Somebody was asking me about writer’s block the other day and how to work through it. I’ll be a hypocrite here and say that writer’s block doesn’t exist.
Of course, I suffered from writer’s block for several years. However, I don’t think it was writer’s block so much as a lack of writing. To me writing is like jogging. It’s something you can choose to do every day, every other day, or not at all. Sometimes it’s really fun to jog and get your blood flowing. Other times it seems like a chore to have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But whether or not it feels like a chore or a joy, if you want to be healthy, it’s probably a good idea to keep powering through it.
When I commit to writing a book, I set up a schedule and I get it done. Every single time my schedule says I should be writing, I sit down and write. Sometimes the pages aren’t my best, but that can be fixed in editing. A lot of the time I think what I’m writing isn’t my best and it turns out to be better than pages I was more enthusiastic about.
The trick for me is just having that routine and sticking to it, just like jogging. I’m not always inspired or enthused to be doing it, but it’s what needs done at the moment.
Once you’ve got the schedule, make sure to set a goal, too. Set up the number of pages you expect to write in the time allotted and try to stick to that. Make sure the goal is realistic and fits what you can normally do. Just like saying “I’m waking up at 6am to jog. I’m going to jog for 25 minutes and cover at least 2 miles”—say “I’m waking up at 6am to write. I’m going to write for 45 minutes and produce at least 5 pages.”
Having an outline or general set of signposts for your story is critical to this, too. If you know where you’re going, then it’s just about putting one word after another down to get there. When you jog, you probably have landmarks you look for that outline your route. With those mapped out ahead of time, you don’t have to just step out your front door and figure out how to make up a 2 mile course as you go. Same with writing. I know that the character needs to meet x person at y place by page 150 and I’m at page 135, so I’d better start moving him or her that way.
With all this in mind, can you see why I say I don’t believe in “writer’s block”? Writer’s block, to me, implies that writing flows from somewhere to somewhere. But that’s not my experience. Writing isn’t a flow, but a discipline. As long as you decide to write and just do it, you’ll have a new book before you know it.