Posted On December 14, 2016 by Print This Post

It Happens to the Best of Us by Barbara Wallace

If you’ve ever suffered through writer’s block, Barbara Wallace has some thoughts as to how you got there, and how to escape!

Google Writer’s Block online and you’ll find loads of tricks on how to plow through your blockage ranging from taking a walk to timed writing.  That’s all well and good, but as you and I know, not all writer’s blocks are created equal.

Because I’m one of those people who likes to understand why something happens, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past years studying writer’s block.  What I’ve discovered that most writer’s block falls under one of three umbrellas: Chemical causes, emotional demons, or story issues.

Let me explain.

CHEMICAL CAUSES

Our body is a complex collection of chemicals.  It’s the level of these chemicals that affect our creativity.  That’s the reason, for example, that walking helps when you’re stuck.  Exercise releases helps drain the brain of cortisol, which builds up because of stress and inhibits creative thinking.

Likewise, depression and seasonal affect disorder are caused by an imbalance in among other things, serotonin, which helps transmit messages from one side of your brain to another.  Scientists have recently linked high levels of serotonin to creativity.

And then there are hormones.

About 75% of women suffer from PMS. (Sorry Dudes, I know testosterone has a cycle too, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.)  Anyway, ask a female writer and she might very well tell you that the days just before her period are fraught with moodiness, brain fog and an inability to concentrate.  Likewise, the same woman will have one week where her estrogen levels make her feel invincible.  During those days she is filled with ambition and ideas.

What are some ways to combat chemical writer’s block?****

  1. Exercise
  2. Have a cup of coffee.   Studies have shown that caffeine boosts serotonin production.  It’s why people often feel most creative in the morning; that’s when their serotonin levels are highest.
  3. Try light therapy? It’s already been proven that light boxes help alleviate symptoms of Seasonal Affect Disorder. MIT professor and author of The Midnight Disease, Alice Flaherty, is experimenting to see if the same treatment can fight writer’s block.
  4. Take a day off. If you’ve got PMS, sometimes there’s nothing you can do but ride it out.  When hormones hit, and the words stop, spend a day doing other writing related activities, such as catching up on correspondence or reading that craft book you’ve been meaning to finish.

***** Depression is a serious disease.  If your blahs last more than a few days, or are impacting your ability to function in other aspects of your life, please seek professional help.  There are treatments and medications available that will help.  ****

EMOTIONAL DEMONS

Jealousy, perfectionism, fear.  Like chemical imbalances, these causes of writer’s block are also in our head, but this time we’re the ones that manufacture them.  They are functions of our ego, that part of our personality that governs our self-esteem and self-importance.  That pesky internal editor?  It’s your ego telling you that you suck.

The thing about the ego is that its criticism doesn’t have to make sense.  All it needs is a trigger and our latent insecurity to start its nagging cycle.  That trigger can be anything.  A bad review, the news that a colleague won an award or signed a big contract, a note from your agent telling your Amazon rejected your latest story idea.  As soon as your brain registers the news, your ego seizes on it and starts to feed off your fear and anxiety.  That in turn creates more fear and anxiety, which strengthens the illogical argument, and voila!  Writer’s block.

Sometimes we’re not even aware of the trigger! All we know is that we’re staring at a blank page agonizing over whether we’ve started too many sentences with the word And, convinced we’ll never write a coherent, sellable piece of fiction again.

This is when it’s time to remember that emotional demons are big fat liars.  This is when the BICHOK tips for fighting block work best.  That’s because internal demons are also liars.  They go right to the worst common denominator.

For example, I am pretty sure this is the absolute worst blog article ever written.  Logically, however, I know that while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it can’t be the absolute worst.  Emotional Demons are nothing more than feelings on steroids.  And feelings are not facts. These are feelings, not facts.  Therefore, the best way to fight them is to plow straight through.

So if you’re pretty sure your block is being caused by something like perfectionism or insecurity, then the tried and true methods are for you.  Try things like:

  • Timed writing like 1K1Hr
  • Covering your screen so you can’t see the words as you type (seriously. If you can’t see them, you can’t edit.)
  • Writing Crap.

In other words, the key to beating this kind of block is to do everything you can to get words on paper.  You don’t have to think they are good, you just have to get them down.

