, the words flow again.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I get blocked when I'm burned out from my day job. As you know I do a lot of monotonous writing. It drains my creativity sometimes :(

Kittie Howard said...

I think writer's block is an occupational hazzard that screams Take A Break. Just like a doctor can't operate day-in-day-out, 24/7 without a round of golf, I think writers also need to step back and smell the roses. Whenever I hit the block, I get involved in something else until that urge to write kicks in again. Anyway, really liked how you melded posts and ideas here!!

Jen said...

You guys are giving excellent scenarios! I love how everyone has a slightly different experience! For me writer's block doesn't last long but when it does it will drive you insane!

Susan -I have tried outlining before but I'm just not a fan, sometimes I feel it makes me more frsutrated! I'm sure one of these days it might work!

Jaydee Morgan said...

The times I get stuck is when I haven't thought out my storyline well enough or am struggling with finding a new idea.

I call these times stuck though, not writer's block. I'm not sure I'm one of those who believe in writer's block (not for me, anyway). Most times, it's me feeling lazy or uninspired.

Jen said...

I think you make a fantastic point Jaydee. I believe that it is us as writers that really block our own writing. We become lazy, unorganized or uninspired and instead of fixing it we find ourselves sometimes just sitting in it.

At the end of the day we are our own worst enemy!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I haven't had a huge case of writers' block yet, just little things where I forget the words I wanted, or if I'm tired/stressed then I can't write.
I try to do something else for a bit and then get back to it. Although, music usually helps me.

The Empress said...

Hello, Jen! Nice to meet you.

I agree with what you've said...how much you can learn and how much blogging offers. There are some fantastic websites to be shared, and that's how you find things.
Have you heard of magpie tales? That is very cool...she gives a visual prompt, and you take off from there.

I've followed some talented writers through there.
SO very nice to meet you!

j.leigh.bailey said...

Jen--Thanks for the tie-in! :)

Wasn't Koontz's advice great? Loved that. For me, writer's block is directly tied into lack of confidence on my writing and the lack of confidence it tied directly into lack of experience...

Lynn said...

I also really like Dean's advise! Lack of confidence can cause WB for me, as well as over analysis. I just have to get out of my own way and let it flow.
Speaking of analysis, I'm curious if you will get 20 different answers and prove the theory!

Jen said...

Lindsay - I'm glad! Hopefully it stays that way where you don't really have to experience it! I hope none of us have to, LOL!

The Empress - Thank you so much for visiting! I haven't heard of magpies tale's but I'll look into it!

J.leigh.bailey - You're welcome! He had great advice! I love me some Koontz!

Lynn - Lack of confidence is a big one for me as well! I hope I do, I'm well on my way to 20! I'll have to keep everyone updated!

Talli Roland said...

I refuse to admit that writer's block exists. REFUSE! I SHALL NOT SUBMIT! Denial does work in some cases! :)

Laura Pauling said...

For me, it's not being sure if my story is going in the right direction. But, I usually write through it or brainstorm or write something just for fun and the block goes away. - If I try and force something - it never works.

Karen Walker said...

For me, it's comparing myself to other, more successful writers.
Karen

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I get blocked when my writing sounds bland to my ear. I know first drafts are supposed to audition ideas and establish characters and plot points, and that 'beautiful prose' comes with the revision process, but my creativity tends to seize up when my writing is blah. Moving forward is tough when this happens, so that's how I define my writer's block.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm not sure what causes writer's block for me. Maybe it's trying to find the right words for what I want to convey. All I know is that it doesn't last for long. :)

Catherine Denton said...

When I look at my once fresh idea and think it now seems overdone.
Winged Writer

Laura Marcella said...

LOL, Koontz's comment is classic! Probably would work, too. I'll have to try that the next time I'm procrastinating (which isn't right now or anything *coughcough*).

I don't really believe in writer's block of the true definition, which is when authors think they have nothing more to write about.

For me when I'm feeling "blocked," it's because I'm procrastinating, or I'm afraid what I write will be so bad I'll delete it all and it'll be a waste of time, or like you, I have so many ideas that I don't know where to start. When that happens, I just start somewhere, anywhere. A writing prompt, with the line "I suck," or with the first idea that pops into my head. By then, my "block" crumbles and I know where to begin!

Patti said...

What causes it for me is not quite knowing how I'm going to get from point A to point B.

Crystal Cook said...

What a great post! I wonder about this a lot, I think for me it's probably feeling like my works not good enough.

Hope to talk to ya later :)

Jen said...

Talli - I love your line of thinking!!!

Laura - During that time I find that letting my story marinate a little while longer seems to help, or I talk it out with the hubs to hope to get my sanity under control!

Karen - Death sentence! You must stop, you will certainly feel defeated!!!

Nicole - I know the feeling a lot of times. With my first drafts I normally don't feel blah, but with some smaller pieces I start out I get the feeling and eventually must move on until something else strikes!

Stina - Not finding the right words is another one I could see!!

Catherine - That would cause writer's block for sure!

Laura M. - You and I are definitely on the same page here! I can completely relate to all of this, and I believe writer's block has several hidden meanings!

Patti - That's the worst! Thanks to the hubs he helps me through those rough spots!

Crystal - Oh yes feeling defeated or not as good as what you could be always stinks!!

Angie Paxton said...

I'm with Mr. Koontz on this. When I lose confidence in my ability to write up comes the writer's block. I've also found lately though if I have demanding personal stuff that's going on I can't find the energy to come up with stuff to write.

Mark said...

Uncertainty about exactly where my story is going next, followed by anxiety that I'm just writing to fill pages and am just going to have to come back to cut the current section out anyways.

Really, for me writer's block is just a lack of preparation. I need to have a rough sketch of a plot before I can sit and write day after day, and when I get to the small holes I often have to mull them over for a while before I can continue writing.

