Writer’s Block: the problems of a closed mind

A lot of writers talk about ‘writer’s block’ and how difficult it is to overcome. It is the bane of a writer’s existence when they are faced with it. What do you when you want to write, but for some reason don’t seem to be capable of it? 

What experience is teaching me is that writer’s block isn’t external. It’s internal. The reason I struggle so much is not because I’m not trying or not focused enough. Partly it is because I’m too focused. I struggle because there is something I am not seeing, an aspect of the story I have not yet considered but that is staring me in the face. The block is my muse’s way of communicating that there is a problem. 

I’ve been struggling to edit this week. I know that if I don’t get my target 5,000 words done by Sunday I’ll be behind on my schedule and this means that I won’t be clear and free for NaNoWriMo 2013. I want to have the novel finished, but it’s the first time I’ve ever attempted to edit a novel and I’m still unsure of my technique. The only thing I know right now is that I really don’t feel able to do it.

But time should not be wasted. So, instead of editing on my computer screen – paragraph by laborious paragraph – I made a choice to adapt. I shunned my keyboard and went back to good ol’ paper and pen. And ‘lo and behold’ what have I discovered? That I’ve written the story in the wrong order, that one of my characters is completely redundant and that another needs to feature more heavily. 

What I realised is that my enthusiasm for the novel waned because my mind was concerned about various aspects of the plot and characterisation. Instead of ploughing ahead with the edits I needed thinking time. There was something ‘off’ about the novel and I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to understand the issues. Pushing on blindly would only have wasted more time. I needed to stop and reflect and then understand what it was my muse had already worked out before me.

These issues are major structural problems that run deep throughout the current draft. Now I better understand what it was that is missing and how it impacts the novel as a whole, I can start to fix it. It’s not an easy fix. I think that is part of the reason I was having trouble. The part of me that acknowledged there was a problem didn’t want to face it because of all the extra work. It means moving backwards in order to get two steps ahead. Hence I was metaphorically blocking my own way out of sheer stubborn-headedness and fear.

Writing a novel is hard work. It’s meant to be hard work. But, in future, when I find it’s a struggle to commit myself to it, I’ll be looking to take a break and let my mind wander. I was so focused on the end result of making the first edit, I closed myself off to the creative process along the way. Now I’ve opened my mind up to it, the possibilities are exciting again. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it feels like it’s going to be worth it in the end.



If you understand the perils of writer’s block and/or have any tips that might help combat it please consider leaving a comment below.
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15 responses to “Writer’s Block: the problems of a closed mind

    • Thanks doll, I do my best (most times). Good luck on your work with Tangled and Still…I’ve ditched the ‘to-do list’ of late and so far I’m getting not much done. Think I may have to go back to it!
      Take Care, Cat x

  1. Pingback: Reconsidering the Rewrite | The struggle to be a writer that writes

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  3. Great post, Cat! Sometimes, backing away is the best “editing” we can do. As for pen and paper, one of my favorite techniques is what I call “Playing Paper Dolls”–printing everything out, cutting apart scenes or paragraphs, and reordering things. It’s a great way to discover what’s missing. Hey, I think you just inspired blog post!

    • Thanks! I like inspiring your blog posts, means I’m helpful somehow!

      I spent the day importing my WIP to Scrivener and realising I have a LOT of revising to do before edits. Your Macro edits post is going to be on my notice board (along with Cathy Yardley’s Rock your Revisions on my Nexus!)

      Thanks for stopping by and mentioning your Paper Dolls method….interesting approach. Might have to try that.

  4. I like your observation that writer’s block isn’t about not being focused, it can mean we are TOO focused. Sometimes the best thing we can do is give the muse some room to breathe!

    I agree about editing on paper rather than on a computer screen. Seeing it in print, rather than on the screen helps me to see the WIP differently and helps me catch things that I didn’t notice before.
    Good luck with your editing!

    • I’m an old fashioned girl by heart, pen and paper are naturally what I turn to in times of crisis – personal or professional!

      I am finding that writer’s block seems to be about a narrow mindedness or approach to the narrative. Once I take a step back and examine the big picture it seems to take care of itself.

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing. Good luck with your own endeavours. Take care, Cat

  5. Some astute observations, Catherine, or so says MHO. I can really relate to the difficulties you are expressing, as they most likely reflect mine. I’d be lying if I didn’t add the thought of fixing the problems in my current WIP is overwhelming. More daunting, though, is the thought of not being able to divine the issues getting in my way. Good post. Thnx for putting it out there.

    • Glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with the novel’s issues and the fear of never finishing!
      I think time will always help. It’s what you do with that time whilst you wait for the muse to share that niggling bit of inspiration that really counts.
      Good luck with your own WIP. Am sure we’ll make it, in time 😉
      Thanks for commenting.
      Take care, Cat

  6. I’ve nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award because I really enjoy your posts. If you choose to accept then you need to do the following:
    1. Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
    2. Announce your win with a post. Make sure to post a link back to me as a ‘thank you’ for the nomination.
    3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.
    4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have linked them in the post.
    5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for the nomination – I’ll be doing an awards post soon I hope, so will gladly accept. 🙂
      Glad that you enjoy the blog!

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