writing is hard header

7 Things to Try When Writing Is Hard

7 things to try when writing is hardSome writers might look at that title and respond incredulously: “When isn’t writing hard?” But as I’m sure all writers everywhere can attest, there are times when writing is hard in the normal sense and times when it’s hard hard.

Often, the difficulty lies simply in the unwieldy story—and the need for an ever-evolving understanding and ability in order to manage it. According to my estimate, as much as 75% of what is referenced as “writer’s block” is really just “plot block.” Something in the storyform is out of balance and/or the story’s problem is temporarily outpacing the author’s skill level. With enough persistence, these plot blocks give way sooner than later—and usually with the reward of either a better story or, at least, a greater awareness in the writer.

But then there are the difficulties that fall under the heading of that other 25%. This is when the writing is hard in ways that aren’t so easy to bull our way through.

These are often deeper issues, arising from our life beyond the page. They might include illness (our own or someone else’s), exhaustion, stress, fear or other unresolved emotions, burnout, or any other number of things. Sometimes the cause seems to be something as simple (and vague) as a mood.

And it’s infuriating. Unlike with plot blocks, solving the problem isn’t always as simple as finding the right mental thread to pull. Sometimes, it’s a matter of putting things other than writing first for a while (and coming to peace with that). Other times, it’s a matter of using the writing difficulties to help us work through what’s really causing the block.

Writing Is Hard Right Now: My Story

Until recently, I’d never experienced that second type of writer’s block. Plot block, sure. But I’ve spent my creative life building a skill set that helps me efficiently and effectively deal with that. (Indeed, it’s not really an exaggeration to say “avoiding plot block” is the entire reason I write this blog!)

But real live life-induced writer’s block? Not so much.

However, as I mentioned in the podcast intro a couple weeks ago, I now find myself somewhat bemused to be experiencing a definite (if not quite definitive) case of writer’s block. I am objectively aware it’s not the end of the world. There’s a part of me that is genuinely rolling my eyes at and passing the coffee to the other part of me that is getting really grumpy. And as I say, it’s not definitive; I’m still writing; there are still words.

It’s just that the writing is hard right now. Harder than I ever remember it being. It’s hard in a different way.

Dreamlander K.M. WeilandPart of this surprises me, since I’ve been incredibly eager to start the outline for the third book in my Dreamlander trilogy. But on the other hand, it makes sense. I moved last year, so I’m in a new place, figuring out a new routine. There’s also some heavy family stuff that knocked me for a loop when it first arose a few weeks ago. Also thrown in there were several layers of personal growth that decided to peak all at the same time.

And… then there’s the story itself. This is my first attempt at a series, so even though this book will be my eleventh rodeo, it’s still brand new ground. This is the first time I’ve ever had to tie off a multi-book story arc in a single volume. I started Book 3’s outline with the realization that I’d generously bequeathed myself dozens of little plot blocks—ideas I’d set up in Book 2 with vague ideas of their payoff in Book 3, but not enough info (yet) about how to get there.

Types of Writer's Block

Anyway, altogether it’s made for a potent mix that is allowing me the opportunity to learn new things about myself as a writer and a person. Some of those lessons are the tactics that have inspired this post—tactics that have already helped me move forward positively both in working on my story and working past the difficulties.

7 Things You Can Try When Writing Is Hard

For me, realizing I am most definitely not the first author to experience the whole “writing is hard” thing has helped me draw on the compassionate (and incredibly tough) wisdom of the many authors whose legacies permeate my life.

Today, I want to, in turn, reach out to those of you who may currently be finding that your writing is hard (whether normal hard or hard hard). Here are a few practicable steps I hope will give you comfort and/or help you start moving toward a solution for your own unique writing challenges.

1. Just Admit the Writing Is Hard

In my experience as a writing mentor, I find writers tend to have two different kinds of relationships with writer’s block. The first kind uses writing difficulties as a comfy excuse to embrace the drama:

“Woe is me! I simply can’t write! I have WRITER’S BLOCK!!!”

