#WritingTip – Is “smashing” writer’s block the best way?

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I frequently hear writers lament about trying to “break through” their writer’s block. Usually with them swearing under their breath at me for how productive I appear to be to them.*

There are countless blogs and articles out there about how to “smash” your writer’s block, as if it’s some sort of impenetrable brick wall.

But, sometimes–and I know this is crazy-talk, but hear me out–maybe “smashing” your writer’s block is the wrong approach.

Instead of outlining your plot until your eyes bleed, or reading writing how-to books galore, perhaps you should try a different approach–bridging the gap.

We get so close to our work sometimes it’s impossible for us to see what’s right in front of us.

Usually, I have so many WIPs in progress at any given time that I simply switch projects and come back to the “blocked” one later. Nearly always the characters will have worked out the problem for me when I return to it.

Sometimes, I work backward from a later scene, and “bridge” the gap from that direction by asking myself how the characters got there?

Then there are times where I need to let go of a preconceived “plot” I had in mind and let the characters take over and do the heavy lifting. It’s very common for writers to get in their characters’ way, and it usually shows later as weak plotting that makes no sense or feels contrived. Always follow your characters, and ignore them at your own peril.

Or treat it like one of the old “choose your own adventure” books, where you experiment with a variety of options and see which one the characters take off and run with, even if it’s not a direction you’d planned to go.

Because those “plot voids” that appear as writer’s block frequently aren’t as insurmountable as they first appear. Sometimes, all you need to do is build a secure road base for your characters to follow. Sometimes your plot went afoul earlier in the manuscript, and the solution to your “block” is way “back thar” and needs a course adjustment.

This is why, when I write, I use “mile-markers” for my plotting. I know certain things have to happen–the main characters have to meet, conflict must arise, if it’s a romance then that has to happen, etc. (This is why I LOVE writing in Scrivener, because I can create “card decks.”) It keeps the plot flexible and fluid in my mind. I’m not exactly a pantster, but I’m definitely not an outliner for my fiction. I note the key scenes and then let the characters control the map.

(It’s NOT outlining, AND I WILL FIGHT YOU!)

Something else that can help? Watching a beloved movie as a writer instead of a viewer. Pick it apart for plot, try to spot the key moments (the hero’s call to action, etc) and analyze it from that perspective. I’m the type of writer where I “see” my books in my mind. I will run scenes forward and backward several times until I like what I “see” and then I write that. It’s a very visual process for me.

What you should not do as a writer is blame the “muse.” There is no fucking muse — YOU are the muse. It’s YOUR brain. You can’t not write and blame something that doesn’t exist–it’s all on you, and it means you need to do something different.

BICFOK – Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard.

You cannot be a writer if you are not writing. Even if you’re blocked, sit there and write an interview with your characters. Or ask your characters a completely unrelated question and write that down and save it. Something. ANYTHING. How did your hero lose his virginity? What was your heroine’s worst date ever? Write your big-bad’s most tender and loving moment they ever experienced. Go crazy.

The last thing you should do is set a writing project aside and not write anything. You need to keep the brain and your fingers working. You need to get in the habit of producing words, even if they’re crappy words. In old wells, you had to pump a little water out first to clear the pipe before you got clear, drinkable water.

Do that.

(Although if you start repeatedly writing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” you should probably cancel that scheduled winter caretaker’s job at an isolated mountain resort. **)

Go write. Even if it’s shitty, even if it’ll never see the light of day, go write. Even if it’s silly or not for consumption by anyone but you, go write.

Writers write. That’s what we DO.

But instead of beating your head against that “wall,” try a different approach. Try a different metaphor for your lack of progress. Get out the bulldozer and start working on the roadbed instead of trying to knock down a wall that doesn’t really exist.

Happy Writing!


* – Keep in mind, Hubby is retired and takes care of the house and animals and me and everything else. I write full-time, and I’m a speed touch-typist with a caffeine addiction.

** – There is never an inappropriate time for a writing analogy based on The Shining. I will fight you.


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One thought on “#WritingTip – Is “smashing” writer’s block the best way?

  1. Thank you for the post! I’ve read bunches of ideas on how to break through the block but I like your idea better. I’ve been not writing like I should and I’m finding it easier to not write. More so all the time. Enough! Time to put up or give up and I’m no quitter!

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