Friday, October 2, 2009

Writer's Block... Pick Your Poison

Even if you're not a writer, you've heard about writer's block. It's when a writer can't seem to get anything written, even though they want to. Personally, the idiom gives me a pretty funny mental picture of a Dilbert-looking character, sitting at a desk with the very bottom of a laptop sticks out from a large block of foam.

In any case, I've recently discovered that, similar to hepatitis, there are several different kinds of writer's block. And they all suck. Ugh. So just because you know how to avoid, or get over, one of them - it doesn't mean that another block won't show it's ugly little face in a different way. So here are the methods that I know about or have experienced. And later on, I'll post about different techniques to get over them! 

Type A Writer's Block.  I call it "Concept Constipation".  It's the most well known type (I'd say) of writer's block; it's what happens when someone can't think of anything to write.  You know the words are in there somewhere, but they just won't come out no matter how hard you try to force them.  You don't know how to continue (or begin) your story (poem, essay, article, etc) and are stumped. Fortunately, at this point in my life, I have never had this type of writer's block (knock on wood, would ya?). When actually speaking this great language, I'll admit, I sometimes have trouble - especially when holding conversations with people who are boring or that I don't know that well. But when I write, I can always come up with ways to continue what I'm working on.

Then we've got Type B1. "Cyberspaceship Disorder". It's not that you don't have a story and it's not that you're stuck on where to go with it. It's that you can't seem to control yourself from checking out the Internet sites that call to your mouse. For me, that'd be perez, facebook, hotblondeinthekitchen, allrecipes, fark.com, a variety of shopping sites... particularly ones with boots. I can look at and fantasize about boots for about as long and with as much concentration as profootball coaches analyze plays from past games. Even as I type I'm tempted to take a quick glance at what's out there. But with the twelve pairs in my closet, (not including the ones still in storage or boxed under the bed), I know I should pass. Anyway, I digress. I think this particular type may be one of the reasons I write best at night. Because I've gotten my fill of all those little distractions out of the way already for the day. Most of the time.

Next up is what I consider Type B2. I've titled it "Frozen Writer's Syndrome". And it's what I'm struggling with at the moment. It's not that I am stuck, I know exactly what I want to write, where I'm going, and how I'll get there. But I still can't seem to put my fingers on the keys. I don't lack motivation. I just can't type. It almost feels like laziness, but that's DEFINITELY not what it is. Honestly, I think this is my subconscious pushing out to the deep rooted fear that I might fail. It's the old fight or flight dilemma. If I write, I face failure. If I don't write, then nobody will ever say I couldn't make it.  I've been really

putting it out there recently. Quitting my job, starting this blog, telling anyone who will listen about what I'm going for... All the sudden there are a lot more people who will know if I never get published. It's a scary thought. Certainly I've failed at things before... but it's not been a frequent occurrence, and it's only once or twice been with something I've really gone for. I think I just need to lock myself in my writing nook and force myself to get the heck on with it. Once I type just a little bit, I know I'll lose myself in the process again.

"Analysis Paralysis" is Type B3.  You can't seem to move the story forward because you just can't stop editing what you've written so far.  You want to put down the proverbial (or real in some cases) red pen, but the spelling/grammar/word flow police(wo)man in you just won't.  This is a really annoying block.  It keeps you caught up in the little things that, during a first draft, you shouldn't be paying much attention too - AND it stops your creative flow.

Then there's Type C."Busy Little Bee Complex" Another type I frequently have trouble with. It's when there are a lot of other things you have to take care of, and you let them all take precedence over the writing. Cleaning, cooking, appointments, grocery shopping, etc. The things that everyone needs to do, but they take away from your writing process. And it's hard to get back into it.

Finally I think there's a Type D Writer's Block. I call the people that have this type of block... simply "The Wannabes".  This is the one in which you think up all these great ideas, but completely lack the motivation to put them to paper. I'm no expert at this point, but I think you either need to "$#*% or get off the pot" if you know what I mean... Play your hand or fold, but don't just sit there and do nothing. Who wants to look back and think about what they might have done if they'd just taken the time to do it? Maybe you've got the next best seller locked away in one of those long, dark, brain corridors of yours - but what good does it do if you don't get it out?

So I will definitely post again with tips and tricks for getting over each of these types, but I'll leave you with one overall peice of advice that should work for all of them: Sit down. Shut up. Write. That's it. Get it out and work through it.

As for me, I'm playing the hypocrite for the rest of the evening. I'm off to bed much earlier than usual, as I'm helping a friend with a yardsale bright and early tomorrow. (And by helping, I really mean selling as much of my things I could bear to part with to try to raise some cash for ME. I am, after all, currently an unpaid writer!) But the deal I'll make for ending this post without even taking my own advice yet is this: After the yardsale tomorrow, I am going to hole up for the rest of the weekend and get back to work on Project Jane.  I'm sure I'll make the time to update here too, but I really give my word to throw myself back to Jane's story.



  1. Excellent post. My sentiments entirely. I too have a problem in which I'm easily sidetracked - boots and cyberspaceship disorder!

    Good luck with your novel. It is a long bumpy road full of unexpected highs and lows put there seemingly to trip us up, but well worth the journey :)

  2. Thanks! I'm definitely having a blast along the journey so far... Even the lows are reminders that I'm getting to do what I've always dreamed of :)


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)