Author Topic: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?  (Read 959 times)

Cabbages and kings

How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« on: January 07, 2021, 06:49:43 PM »
Hi everyone.

For me writer's block comes in different forms:

1. I can't come up with whole new story ideas.

2. I don't know what should happen next in a current story.

3. I have several radically different directions I could take a current story and am stuck on which direction I should pick.

4. I know what I want to have in the scene but it's too tough to write, I just don't have the skills or the words.

5. I read something good and I just shut down, thinking I'll never be that good.


How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?

« Last Edit: January 07, 2021, 07:27:20 PM by Cabbages and kings »
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2021, 07:13:37 PM »
Outlining helps for me.  It's not a cure-all, but it helps.
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Simon Haynes

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2021, 07:38:40 PM »
I always have nine or ten novels in the planning/idea stages.

My 'writer's block' is more a case of having something else I want to do instead. Right now it's gardening, last week it was redoing all my web pages, before that it was two weeks on Elite Dangerous, and most of last year it was sim racing online.

Also, I take December off, plus the two weeks immediately after. Too many family events/gift shopping trips/etc to deal with, and I hate having anything at all on my schedule. (I don't mean I don't enjoy catching up with family and friends. I just mean I can't sit down and write if I have other things to plan for.)

Before I was a full-time author, I dealt with all those distractions and just wrote. However, there's a reason my earlier novels took 8 to 12 months each to write, whereas now they're written and edited in 3-6 weeks.
 
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Cabbages and kings

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 07:48:51 PM »
I always have nine or ten novels in the planning/idea stages.

My 'writer's block' is more a case of having something else I want to do instead. Right now it's gardening, last week it was redoing all my web pages, before that it was two weeks on Elite Dangerous, and most of last year it was sim racing online.

Also, I take December off, plus the two weeks immediately after. Too many family events/gift shopping trips/etc to deal with, and I hate having anything at all on my schedule. (I don't mean I don't enjoy catching up with family and friends. I just mean I can't sit down and write if I have other things to plan for.)

Before I was a full-time author, I dealt with all those distractions and just wrote. However, there's a reason my earlier novels took 8 to 12 months each to write, whereas now they're written and edited in 3-6 weeks.


Wow! How many novels do you have out and how many do you put out on average per year?
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2021, 08:16:30 PM »
Medications can be the cause of writers block.

So many meds mess with the way your brain works, and a lot of these are ones you wouldn't expect to.

So if you get writers block after you start taking new meds, or after having been taking them for a while, you should discuss this with your GP.

For mild blockage of what to do next, I start reading from the beginning. Once I get to where I've left off, I'm back in the flow enough to keep going again.
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Simon Haynes

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2021, 08:23:47 PM »


Wow! How many novels do you have out and how many do you put out on average per year?



30 out.  I wrote 10 in 2018, 4 in 2019 and 2 last year - but they all took a month each, more or less.  Last year I just didn't write much, then ended with a flurry.

I'm almost ready to get back into it - I have two different series with two books in each, and I really want to write the third to finish each of them off.

But gardening first ;-)

 
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JackT

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2021, 10:17:18 PM »
A nice hot bath. Never fails. :)

(For working out what's going to happen next)
 
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cecilia_writer

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2021, 12:01:41 AM »
Since I retired from my day job in October I''ve realised I can't work on the same thing all the time so I've tried to have more than one project in hand. I can already see this might not always be feasible, so in my 2021 writing plan I've added a target of writing a short story every month too.
All this only works for as long as you have enough ideas, but I found I could follow writing prompts quite easily during a screenwriting activity I took part in recently, so if all else fails I would use that kind of thing to generate ideas.
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LilyBLily

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2021, 01:35:50 AM »
As a pantster I face this often, but I'd hardly call it writers block. Not a big enough problem. I know the difference.

I think it's a mistake to imagine that writing simply flows and requires no cogitation beforehand or during, or that we never should encounter moments when we're not sure what comes next or think we can't pull it off. Nobody really is this superhuman.

Rereading what I've already written usually inspires an angle or scene I hadn't thought out previously, a way of opening out something I might have passed over lightly before.

