Book Talk

Your Muse Skipped Town: Writer’s Block

Oh, no.

It’s happening.

You’ve hit a brick wall. Not literally, but mentally. Your character is stuck, your plot is going nowhere, and you’ve written yourself into a corner.

You have writer’s block.

Or do you?

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Believe me, it’s one of the worst feelings you can have as a writer: the frustration of staring at your page and realizing that there’s nothing left in your gas tank. You’ve run out of fuel, and it feels like you can’t type another word. If you do manage to eke out a sentence, it feels like a miracle.

It can feel like you’re insignificant, like there’s nothing you can do except wait for your muse to return from vacation. But what if the muse is a liar?

For me, this usually happens about half-way through my story and sometimes even close to the end. When I’m nearing the finish line on a particularly long first draft, I can get tired of the story and run out of steam. But that doesn’t mean I can’t push through. In fact, I think anyone can.

Whatever form the dreaded writer’s block takes for you, it can be easy to just throw your hands up and pray for your muse to return. But she’s a fickle lady; once she has the chance to be sipping margaritas on some island resort, convincing her to come back is a feat unto itself.

My best advice? Keep writing, no matter what. As long as you’re getting words on that page, your story is progressing in some way.

It’ll feel like pulling your own teeth sometimes. But to be honest, writing is the best way to beat writer’s block. You can always go back and revise later.

What’s most important is showing your muse that you don’t need her in order to keep working on your story.

As soon as your muse realizes you can write without her, eventually she’ll come running back to take credit for all the story gold you’ve unearthed without her.

But in the meantime, here are a few things you can do while you’re on your own…

1. Skip around

Having trouble writing your finicky middle section? That’s fine: just flash forward and write the third act climax. You don’t have to keep this scene if you don’t want to. This is just a way to focus on something exciting to get you motivated again. And hey, if you end up liking what you’ve written, then you didn’t lose time getting stuck in the middle. You gained ground by writing the climax.

2. Read your favorite book

Waiting for inspiration? It won’t come to you unless you look for it. What works best for me when I’m stuck is looking back at my favorite books, the story that inspires me the most. If you feel like you don’t have time in your busy schedule to read an entire book (maybe a lack of downtime is the reason your muse decided to skip town), then just flip to your favorite scene and let yourself feel the same excitement as when you first read it. Let that excitement flow through you and into your own work.

3. Take a break

 

Don’t be too hard on yourself: if you can’t write a single sentence today, stand up and walk around for a bit. Take a walk through the park. Go to the beach. Visit a friend’s house and order pizza. This will help clear your mind. The trick is, you have to come back to your story after the break, all clear-headed and ready to rock. If you stay away too long, you’ll lose even more momentum. That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking a step away from your story to breathe. It’ll help in the long run.

And if none of these tips work, just keep working through your story. Again, your muse will return to take credit for all the work you’ve done, and she’ll be drunk off margaritas to boot. That means that when she does come back, your story will get really interesting!

 

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash