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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DREADED AUTHOR QUESTION: DO YOU GET WRITER’S BLOCK?

By Isabo Kelly



This is a tricky one. The answer depends on whether or not you believe in “writer’s block”. It sounds so…artistic to be able to claim writer’s block as the reason you don’t happen to be working on anything at any given moment. And when asked this question, it can be very easy to say, “Yes, I do” to lay the groundwork for future fits of non-productivity. But that’s the easy answer.

I used to be a staunch supporter of the “no such thing as writer’s block” crowd. I still basically believe this. But the definition of writer’s block can be fuzzy. It means different things to different authors. So to answer this question properly, you first have to decide what you consider to be writer’s block.

For some, the definition is a writer who suffers from the “inability to write”. The ideas aren’t coming, the words aren’t flowing, the story is stuck, they don’t know what happens next and no matter what they do, they can’t seem to get past a certain point in their current novel. Or worse, they can’t even start that new novel. They’ve finished their last project, it’s time to start the next, and they have no ideas. Nothing. They feel completely without inspiration. And without that elusive literary muse, they simply cannot write another word.

A good excuse. And there are some valid problems in there that all writers have to deal with—particularly the stuck story and non-flowing words. But my personal opinion is that if you let these things keep you from sticking your butt to the chair, putting your hand to the page and churning out words—even bad words—you’re making an excuse not to write.

Why would you need an excuse not to write? Aren’t most of us looking for more time to write, squeezing it in between day jobs, family, friends, life…? Well, yes, we are. But that doesn’t mean writing isn’t hard work. When things are flowing, there’s nothing better and no where we’d rather be. But when the story gets tough, when the characters are losing their direction, or you’ve taken a wrong turn in the plot somewhere and can’t figure it out, the real work part of writing begins. And you can muscle you way through these impasses if you just keep hammering away at the novel.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we love creating these stories, or how long we’ve been writing, it’s amazing how many of us come up with reasons to do something else, anything else rather than write when the writing gets tough. Calling it writer’s block is just one way to describe this procrastination. We can also call it stalling, boredom, and laziness, blame our busy schedules, use our families’ hectic lives as a buffer. There are a lot of good definitions.

But to me, blocks are not good enough reasons not to write. You have a problem with your story, you work through it. Talk to other writers about it, bounce ideas off of people who read in and out of your genre. Try out different directions to fix the problem. Ask yourself “what if” questions until you get an answer you can latch onto. Just keep your butt in the seat and keep writing. Eventually, the light bulb goes off, the words start flowing again, and the “block” is broken. But it won’t go away unless you keep working.

So, do I get writer’s block? No. I get procrastion-itis, or I have problems with my current work in progress. I don’t get anything as glamour as writer’s block. And I don’t do anything glamorous to get the writing going again. I just keep writing.♥



Isabo Kelly (aka Katrina Tipton) is the author of multiple science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romances. Her Prism Award Winning novel, SIREN SINGING, has just been released in paperback from Ellora’s Cave (http://www.ellorascave.com/). For more on Isabo’s books, visit her at http://www.isabokelly.com/


In this monthly series, Isabo talks about the often uncomfortable questions every author gets asked, and how to handle those dreaded inquiries. If you have gotten any of these “dreaded” questions, please share them with us here. If you have an answer, all the better.

6 comments:

  1. I call those times of stalled production, inability to focus, and so forth: "writer's quagmire". Because for me it is generally the result of too many story ideas - but not gelled enough to get beyond an initial paragraph of a plot idea. Or there are so many things going on attendant to the writing life that the actual writing sometimes gets lost in the shuffle! Sometimes I sit my butt in the chair (or on the bed, or the train or at the table in the lunchroom at my office) and the dozens, no hundreds of thoughts, ideas, characters, plot devices, snippets of dialogue, bits and pieces of description, titles, and questions like "what genre is this again?", what day is it ... well, the suck me right in and in trying to parse and sort and organize, I get my time and creative energy sucked right out of me, to no useful purpose. For me the hardest part is no focus. It's like trying to get a child to sit still for a couple of hours, quietly and without fidgeting. Not easy. That's the challenge for me. Getting focused. Getting organized. And putting the words down on the paper BEFORE I start coming up with eleavtor pitches, or openings for my query letter, or deciding which house would be best to pitch to! Because as a famous writer once said: The only thing you can't fix is a blank page.

    Here's hoping everyone is focused, and free of writer's block. Or writer's quagmire.

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  2. I get much the same and my answer has always been BIC. "Butt in Chair".

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  3. I'm with you, Katrina/Isabo. I don't get blocked but I certainly can procrastinate with the best of them. When I do come to say, a real plot sticking point, it helps me to go for a walk or better yet a run.

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  4. I find that I don't get writer's block so much as I'll just get stalled on a project. So then I'll just... go work on something else. Which is maybe a different problem. (The finishing of novels, I am not so good at that.)

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  5. Call it whatever you like; it's the inability for whatever reason to get those words out of your head and onto a page. And I agree, the only way to push through is to keep writing.

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  6. When I was taking my education classes in another part of my life, the teacher who was teaching us how to teach writing said there was research that proved the best cure for "having nothing to write about" was to write. It didn't even matter so much what you wrote, the act of writing stumulated more writing and eventually things came together. As everyone else said so succintly it really is "butt in chair!"

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