Making the effort to open the file and sit down to the job also helps. Grin

If you're staring at a blank page and feeling not good enough, shake it off. The old advice is true: you can't edit a blank page. Editing can turn anything better and the process can inspire better ideas for the same scenes.

Sometimes considering classic plotting advice such as, "Have them go dancing" or "Have a surprise come to the door" or "Blow something up" can jump start the next part of a plot. It depends on what kind of story you're writing. For a romance, going dancing might be a big deal. For a thriller, a building blowing up might send your lead characters in new and exciting directions. (Don't blow up the dance hall or have the FBI guy go dancing. Maintain tone.)

Most of all, don't worry about it. Worry does not help. Approach the current dilemma calmly. You are the puppet master of your story. You can make anything happen.
 
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Maggie Ann

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2021, 02:56:22 AM »
Medications can be the cause of writers block.

So many meds mess with the way your brain works, and a lot of these are ones you wouldn't expect to.

So if you get writers block after you start taking new meds, or after having been taking them for a while, you should discuss this with your GP.

For mild blockage of what to do next, I start reading from the beginning. Once I get to where I've left off, I'm back in the flow enough to keep going again.

What kind of meds?
           
 
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TimothyEllis

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2021, 03:00:09 AM »
What kind of meds?

Metformin did me in for a long time. Doc kept wanting me to increase the dosage, and when I tried, my productivity died. Lessen the dose, and my brain fired up again. Eventually I asked for an alternative, and the problem went away completely.

Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

 

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Hopscotch

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2021, 03:55:09 AM »
Medications can be the cause of writers block....For mild blockage of what to do next, I start reading from the beginning. Once I get to where I've left off, I'm back in the flow enough to keep going again.

Your list also suggests malaise rather than writer's block, which means Tim's second bit of advice could be especially helpful.  William Faulkner used to say that, when he ran out of ideas and couldn't write, he'd go to the library and get some.  That's good advice, too, from a Nobel Prize winner.
 
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alhawke

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2021, 05:18:23 AM »
I'm editing and editing and editing an old project. That's giving me a break from writing a completely new blank slate novel. I do get writers block and one of my biggest sources of unhappiness is not working on a writing project. The worst torture is starting multiple projects that keep landing in dead ends. So, for me, anyway, working on new projects and changing the work helps.


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Matthew

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2021, 06:54:01 AM »
1. I can't come up with whole new story ideas.
Time to feed the creative well, as they say. Go out and enjoy life. Read a new book, watch a new movie.

2. I don't know what should happen next in a current story.
For me, this is usually indicative that the writing went awry a little while back. I would reread the current and previous chapters and see if anything problematic becomes more visible.

3. I have several radically different directions I could take a current story and am stuck on which direction I should pick.
I usually just pick one of the two (flip a coin) and start writing. If it doesn't feel right, try the other way. If you're ambivalent, just keep it the way it is and get feedback from a beta reader.

4. I know what I want to have in the scene but it's too tough to write, I just don't have the skills or the words.
Write it anyway. The books you see on shelves are not first drafts.

5. I read something good and I just shut down, thinking I'll never be that good.
I can't exactly help with a defeatist attitude. The more you work on your craft, the better you will become. It may not be today, but some day.
 
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Vijaya

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2021, 08:05:57 AM »
I tend to have multiple projects so if I'm stuck on one, I go to another. But for the first time since I started writing nearly 20 years ago, I've taken a long break from it due to an accident and once I started recovering, the focus shifted to household chores and Christmas music and spending time with the kids who came home for the holidays. I am a little nervous about how long it's going to take to get back into the groove so I appreciate all your thoughts. I've only scribbled a few ideas in these past few months so it's time to dive in and explore them.


Author of over 100 books and magazine pieces, primarily for children
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Maggie Ann

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2021, 08:26:24 AM »
What kind of meds?

Metformin did me in for a long time. Doc kept wanting me to increase the dosage, and when I tried, my productivity died. Lessen the dose, and my brain fired up again. Eventually I asked for an alternative, and the problem went away completely.

Metformin is one of the many medications I'm on. However I've been on it for three years with a two month break when I was in the hospital. Apparently, they would rather stick you with a needle when your blood sugar goes up rather than control it. However I am taking the lowest dosage already. I'll have to talk to my doctor about an alternative. Thanks for the suggestion.
           
