Posted On December 16, 2015 by Print This Post

How to Defeat Your Writer’s Block by Ryan Lanz

All writers understand the terror of a blank page. Ryan Lanz discusses the possible causes of writer’s block and ways to overcome it. Two randomly chosen commenters will receive a copy of Ryan’s latest release, The Idea Factory.

Welcome back, Ryan!

For some, writer’s block is a very real and forbidding thing. I personally know authors who treat this as a superstition that no amount of garlic and rabbit feet will save them from.

There are countless blog posts on how to beat writer’s block–and yes, we’ll go over that too–although I want to also look at why a writer might encounter a writing block. Perhaps it’s not for the reasons you think, and it could be indicative of deeper issues. Let’s begin.

Is it real?

Of course it’s real. I didn’t leave much suspense on that one, did I? The reason why it’s real is because a person believes it’s real. Ryan LanzNow, I’m not saying that writer’s block is a self-fulfilling prophecy per se, but how you regard it can affect how much it affects you.

Deep stuff

Personally, I don’t get writer’s block. At least, not in the way that it’s conventionally thought of. I have knots to unravel in the story, which can take time, but I don’t consider that writer’s block. I’ve found there are many occasions where a writer will subconsciously feel an issue in their story/plot/writing but will chalk it up to writer’s block instead.

Following this train of thought, let’s look at the roots of the issue, rather than the symptoms, to see if we can unstop the cork to your word bottle.

Mini-blocks

I’m tired
I’m emotionally drained (via a long day at work, life, etc.)
I’m unsure of where I want the story to go next
I’ve made the character do something that seems to conflict with his/her nature
I’ve made a plot error and I’m unsure of how to fix it yet
The particular scene I’m writing feels boring to me
I’m uncomfortable (sitting position, temperature, hunger, etc.)
I haven’t thought out the plot/character/setting before-hand as much as I should (or feel that I should)
I’ve thought up another book and the current one no longer excites me like it did
I feel discouraged in my writing for whatever reason

Personally speaking, if I’m feeling an impediment to my writing, it’s not due to an ethereal writer’s block; it’s due to one of the above reasons. There’s good news and bad news to that. Mostly good news. The good news is that every one of the above items are fixable. Huzzah! It felt empowering to come to the conclusion that it’s not a disease that I’m fearing will grab me but more so a process of elimination of what stands in the way of my productivity.

The only bad news to that, and I say this with a pinch of humor, is that there’s no cliché entity to blame my lack of productivity on. Let’s dissect the above impediments and talk about ways to plow through them. I’ll skip some of the more self-explanatory ones.

Tired/emotionally drained

Take a nap! I absolutely love naps, and I find that they help my productivity greatly. I used to gripe about how it took time away from writing, but I find that the increased productivity after a 10 minute power nap more than makes up for the words I would have dribbled out had I wrote straight through. Plus, in the interim of falling asleep, I run through what I’m about to write.

Unsure of where to go next

One method I’ve found helpful is to go through a mental (or you can write it down) checklist of what you firmly don’t want to happen next. Often by listing what directions you don’t want the plot to go, the ways that you do will surface in your mind. Of course, the tried-and-true method of thinking of the worst case scenario for a particular character/scene has often done well for me (more on plotting here).

Character conflict

Having a character do something that is in conflict with his/her nature is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a powerful piece of writing. The thing is, if it bothers you that you’ve just done so, then it probably means that you haven’t set it up right. One of the beautiful things about stories is that you can do literally anything that you want. You can make chocolate covered eyebrow hairs sprinkle from the fingers of a 100 foot tall anteater if you really wanted to (not recommended though) and if you set it up properly of that being the sort of thing that might happen in your world/story.

Go back and look at the mannerisms and decisions that have led your character up to that point. Think on how you could introduce external pressure to prompt the character to move in that new direction.

The scene feels boring

If a scene feels boring, it could be because there isn’t enough conflict in it (more on writing conflict here). Try to avoid tossing in conflict just for the sake of it (as that can be spotted easily), but try to think of some ways to make things more difficult for your protagonist. How can you push your protagonist further from his/her goals, for example.

No longer feeling excited

If I stopped writing a book when it stopped feeling exciting, then I would honestly never finish one. Personally, when I feel a new, exciting idea come on, I calmly write it down in my idea book, then I intentionally put it aside. If I allow myself to focus on that new idea, it will leach away my enthusiasm for my current project. I remind myself that at one time, my current project felt like that, and that it’s still that good of an idea.

