That’s right, I said it. There is no such thing as writer’s block. I’m not alone in this thought, I know, but I find that saying it aloud can bring a group of writers into a momentary silence. That’s because even if you don’t believe in it, you can still fear it – like the boogeyman, damnation, or Brexit. But I’m here to tell you that this thing, this phantom, cannot haunt you unless you let it.
Mostly, when writer’s talk about a block, what they really mean is an obstacle to them continuing or completing a story. They don’t mean they really can’t write anything at all. There are three main “blocks” I’m going to say bollocks to: research, straying from the point, and no idea what else to say.
To the demon research I say – just keep going and worry about the kind of metal that door handle should be made of later. Unless it is a truly integral part of your tale, move on and get back to it later. Trust me, those details aren’t going anywhere, nor is the information available to find them. Finish. The. Story.
“I’ve completely lost the plot!” is one I’ve heard more than once. Maybe. Maybe you didn’t actually know what the plot really was to begin with and now it’s become clear. Two things I think you can do. Spend fifteen minutes outlining your plot as you see it, then spend a half an hour going through what you’ve written and seeing what plot has emerged. Odds are high there will be some overlap but it won’t all line up. This isn’t a block. This is a choice. Choose which plot you are most interested in and go with it. I really recommend doing plot points. Not a full synopsis first or a giant plot map (unless that works for you), just sketch it out. I have a friend who does this visually and it was such a revelation for me as I’m also very visual. He storyboards the key moments: inciting incident, goal, obstacle, turning point, dark night of the soul, solution and resolution (give or take some key points or images he wants to convey). Do what works for you but get on with it.
The closest thing to what I might call a real ‘block’ to writing is if the mojo seems to have run out. This is your sagging middle moment, the 30k word mark, the blah, blah, blah.I’ve heard people swear it comes at the same place every time. Maybe you’re tired of your story. That’s not a block, that’s sanity. Take a break and come back. Maybe you can’t decide what comes next – see the previous paragraph and plot a little sweet heart. Maybe you can’t hear the words anymore. This one is a blessing in disguise! Choose a supporting character and write the last scene you wrote from either their perspective or their observation because what I see happen a lot in stories is when the writer hasn’t explored or doesn’t full know the supporting roles. If you don’t know why Jane’s father is such a dick head, you won’t be able to write their big fight. If you’re unclear what the unachievable love interest is attracted to, then you can’t write the moment they realise your MC is really pretty great. You have to know your world to bring me there. It’s ok not to know what color the carpet is or exactly how old dad is – but it’s not ok to have no idea whether they’re fighting about love or money in the laundry room if dad’s claustrophobic or on a roof top if Jane is afraid of heights.
There are no blocks. Only opportunities to know your story better. Somebody put that on a motivational poster with a mouse in a maze or something.