STORY ISSUES

I put this last because while the simplest cause of block, it can also be the one we think of last.  No brain chemicals or nasty internal thoughts.  Sometimes writer’s block happens because ….

Your story took a wrong turn.  In which case you take a step back to see how you wrote yourself into a corner.  Half the time our writing stalls because we’re stubbornly trying to force our characters in the wrong direction rather than delete pages.  Take it from me.  As painful as deleting words can be, it will get the words flowing again.

The story got to the hard part.  Lots of people can write a first chapter.  Lots can write the first three.  It’s when you get to the middle of the book, when the newness has worn off and their enthusiasm for the idea has waned that their writing stalls.   If this is the case, then chances are you’re not blocked at all.  You’re bored.  You’re in the sagging middle of your process and it’s not fun.  There’s only one solution to this kind of blockage.  Putting your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard.

Clearly, I’ve only touched on the surface of what’s a truly complex problem for writers.  Believe me, there’s a whole lot more.   I hope though, that I’ve given you some food for thought and that the next time the words stall, you stop to ask why.

 

***

Have you ever dealt with writer’s block? What motivated you to start writing again?

Join us on Friday for the fabulous Pat Haggerty!

***

Bio: The award-winning author of 19 short contemporary romances, Barbara Wallace’s latest book is WINTER WEDDING FOR THE PRINCE by Harlequin Romance.  You can read more about her and her titles at barbarawallace.com or on Facebook

Torn between Love and Duty

Crown Prince Armando’s belief in love died along with his wife, but duty dictates he must remarry. No sooner does he arrange the perfect political alliance when a sizzling kiss under the mistletoe with his royal assistant Rosa Lamberti awakens feelings Armando thought long buried.

Will Armando honor his commitment to his country? Or, will Christmas with

Rosa convince him to follow his heart?

Available at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Harlequin.com.

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Motivation

Discussion

12 Responses to “It Happens to the Best of Us by Barbara Wallace”

  1. Yes, I’ve dealt with writers block. In my current WIP, about 10 chapters in, I just couldn’t keep it going and as you’ve said; I got bored. So I took a few days off and did some casual reading (which I often don’t do when writing) and well the break and the reading did me some good and the creative juices began to flow again and I got back to writing.

    Posted by Marie Greaves | December 14, 2016, 8:13 am
    • I know exactly what you mean. My writing friends will tell you that they can predict the minute I get to the middle of my book. That’s when I start complaining the book isn’t going right, and that I have writers block. I don’t – I’m just in my personal sagging middle. Usually a little tinkering with my outline and some gutting through works. If it doesn’t, then I know I have a story problem. It’s not unusual for me to throw out several chapters because the plot wasn’t going in the right direction.

      Posted by Barbara Wallace | December 15, 2016, 9:04 am
  2. I’ve had plenty of minor bouts of writer’s block over the many years I’ve been writing, but the only significant time was when I was pregnant. After my first child was born, the writing was great, but hard to fit in (for obvious reasons). I chastised myself a lot for not writing while I was still pregnant—until my second pregnancy. My ability to write just got more and more mired. I decided all my creativity had been sucked from my brain to my uterus. One night I wrote 8 new pages, and told my husband I was going into labor that night. 1:00 a.m. I woke up in labor! LOL

    Posted by Natalie Damschroder | December 14, 2016, 8:20 am
    • Hormones are horrible! Pregnancy sucks so much from your brain – as do small kids. Sometimes you simply have to cut yourself slack. When I find myself in the hormone related block, I try to do something writing related – maybe reading craft books for example. Then when my hormones ebb, I go back. I didn’t write much at all toward the end of my pregnancy or the first few months after because of the hormonal swings.
      Good luck!

      Posted by Barbara Wallace | December 15, 2016, 9:06 am
      • It won’t be an issue for me anymore. LOL My youngest is 17 now. The second time around, since I recognized it, I was able to edit and promote and submit and write tiny bits here and there. But you’re right, cutting yourself slack is always a big component of getting through anything.

        Posted by Natalie Damschroder | December 15, 2016, 10:47 am
  3. My story has entered into the hard part where things can’t just keep on building. They must explode somehow. Yet, I don’t have a clue as to how to make it all happen right.

    Still, I can’t say I feel as though I have honest-to-goodness writer’s block. I just need help, which I’ve been offered over at the writing group online I belong to. I just need to get my butt over there and show them how I’m stuck.

    I know many people get seasonal depression, and can really do a number on them. In my case, the writing is my savior. It takes me away from the “hustle and bustle” of the holiday season, which always makes me feel overwhelmed, a side effect of anxiety disorder. Once the winter holidays are over, I’ll be doing “spring” housecleaning in January, which usually lifts my spirits, and I’ll keep on writing, of course.

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | December 14, 2016, 12:58 pm
    • Knowing you’re stuck and how is half the battle. Then it does become a matter of getting into the chair.

      The thing with writing is that it’s like exercise. The more you stay away, the harder it becomes to motivate yourself. I think that for a lot of writers — I’m not saying you — that’s how block begins. They hit a bad patch where their stories aren’t working or they have a seasonal issue, and then they find it hard to get back into the swing. Push yourself. That’s the best cure.

      And like exercise,I feel much better after having written.

      I’m glad writing is your savior during the holidays. Enjoy them and try not to get too overwhelmed. Remember to breathe!

      Posted by Barbara Wallace | December 15, 2016, 9:09 am
  4. Evening Barbara!

    Great post, glad we finally coordinated it…lol…that took some effort!

    I’ve blocked myself from writing, it’s an emotional issue and I know it, but when I started writing for Nano, to force myself to do it, I also blocked myself because I knew I was going the wrong direction.

    Once I figure out where I went wrong, I’m hoping my writing will speed up again!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | December 14, 2016, 10:35 pm
    • I hope so too Carrie. I actually don’t do Nano because it blocks me. I feel too much pressure to produce and it becomes too much.

      I also have to watch who I do #1k1hr drills with as well. If I’m struggling, then working with someone who puts out 1300 words an hour is only going to depress me, and make matters worse.

      Stick with it! Good luck figuring out the story problem!

      Posted by Barbara Wallace | December 15, 2016, 9:11 am
  5. here’s a comment received via email…

    I don’t know if it would be classified as writers block, but I tend to write the story out of sequence. I have a great idea, so I start the story off getting the first, second and usually the third chapters written. This introduces my characters and sets up the situation. Sometimes I have scenes in my head, occurrences on what the characters are going to go through. So I write this or these chapters. Somewhere along the line I may know how I want the characters to end up, so I write a “somewhere near the end” chapter.

    After all this is done, I go back and connect the chapters adding what the characters have gone through to get from point A to E to X and so on. Unless I am writing a short story, I very rarely write the whole book in one continuous line.

    I hope this makes sense. Thank you for writing. You have given me some excellent ideas on how to keep going, when my characters refuse to tell me what is happening next in their story.

    Happy Trails,
    Jane Stauff

    Posted by Carrie Peters | December 18, 2016, 12:44 am
  6. I just read this almost a week after it was posted. Needless to say I needed to see it RIGHT NOW! I’ve been going through some tough bouts of depression. I’m bipolar which transitions more towards depression, so I’ve been to see my dr. and he’s upped my dose of antidepressants. I thought it was working, but now I’m just feeling so bad, so UGU!! I see how emotional problems cause me writers block and I’ve done freewriting in the past to help get over these things, but I just don’t care anymore. It’s so hard just to live. Sometimes I wish I would just go to sleep and not wake up. I don’t think I could actually kill myself, but I’ve done self mutilation before and I’m considering it. It seems to be all I can think about. Didn’t mean to ramble on. Bottom line I liked what you said about feelings are just feelings. Just because they’re there doesn’t make them true. Thanks!

    Posted by Janice Hampton | December 20, 2016, 3:53 pm
  7. “Likewise, the same woman will have one week where her estrogen levels make her feel invincible.” A friend of mine calls this “Sweeps Week” as in the days when TV Networks put all their great shows into one week to get bigger ratings. 🙂

    Number 3 plays into Number 2 for me all the time. When that happens, I really have to work hard to just let it go and get the words down.

    Great post!

    Posted by Brenda Margriet | December 22, 2016, 5:10 pm

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts

  • Oct 25, 2017 Free to Fudge the Facts by Ken Isaacson
  • Oct 27, 2017 When Being a Pantster Isn't Enough - by Liz Fielding
  • Nov 17, 2017 After the First Draft - by Rachael Thomas

Subscribe

2013-2016

100-BEST-WEBSITES-2015

2014-2015

Follow Us