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2021, 12:39:42 PM »
I'll have to talk to my doctor about an alternative. Thanks for the suggestion.

There are several. I'm now taking a combination of an older med, and a newer 1.

Metformin has some serious side effects no-one mentions, and is the drug of choice for doctors. You have to make them rethink by refusing to take it anymore, and if they won't, change doctor.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

 

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Vijaya

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2021, 01:05:35 AM »
Speaking of meds, I remember taking a low-dose anti-seizure drug, topimarate, for preventing chronic migraine and one of the side effects was losing words. I'd be thinking of something and wouldn't have the word for it. After a month, the dose had to be increased a little bit, then again after another month, and I was unable to write. The drug was tamping down *everything* in my brain so I quit taking it. I was grateful to get my words back.


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Maggie Ann

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2021, 01:36:21 AM »
Speaking of meds, I remember taking a low-dose anti-seizure drug, topimarate, for preventing chronic migraine and one of the side effects was losing words. I'd be thinking of something and wouldn't have the word for it. After a month, the dose had to be increased a little bit, then again after another month, and I was unable to write. The drug was tamping down *everything* in my brain so I quit taking it. I was grateful to get my words back.

I take Keppra for seizures at the minimum dosage. I don't know if it is affecting me or not but they stopped giving it to me when I was in CICU and I was having seizures. If I have seizures, I can't drive so I have to take Keppra.

I'm going to have to have a serious talk with both my doctor and my neuro. 
           
 

NunoLac

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2021, 10:45:37 PM »
Since I'm a full time product designer and writing is only a hobby, when I have writer's block or even a designer's block I just allocate my time and effort to something else.

Another thing I normally do and I did when I was writing my book was listening to music that would affect my mood. Depending on the situation I wanted to write, I would listen to more strong and heavy music if I was planing action scenes, a more romantic music if it was for romantic scenes and so on.
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Al Stevens

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2021, 02:27:45 AM »
Writer's block is not a condition unto itself; it is a symptom of something else. Identify what's causing it and treat it.

When I was a columnist, I found that having a deadline and a paycheck dependent on it was all the motivation I needed.

My cure for whatever is suppressing my writing is typing. Pants in chair, eyes on screen, hands on keyboard, and free the muse. Something always comes out, not always something good, but something. That always seems to open the faucet.
     
 

Vijaya

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2021, 05:09:27 AM »
I take Keppra for seizures at the minimum dosage. I don't know if it is affecting me or not but they stopped giving it to me when I was in CICU and I was having seizures. If I have seizures, I can't drive so I have to take Keppra.

I'm going to have to have a serious talk with both my doctor and my neuro.

Maggie, I hope by now you can tell whether you have any intolerable side effects from the Keppera. I hope not.

When I was a columnist, I found that having a deadline and a paycheck dependent on it was all the motivation I needed.

My cure for whatever is suppressing my writing is typing. Pants in chair, eyes on screen, hands on keyboard, and free the muse. Something always comes out, not always something good, but something. That always seems to open the faucet.


Deadlines are always a great motivator. And typing! So true. When I'm working on a project, I keep another document open just for this purpose, for musing, thinking out things, having conversations with myself about the whys. Thanks for the reminder.


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feste

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2021, 06:17:41 AM »
As someone who struggled through a writer's block that lasted for years, I cringe at the memory of what it can do to you.  (Retiring out of a toxic job situation has done wonders.)  I'm rather a hobbyist writer, so I'm not a good example of how to make a living by writing.

1. I can't come up with whole new story ideas.

What worked for me was mentally playing with the germ of an idea, without pressuring myself to make it into A Novel.  And, yes, I played with it for years, but I was dragging myself out of a really dreadful block.  After a while, it became a lot of fun and a source of real joy, and I got excited about it and about trying to shape the idea into something I'd enjoy reading.

2. I don't know what should happen next in a current story.

But surely you have an ending in mind.  I've written endings before beginnings and then bumbled my way toward them--and then rewritten the ending because it didn't fit.  I've also realized that I have a scene in mind that might fit the novel, and written it and then figured out how to get to that scene.  And I tend to outline, sort of:  jot down stuff that could happen and rearrange them until they sort of make sense.  (I looooove how easy it is to revise on a computer.)  One thing that helps me is the daydreaming I can do while doing something mindless, even if it's just playing computer solitaire.  I can let my mind drift through various possibilities, until I have something that works.