Shannon said...

Hi Jen,

Great topic and I love the quote.

For me, it's about trying to get a scene to work out and not being able to execute it the way I want. When that happens, I write out what I want to happen in short hand, move on to another area and then return to the scene (with my short hand directions) later. It's worked so far. :)

Matthew Rush said...

I've never had writer's BLOCK per se, in the sense that I couldn't come up with ANYTHING to write, but I have experienced what you described, not knowing which idea to go with.

I pretty much just vomit words onto the page and figure it out later. I may have to change that in the future considering the whopping word counts I come up with.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Writer's block- hmn. I guess too many distractions- reading another persons work will keep me from actively creating my own in many cases which is why I stay away from reading when I'm in the middle of a ms.

Carolyn V. said...

Writers block? When I can't get enough quiet time.

Jen said...

Angie - Personal issues are a huge road block for writing with me! I can certainly relate!

Mark - I never thought about it that way but a lack of preperation makes a lot of sense!

Shannon - I hate when that happens!

Matthew - You so grossed me out with the word vomit... yuck!

Creepy Query Girl - Yes distractions, I think everyone on the blog can relate with this one!

Carolyn - Ahh quiet time, oh how I love thee!!

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I haven't really had writer's block yet, but I'll probably let you know when I do - it seems horrible:)

Dean Koontz is spot on!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Stress and lack of sleep. I need sleep. Lots of sleep. I never get lots of sleep. *sigh* So sad. LOL! :-)

DL Hammons said...

I've never encountered writers block...per se. I've been stumped for a short period of time, but not full out blockage.

Something to look forward to, I guess. :)

~Abby~ said...

Hey jen I gave you an award!
Here's the link:

http://thesoapqueen.blogspot.com/2010/05/sweet-blog-award.html

xx,
~Abby~

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I don't believe in writer's block but whenever I am struggling with my manuscript it is almost always because I don't know where to take the WIP next. That or I am in a period of incredible self-loathing.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I loved this post. My block mostly comes with one of two (okay, maybe three) things: lack of ideas, too many ideas and stress. All of those factor into my writers block. UGH. I hate to even say that word... block. :)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

For me, I think block is mental -- and mostly an excuse. Usually, it's a lack of confidence. I have that whole first-child perfection complex, so it's hard for me to spit out words. I want everything to sound smashing from the get-go (which typically is NOT how it works... obviously.)

tywo said...

For me.
It's when I have too much in my head. I can't decide on which to pick, and try to combine all my ideas, but they never work out..haha.


LOVE!

Jackee said...

Like a lot of people have said, it's the not knowing where things are going to go or SHOULD go. The other main reason is when I lose the voice of the story. I know it and the story knows it.

BTW, thanks so much for joining me in the May Challenge. And thanks so much for posting about it! Good luck--I'm cheering for you. :o)

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm fairly lucky when it comes to writer's block - but I think that's because I don't get nearly as much time to write as I 'need'.

When I'm 'stuck' I tend to do some revising or editing or reading instead. That usually helps :)

Lydia Kang said...

Writer's block for me happens when I need to fill in gaps in my plot...and I've been writing too much recently!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I very seldom get writer's block, but when I do it's usually that I haven't really sorted out what I want to write yet. Really, just means I need to plot out a little more before writing.

Also: Blogger ate your comment on Ink Spells, so I reposted it. Thanks for stopping by!

Shelley Sly said...

Honestly, what causes writer's block for me isn't not knowing where things are going, but feeling anxious that the idea I have might not be right. If I'm in the middle of a scene, and the character's next action just doesn't seem right to me for some reason -- either too forced or unauthentic or too cheesy -- then I get really stuck.

What a great idea for a post, Jen!

Eva said...

Usually my writing is directly related to my mood. When I'm really stressed I can't write. So maybe that theory is correct because I tend to be very critical of my writing when I'm stressed. Interesting thought.

Susan Fields said...

Jen - Is that movie site supposed to take absolutely forever after you click "It's a Wrap"? It's been half an hour already, and it doesn't seem like it's doing anything, but when I move the mouse around it tells me not to worry, the final movie is high quality. I made the video just fine, but I can't get past this "It's a Wrap" stage. I just knew I wasnt going to be able to get this thing figured out. :(

MT said...

For me, it's my nerves. If I suddenly realize a novice mistake throughout my wip, and I haven't yet remembered how much I enjoy writing, my nerves get frazzled and I can't find my confidence. Reading posts like this helps. A change in projects also helps - come back to it later. :)

Sandy Shin said...

For me, writer's block often comes from the paralyzing fear of failure.

There's a quote from Ann Quindlen that is my favorite: "People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."

It's the need to make things "perfect" in the first draft, to transplant the images in my head into scenes on the pages that causes writer's block, at least for me.

Clara said...

Sleep. If Im sleepy I cant write right, dont know why! Why?!WHYYYY?

Oh well, I gotta work on sleeping well now, and then all is good...hopefully!

Susan Fields said...

Hey Jen - I'm back. It did make the movie. Now I just don't know how to get the movie link onto my blog. Well, I did actually get the link onto my blog, but it's just a line of text, not the picture with the play button. How do I do that?

Christina Lee said...

I LOVE Dean Koontz response--and he's kinda right (I might have to steal that). :--)

For me it's the daunting task in front of me.

I like revising so mcuh better than actually getting the first draft down--too much going on in my head!

cassandrajade said...

Usually poor planning - or the fact that I've gone completely off my original plan and don't really know where I thought I was heading. Usually a day or two off, a deep thought and maybe a quick rewrite and I can get back to work on a piece.

kanishk said...

finding the right words to say what's in my head.
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