Let’s face it, for the professional author who wants to be published and live off the results, writing is work. Notice, though, that I didn’t call it a job. Of course, writing is immensely artistic and freeing, but (in my opinion) at times you have to view it like work to be able to complete it. In the last Ten Quote Tuesday, I shared a quote that said:

“If I have anything to say to young writers, it’s to stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work.” – Paddy Chayefsky

I don’t know that you need to think of your writing like that all the time, but sometimes it may be necessary to. To those of you writing a full length novel, a book takes a lot of long-term effort and energy. When I don’t feel like writing, I write anyway. It may be complete dribble that night, but that’s okay. My motivation is not a prerequisite to doing what I know I need to do.

Feeling discouraged

In the near future, I plan on writing a blog post on criticism, so I’ll go light on this for now, but I feel it’s important to address. A writer can feel discouraged for many reasons. It could be criticism, lack of motivation, lack of self-esteem, etc. Even if you produce a stack of rubbish in the form of a finished manuscript, finish it anyway. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process that you’ll carry into your next project, and you’ll have a huge boost in self-esteem to know that you finished. The only thing worse than a bad chapter written is no chapter at all.

How do you chip away at writer’s block? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ryan’s latest book, The Idea Factory. 

***

The Idea FactoryThe Idea Factory – November 2015

One idea can create a book. One idea can spark a career.

Do you have a hard time coming up with ideas on what to write?

Countless writers love to write fiction. Exploring a plot and fleshing out characters is part of what makes the project fun. However, few things are worse than staring at a blank screen with no clue what to write next.

These 1,000 prompts are designed to give you the combination of the idea itself, as well as concepts to help you create your own. In the introduction, we discuss the different methods for creating story ideas to continue long after you read the last prompt.

You’ll find multiple genres represented, such as:
Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Horror, Thriller/Suspense, Mystery, Children’s, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Paranormal, Humor, and Historical.

If you need help with inspiration, this is the book for you. Out of 1,000 story ideas and writing prompts, the beginnings of your next book is likely in these pages. Let’s find your next bestseller.

The Idea Factory is available from: Amazon, Amazon UKBarnes & NobleKoboSmashwordsAppleInkteraOysterScribd, and
Thalia.

***

Bio: Ryan Lanz was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii until he was a teenager and then lived in California for a time. He enjoyed a brief experience with film before becoming involved in the performing arts, touring with a music performance group as a vocalist to a dozen countries on three continents over the length of five years.

His first published work was Unknown Sender, and he looks forward to many more in a variety of genres.

He also enjoys blogging about the culture of writing and brings on guest authors to share their writing tips. For more information, visit Ryan’s website or follow him on Twitter.

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Discussion

11 Responses to “How to Defeat Your Writer’s Block by Ryan Lanz”

  1. Ryan, your suggestion of what to do when you don’t know what direction the story should go is marvelous. However, I’m now asking myself why didn’t I think of that approach. I mean, how many people solve problems by purposely eliminating the obvious wrong? Parents do it with children all the time. Where has my brain been?

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | December 16, 2015, 8:13 am
  2. Thank you Romance University for the opportunity to visit again. It was fun!

    Posted by Ryan Lanz | December 16, 2015, 9:09 am
  3. Great article. I’m learning that my blocks are frequently an indication that I’m going the wrong direction in a story, or scene. Stepping away from the writing to do something that engages my hands or my body, rather than my brain, (cooking, folding laundry, exercising)often helps, as does taking a shower. Weird, but there you go!

    Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | December 16, 2015, 9:21 am
  4. I like the sources you provide. It explains why some of the best writing is at 2AM while sitting next to a hospital bed.

    Posted by Helen Henderson | December 16, 2015, 3:10 pm
  5. I have to agree about your impediment not being writer’s block. When I’m stuck, it’s usually because the plot’s not working, I’ve spent too much time on the keyboard, and sometimes, it’s me being too lazy. The last thing I want to do is tear apart a chapter and start over.

    Stepping away even for a couple of days helps me gain a different perspective.

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 16, 2015, 3:31 pm
  6. Great post, Ryan! My problem is not so much writer’s block as imposter’s block. I have no shortage of ideas, but I talk myself out of taking the stories I’m working on to the next stage because who am I to think I can write? That sort of thing. 🙁

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 16, 2015, 10:27 pm
  7. Loved this post! When I hit that wall and can’t write, its hard to think through all the reasons why. The longer I’m unproductive, the bigger and more ominous it gets. I’m printing this out and tacking it over my desk. Thanks, Ryan!

    Posted by Jackie | December 17, 2015, 5:48 am
  8. Excellent post. I struggle most with where the story should go next & I appreciate your suggestions for working through that.

    Posted by Terry Bon | December 17, 2015, 4:09 pm

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