The second approach, however, denies there’s any problem at all:

“I can’t have writer’s block! I never get writer’s block!! I don’t believe in writer’s block!!!”

That was me for a while there. And then it was like:

“Wow, I have writer’s block…”

My first step was accepting that the difficulties I was facing on the page weren’t just plot blocks, but something bigger. That knowledge then provided me what is always the foundational key to problem-solving: correctly identifying the problem.

How did I know I was facing down something bigger than just your normal, ordinary, everyday, garden-variety plot block? Because the normal solutions to plot block (asking plot questions and looking for the right “thread” to pull) weren’t getting me anywhere. I was scribbling furiously; I just wasn’t advancing.

2. Identify the Cause

I suppose it’s possible serious writer’s block could be caused by a single issue (e.g., the death of a loved one). But for most of us, it’s a condition arising out of a unique cocktail of convergences. For me, the catalyst was a shaken-not-stirred mix of diverse ingredients that included everything from January ennui to unprecedented storytelling challenges to exhaustion/recovery from a big move last year to stressful current events—and more.

Most of these things, I had no control over and little to no recourse for “fixing.” Winter’s gonna end when winter’s gonna end. My emotional processing of life events is gonna take as long as it’s gonna take. Other people are gonna do what other people are gonna do.

After accepting that, I dialed in on the causes I could do something about. First, I figured out what I believed were my main problems:

a) Having a hard time sticking with a daily writing routine.

b) Struggling with ideas that just weren’t flowing.

From there, I started implementing strategies to see if I could unblock the dam.

3. Take Care of Yourself Before You Take Care of Your Writing

A truth that has become increasingly clear to me is that art and life are synergistic. If I’m not taking care of myself on basic personal levels—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—then my creative pursuits will necessarily suffer. In the artistic life, discipline extends far beyond the desk.

Since I knew many of the reasons for my writer’s block had nothing to do with the actual writing, my initial strategies also had little to do with writing. For starters, I completely restructured my daily schedule in recognition of the fact that I’m slowest in the mornings, with my motivation consistently climbing throughout the day.

Another thing I did was set my phone to “Do Not Disturb.” This allowed me to check it in between projects, rather than taking the risk that my focus and energy would be disrupted in the middle of flow.

4. Trust the Process

So there I was, sitting with pen in hand, scribbling along, face scrunched in determination—and it’s just not working. No matter what question I asked myself, I couldn’t find the right answer. No matter what idea I tried to chase, it never seemed to be the one that set my imagination on fire.

While this was happening, the one thought that kept me grounded was: Trust the process.

I would take a deep breath and return to the basics that, by now, are second nature. On my iPad, I would open up Helping Writers Become Authors and review my own posts—every one of them inspired by some challenge I had faced on a previous story. I would remember the specific steps I needed to take:

None of these things “cured” my writer’s block. But like familiar road signs popping into view on a snowy night, they kept me grounded, reminding me I knew where I was going because I’d been here before.

The process never fails me. If I stick with it, it will see me through.

5. Go Back to Basics: Daydreaming and Dreamzoning

Even though my writing process is built around intensive causal outlining, I don’t “make up stories.” I will sit down and brainstorm things that need to happen to move a story from Point A to Point B, but I never “create” the A and the B. They come me—spontaneous gifts from my subconscious imagination.

And that, I realized, was one of the reasons I just couldn’t move forward with this outline. I didn’t have enough “As” and “Bs” yet. I knew the bare bones of what needed to happen. But I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t feel it.

From Where You Dream Robert Olen ButlerSo I went back to basics. For me, the hotline to my imagination is what I call “dreamzoning(a term I got from Robert Olen Butler’s excellent From Where You Dream). Basically, this is just intensified daydreaming. I’ll put on an appropriate playlist in the background, use something mindless but moving as a visual focal point (firelight is perfect, though a lava lamp isn’t bad either), and then just sit back and watch the show. I realized the other night that, really, it’s an almost meditative exercise. I’m trying to zone out of my surroundings and go deep into my head, dreaming vivid visual dreams fraught with emotional consequence.

