Oct 30, 2007

Writer's Block

It is such a perfect description of what happens. I will be writing away at work, pick up a new piece of copy to disassemble into EW style (i.e., putting the elevator information first) and go blank. After all, what is exciting about yet another anthill (read high rise) in a big city somewhere in the world?! A building that may or likely not be a very appealing design (Dubia being an exception) with elevators that will probably boast of being the fastest which would almost be a necessity in what is now called super high rise. I generally fall back on the usual who, what, why, when, where and how in those moments to get through copy. It's just column material.

But when I draw a blank on a major feature story, I do what every good writer does, I procrastinate. I wait until my boss (old boss, I’m now that boss gulp) says I have to have this for this issue. Then I force myself to organize the material in way that is eyecatching, sometimes with photos, sometimes with information. I usually feel embarrassed about the final product knowing it didn’t have my full attention.

But what about writer’s block when there is no deadline. When you are not really forced to write, when no one will really know that you have a block, or care? I write with an old college roommate and for fun we do what is now called fan-fic. It serves a dual purpose. We write about favorite stuff, and it keeps us writing. For a few years, we went gunho on elaborating on storylines based off the movie or show. Some we have parlayed into short stories, one of which has been published, two rejected. Now, we’re back to just having fun with it. Only we aren’t.

The latest foray has come to an abrupt halt. We wrote ourselves into the proverbial corner and had to back out. So, being the good troopers we are, we went all the way back to where this “case” began with a clearer vision and proceeded to rewrite. . .well more like fight about the rewrite. The usual formula is I write, she edits. Mostly, it works. Lately, not so much. I’m struggling to write, get frustrated when she points out the flaws and grumble about the whole stupid story in the first place.

Last night, I finally gave up, told her to either write it herself or drop the whole thing. I was serious.

So the question is when you are writing for yourself so to speak or when there is no deadline, how do you overcome writer’s block? I know I can google it. I’m asking my sisters what they do.

And thanks in advance for your advice. I need it.


  1. Terri,

    Writing without a deadline is a real challenge for me, too. Sometimes I tell myself, "It isn't about writing, it's about an exercise in discipline", then I'll sit down, set a timer (15 mlinutes, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever works for you), and force myself to sit in front of the computer until the bell goes off. Almostly always, I'lll get bored enough to end up writing *something*, and I always feel better about myself for doing so.

    What I really wish I had, though, was someone who was interested enough in me and my writing to "nag me" about it. "Did you write anything today? How much did you write? Are you meeting your writing goals?" Or even, "Read me what you wrote today!" It's really, really hard to feel motivated when you feel like nobody cares about what or whether you write, except yourself.

    But lacking that, the setting a timer trick has been one of the most effective "tricks" for me.

  2. I believe everybody has a time when it's difficult to think of a thing to write. However, Pamela Goodfellow, excellent teacher of a class I just finished, says there's no such thing as 'writer's block.' She says if we cannot write it's merely because we don't see where we're going. She recommends we stop and visualize the whole scene--see each of each of the characters, ascertain their thoughts, evaluate the quailty of light, picture the lay of the land, floor plans, furniture arrangement, temperature, humidity, every little detail of the setting, until you can see it as if it were on a screen, or better still, if you were right there. Then you're free to write down what the characters want written, and the words simply flow. (these are my words, not necessarily hers)
    I haven't tested it, but it couldn't be worse than simply sitting in a stupor.

    I remember hearing another author said a blank sheet of paper in the typewriter was debilitating, so as soon as he rolled a sheet in, he immediately typed 'The.' He might x it out, but it got him going.

    Reaching for some chocolate usually gets my mind going--at least it feels like it, though it may be only my imagination or my 'wish it would'.

  3. Terri:
    This is a great point. If I don't have a deadline, then many times I can't write. Sometimes it takes the pressure of a deadline to get words down on paper. (or on the screen) Enjoyed your writing.

  4. Terri, I also find that I do not write nearly as much or as well without a deadline. That is why I try to keep posting to this blog site...it provides a deadline and "makes" me write something. One thing a deadline usually has with it is a subject...or at least a question to research. I also am getting better at letting myself write instead of putting it off because I "don't deserve" to spend time doing something I love to do.


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