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Thoughts on writer's block

I am by no means an expert writer. But what I am, is productive.

But everyone gets writer's block. How do you tackle that awful feeling of being stuck, uninspired, confused, and unable to move forward?

Back it up.

This is something someone told me in college years ago, and I don't even remember who it was or what the context was. It may have even been a book. But since I put it into practice, I can gladly announce that in the past five years, never once have I suffered from writer's block and not been able to move past it within an hour. (This usually goes for nonfiction writing as well.)

I don't know that my advice will help you, but I figure, if Lindsay and I can point you in the right direction on how to deal with your own blocks, great! If not, you can click off this article and go on your merry way of staring at that damn blank white page.

So, here it is:

Writer's block, for me, is a sign that I fucked up.

It is a sign that my character is saying, "Hey, wait a minute. This isn't right." And when they talk, I listen. When I have writer's block, I go back to the last place in my chapter where things felt like they were running smoothly, and I try a few different things:

  1. Completely change something (a plot point, a decision that is made, a person who is in the scene, etc)

  2. Approach the scene from a different person's point of view

  3. Think about the character and make sure I'm having them do something that is true to their personality

  4. Re-write the scene starting in a different point

  5. Change the dialogue completely

Usually one or more of these things will work. Sometimes there are other things I do, but they aren't consistently things that get me going again.

I never take a break. I never skip scenes. I never start in the middle and go back (although I do write all the way through and then realize I've left important things out and need to go back and add them; but that's different). And I always listen when my character starts withholding their story from me because I fucked something up.

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