All I get are snippets, flashes, photographs, and sometimes slow-mo movies. But these are the seedlings of my stories. If I gather enough, the story will write itself. Buh-bye, writer’s block. And in the meantime, spending my writing sessions chilling with a candle and some tunes is both productive and seriously low-stress.

6. Find the Right (Guilt-Free) Routine

Ironically, writer’s block often seems to come with a fair-sized dose of guilt. We can’t write, and yet we self-flagellate because we should be writing.

Depending on the root cause making our writing so hard for the moment, the best choice might be giving ourselves permission to not write for a while (as I am—more or less—by allowing myself to focus solely on “dreamzoning” for a while). Other times, just tweaking a writing routine or schedule can do wonders.

Once I realized that outside drama and other factors were wreaking havoc with my ability to stay focused during a morning or afternoon writing session, I switched things around. I moved my writing session to the evening, when my energy is always most reliable. This gave me the ability to once again consistently show up for writing time—which removed the useless poison of guilt from my already complicated cocktail of problematic catalysts.

7. Inhale Information and Inspiration

Often, writer’s block is simply the result of an empty well. As I discovered in #5, above, if I have no inspiration, how can I honestly expect myself to have anything to write about?

This goes for more than just imaginative bursts. It also goes for information—of all sorts. Any story is ultimately a reconstruction of things the writer has either experienced or learned. If you find yourself with nothing to write about, it could be as simple as that: you have nothing to write about.

Start filling your well. If you haven’t been reading faithfully, start a daily routine. If you’ve been reading the same type of thing for years, try something new. Get out. Do new things. Watch new movies. Listen to new songs. Go to a museum. Fill your inner eye with wonders.

And read about writing. My success last year with a host of amazing writing-related books has prompted me to make sure I read something powerful and inspiring about writing, or art in general, every single day.

***

Writing is hard for everyone. Some days are harder for some of us than for others. But the wheel keeps on rolling, and we all get our turn sooner than later. I feel certain that when it is time for me to return to the page, after a couple weeks of dreamzoning, I will find most of my challenges fulfilled. If not, I know further solutions will await me as long as I seek them with patience and discipline. In the meantime, I offer my encouragement to those of you who might be experiencing a similar trial, and I am thankful we get to walk together on this road—in all its many terrains and weathers!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What’s the first thing you do when your writing is hard? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. Lately, events outside my control have made it really hard to have any kind of consistent writing time or energy. (My mom’s been sick. It’s not fatal since we caught it in time, but hanging out in doctor’s waiting rooms is mentally and emotionally exhausting.) Sometimes just giving yourself permission to be struggling is a big thing. And reminding yourself that the outside events really are not going to last forever.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very sorry to hear about your mom. That kind of thing comes first. Although writing can often be cathartic in painful situations, it can also be an energy drain when other things should be priority.

  2. I really should keep reading. It might help me with my story.

  3. Again, so timely! I’ve been thinking how awesome it is when a big life change happens…but you have advance warning. I have one rolling down the pike right now. I’m retiring from full-time go-to-work work on 3/29/19. Just around the corner it is. And I’m thinking, now I’ll have exactly 24 hours to play with for my optimal writing routine, instead of having to parcel some of those hours to a time clock. And I’ve been thinking, ahead, of the pitfalls of retirement that I’ve heard about from those who’ve gone before. One of the monsters is: shedding a routine because I can. I’ve been counseled to structure my day instead of just letting it “happen”, otherwise nothing important or vital will happen.

    But, Kate, can I just live that way for a week-please, please, please? I’ve been punching a clock for 51 years now, and now I’d like to punch it just once, literally.! Bwahaha!