3. I have several radically different directions I could take a current story and am stuck on which direction I should pick.

What might work is writing one and seeing how that goes, and if it goes badly, try another direction.  Even when we're not conscious of what we're doing, writers do have a sense of what's working and what's not, and your subconscious will let you know if you've gone in the wrong direction.

4. I know what I want to have in the scene but it's too tough to write, I just don't have the skills or the words.

Ah, the pleasures of revising.  Fortunately you don't need to have all the words the first time you write the scene.  Getting something down on the screen and then reworking it might work for you.  I wrote one of those pivotal, emotional scenes a few months ago and used revising it as a sort of warm-up exercise over the next few weeks.  Knowing that I didn't have to achieve perfection right away made it a lot easier to write the foundation of the scene and then rework it until it was what I wanted.

5. I read something good and I just shut down, thinking I'll never be that good.

Ah, but even Homer made errors.  And, boy, have I read some terrible sentences written by award-winning writers.  I've seen a lot of rough drafts of some fairly prominent writers, and they're ... terrible.  (One writer left the climax out of a book in the draft she sent her editor--and it was far from her first book, so you'd think she'd know better.)  They don't get that good without a lot of work, and some of them don't get that good without a good editor.  And none of them could write the book that you can write, because they're not you; and there is a reader out there wishing she could find a book like the one you have in mind.

Wow--I wrote a novel here!  But there are so many ways we can sabotage ourselves, and I've managed to explore just about every one of them.
 
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PJ Post

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #23 on: March 13, 2021, 05:02:36 AM »
Writer's block seems more common with the occasional writer as opposed to the everyday writer (I'm talking about butt-in-chair frequency, not pro vs hobbyist). I've found that, be it writing, music, design, whatever, the more one immerses themselves into that world, both intellectually and emotionally, the more productive they tend to be. I think this is why many of the great 'achievers' throughout history have also been workaholics (and terrible at relationships). I think writer's block is often just a general lack of enthusiasm or motivation.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2021, 05:08:56 AM by PJ Post »
 

LilyBLily

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2021, 05:30:35 AM »
When I had writers' block, the very idea that a professional writer would write 500 words a day daunted me. Now I laugh and think that's not a big enough goal. The more you flex the writing muscle, the easier it gets. Not saying there isn't work involved. Writing is always work. However, most of the day, I'm not in the mood to write but I don't need to be. I only need a short period of time doing the actual writing.

Now, 5000 words a day I would find daunting.
 

alhawke

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2021, 05:42:35 AM »
When I had writers' block, the very idea that a professional writer would write 500 words a day daunted me. Now I laugh and think that's not a big enough goal.
I recently knocked out a chapter, about six to seven pages, in forty-five minutes. I reflected that that was incredible because it was close to a slow reader's reader speed. But it was a rough manuscript and I edit the heck out of it later. And it had a lot of dialog which writes and reads fast.

My record so far was 35k in a full day. There is a legend out there that Mary Stewart wrote the manuscript for Frankenstein in one night. :icon_eek:

I am a writer's block sufferer. Sometimes I can't write more than two sentences for a couple weeks. When I can't move a story along, I get really really testy and unhappy.


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sliderule

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2021, 09:50:46 PM »
In my definition of writer's block, some of these are blocks. Most are just indecision points coming out of fear.

1. I can't come up with whole new story ideas.

I binge watch series. Netflix and Great Courses are my big go-tos.

2. I don't know what should happen next in a current story.

Knowing the end, at least vaguely, helps. Because what should happen next is taking you one step closer to the conclusion of the story, or introducing a setback the protagonist has to work around in order to get to the end of the story.

Brainstorm or mindmap all the things that 'could' happen next.

I ran up on this not long ago. SCENE MAPPING: USING DUNGEON MASTERY TO PLOT SCENES

3. I have several radically different directions I could take a current story and am stuck on which direction I should pick.

I don't consider this a block. I consider this an indecision point. If you have an idea of how it should end, then pick the decision that will take you to that end.