  4. Terrific information, Katie! I am in the same space too. I think it’s partly due to the angst in the world that I am sensitive to. I recently wrote a post on “A Time to Write and a Time to Not Write” that says much of the same. We need to honor those seasons when the writing isn’t there. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Another tactic I’ve been practicing long-term, for several years now, is tuning out the media. If something doesn’t add value to my life (or allow me to add quantitative value in return) and is, instead, feeding off my energy, I don’t want it in my day. I haven’t regretted it once. The news that filters around the edges is often more pertinent, clearer, and more thought-provoking.

    • >due to the angst in the world that I am sensitive to.

      Same here. I can’t resist reading the news, even though I try. Apparently, I can’t go more than a day without clicking on a newsreader app. I tried to deal with this through my writing (Democracy’s Thief), but it didn’t work.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Find a replacement for the addiction. IMDb is my nicotine replacement. 😉 I still get to browse a news feed a couple times (and one that actually does still feed me most of the big stories) but without as much of a negative barrage.

  5. This article was very timely for me. Over the last year, a cascade of hard changes, both good and horribly bad, have left me staring at my laptop unable to feel my story. Words come by force, and some of them are very good, but I feel detached from the process.

    Like you, this is not my first round (I’m drafting my 11th book as well), but never in my more than 2 decades of writing has it ever been THIS hard.

    As you said, many of the problems influencing my writer’s block are out of my control, but you’ve encouraged me to identify the ones I can control and make those changes.

    Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, that sounds familiar. But every day I ask myself, “A few years down the road, will I feel better having written this story–or having not written it?” That answer, at least, remains clear.

  6. Sally M. Chetwynd says

    All of these points are spot on! Whether or not we readers were/are already aware of them, these make a good reminder for us to stop and take a deep breath, to gather ourselves for the coming fray.

    When I’m stuck, I either begin random stream-of-conscious noodling – usually pencil to reams of scrap paper – asking every question about the issue that comes to mind, allowing absurdity without self-censorship. Sometimes the gem we seek is in the response to that crazy what-if.

    Or I go work on something else entirely, maybe or maybe not related to writing.

    Two years ago I was caught in that “beyond the author’s skill” morass, and after isolating what I needed to do (in which I recognized my inadequacies and the need to consult with others), I began reaching out to those with experience in my trouble areas. It took about a year to gather the information, let it sink into my heart and soul, and then use that infusion to inform the chapters I needed to write. Even with the advance work of interviews, analysis, and self-examination, that was the hardest writing I’ve ever done. But I had to do it. The integrity of the story would have been compromised without it. My characters’ respect for me would have been damaged without it. And the work, as hard as it was, strengthened my skills massively. I truly enjoyed the challenge.

    The real bonus was after it was done, with publication a couple months away, when the story sent me a definitive message about my next writing project. A work of non-fiction, that will be the hardest writing I’ve ever done. Now I realize that my previous challenge was an apprenticeship, or boot camp, for the next book.

    I love connections like that!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This whole comment is great, but especially this:

      “When I’m stuck, I either begin random stream-of-conscious noodling – usually pencil to reams of scrap paper – asking every question about the issue that comes to mind, allowing absurdity without self-censorship. Sometimes the gem we seek is in the response to that crazy what-if.”

  7. Elixa A. Parr says

    This came in the nick of time XD Thanks!!

  8. As someone with ADHD, writers block is a tremendous pain. BUT… I draw, keep notes going on ideas, and just read for inspiration when it clobbers me

  9. KM, I believe your article speaks to every writer. When writing is especially hard for me, I literally write down everything that’s bugging me and sort out what I can impact and what I can’t. Then I try to take by the horns the things I can control. It helps to see that many of my annoyances are actually under my power to impact. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, love this! Brain dumping on the page is great way to get a more objective perspective within the messiness of whatever is going on.

  10. All of the above comments ring true.

    Sometimes I try a different approach. Good writing comes from the right side of the brain where my inner child lives. My blocks occur when the left brain is just overwhelmed with life’s demands. My child is ignored and can’t get any attention. When I switched careers and became a patent attorney I had no right brain time left at the end of the day. That lasted 12 years!