Other than that, flip a coin. See where it takes you. You can always back up and go in the other direction if the first choice doesn't pan out. Writing is not a 'you can only do it once and there's no takebacks'.

4. I know what I want to have in the scene but it's too tough to write, I just don't have the skills or the words.

Personally, I feel that's fear talking. Fear is not always right. It tries to keep you in a safe zone. It doesn't like to encourage you to step out and take a chance.

Kick fear to the curb. Lock it in a closet. Seriously, do visualizations and do it. Then sit down and write. You can fix it in edits.

But once you're done you'll be surprised how you did have the skills and the words. You just let fear talk you out of it.

5. I read something good and I just shut down, thinking I'll never be that good.

One of the most freeing things for me to realize was how good is subjective.

And if, in that scenario, you are never 'that good' who cares? Is this some competition? Or are you telling stories?

There's a reader out there for you. And they'll think you're good. So write for them.
 
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RiverRun

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #27 on: March 28, 2021, 11:06:28 AM »


My record so far was 35k in a full day. There is a legend out there that Mary Stewart wrote the manuscript for Frankenstein in one night. :icon_eek:


Mary Shelley. Just to be picky. Mary Stewart wrote Nine Coaches Waiting, which is one of my all time favorites. So I noticed. I've never heard that about Shelley though. That's crazy.

Reading this thread because I can't seem to get motivated to write. Then again I can't seem to get enough sleep either. Sleep. Perhaps the secret cure for writer's block?
 

Maggie Ann

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #28 on: March 28, 2021, 11:25:42 AM »


My record so far was 35k in a full day. There is a legend out there that Mary Stewart wrote the manuscript for Frankenstein in one night. :icon_eek:


Mary Shelley. Just to be picky. Mary Stewart wrote Nine Coaches Waiting, which is one of my all time favorites. So I noticed. I've never heard that about Shelley though. That's crazy.

Reading this thread because I can't seem to get motivated to write. Then again I can't seem to get enough sleep either. Sleep. Perhaps the secret cure for writer's block?

Originally, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as a short story, so it is possible. She later expanded the short story into a novel.
           
 

alhawke

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #29 on: March 28, 2021, 02:05:24 PM »
I had major writers block yesterday. I worked on one project, put it aside hating the whole thing, then worked on another. I had stagnation on the new manuscript. Then I went back to the project I hated the following day and am now back to working on it. Now I'm really excited about writing it. Go figure.  :shrug

It's so weird how my impression can change from day to day. I think we can be our worst critics and tear up our own work even before it begins.


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R. C.

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Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2021, 11:16:26 PM »
Just yesterday... Or, was it tomorrow... Doesn't matter, I used my "go to" strategy for idea generation.

I did anything that was NOT authoring.  I knocked a couple of items off the Honey-Do list. I doggie patrolled the yard. Brushed the dogs. Ran errands with the Mrs.

Basically, I do anything to think elsewhere.

It worked. I have new ideas for the current effort and it is so freakin' good...  :doh:

Cheers,
R.C.
 

LilyBLily

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2021, 11:26:32 PM »
I haven't attempted to write anything this month at all. I don't consider it writer's block. I wrote 30k words in February for a challenge, but I have not been in the mood this month. I'm letting my current WIPs sit, while I contemplate whether to revise the completed one first or write the just started one instead.

These last few months of COVID isolation--I sincerely hope these are the last few months--have taken an emotional toll and I think it's more important to be kind to myself than to pressure myself. I know that when I finally do put my hand to the task, I can accomplish it.

My true writer's block happened years ago when there was a fatal disconnect in my confidence. Every ms. I started foundered on my lack of belief that I could write the complete story. Today, when I don't know what to write next, I write something, anything, and then it flows again.
 

Wonder

Re: How do you deal with different forms of writer's block?
« Reply #32 on: March 29, 2021, 06:44:31 AM »
 I get writers block whenever I try to force myself to work faster than I'm comfortable with. My "creative brain" is a stubborn party-donkey, and if my business brain starts getting too bossy my creative brain will balk for DAYS and make rude donkey noises at me.

My biggest fix for writers block is to chill the heck out and remind myself that this is supposed to be fun, not a slog. Worrying too much about money is my creative kryptonite.

Wonder

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

― W.B. Yeats
 
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