    These days I let the negative take over. I tell myself, fine, you’re done, burned out and it’s time to quit. Get a job at Home Depot and sweep floors. (I treat some of my characters this way). Of course, my inner child who loves to tell stories doesn’t like the adult actually agreeing that he has nothing to say and should quit. So the rebellion in my head starts with an agreement that I won’t write very often and, of course, that the book I’m working on will never be finished. Sooner or later, the inner child misses writing so much that the time increases, the energy returns and the right brain takes over once again. Doesn’t always work but sometimes it’s just about letting your various personas clear the air.

  11. I go back and tweak earlier chapters of my draft in easy ways, like searching for vague verbs like “went” and replacing them with more vivid ones, or adding sensory details. That’s a gentle way of reawakening my interest in the story and characters or “getting my head back into it.”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Glad you brought this up. I’ve been doing this as well, with the book I just finished. It’s cathartic and helps with impostor syndrome (usually 😉 ).

  12. Thank you very much for this – a great help on many different levels.

    What I do is write free flow for twenty minutes or so. I scribble about anything and everything – whatever is in my overloaded yet tired brain. No editing – just rambling forth. No one will ever see it so there is no pressure – just a warm up for the muscles and the mind.
    Then comes the important part of the exercise – into the kitchen for a rewarding cup of tea.
    Cheers.

  13. Yeah. I used to get terrible problems with January. I’ve helped it a lot by taking a holiday at that time of year in the sun. Sometimes I’ve even gone away for the whole winter, which can be amazingly cheap if you go to out of season resorts. For example I went to Malta for 3 months and paid as little as £4 a night. Mediterranean or desert places are a good choice, the weather is cool but there is still sunshine. It helps with mood and energy. The other thing is to take vitamin D in the winter. I don’t use a SAD lamp, but I’ve heard they can help. Before, I used to get murderous rages in the winter and I never felt properly awake.
    Exercise, particularly dancing, is good to boost the serotonin levels.
    Plot blocks can eat away at your motivation to write, but the worst things are what I call existential blocks where nothing in life seems to have any meaning, and writing seems futile. Remind yourself what makes writing sexy to you- the slant, strange, absurd or beautiful things that compelled you to write in the first place. Then aim to mine that spooky hair-raising feeling.
    I think that Julia Cameron has the right idea when she tells you to go on an Artist’s Date every week (for me that is once a fortnight) to fill the well.
    The other thing I do is to write something more indulgent like some poetry and leave the heavy novel project alone for an afternoon. Going to a Writers’ Group and showing off a bit can help to light a fire under you again. Perform something great you wrote in the past and let people fawn over you : )

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Now that it’s finally gotten a little warmer, I’ve been walking every afternoon. That helps a lot.

  14. I got a better understanding of my humanity through reading Eric Barker’s posts. He suggests if you’re blocked give yourself one tiny task. Go to your writing area and put one thing that’s out of place away. Or create the word processor document and enter the title. One thing leads to another. Thirty minutes later you’re still fixing “just one more thing…”

  15. Thank you KM, this was very helpful. I struggle with depression, so most of the time it’s really hard for me to write (or doing anything, for that matter), but the feeling of accomplishment I get when I CAN do it, even if just a little, is worth fighting for.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally agree with this. Focusing on the feeling we get after we do something, rather than when we’re doing it can be tremendously helpful.

  16. Another eye-opening post. I realized that it’s not enough for me to admit that it’s not working or I’m just not up to it today (at which point I go out for a walk or something, which has its own rewards). But identifying the reason, even if it’s nothing to do with the work, is key to moving forward. When I’m stuck on the writing, I usually write out the supposed problem in my notebook, I just let the ink fly, no worries about spelling or grammar. At the very least, it gets the problem out of my head. I also love point 7. It reminds me of a Hemingway quote; “You have to stand up and live before you can sit down and write.”
    Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Richard Jones says

    1: To get started, write one true sentence.

    Hemingway had a simple trick for overcoming writer’s block. In a memorable passage in A Moveable Feast, he writes:

    “Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”

    http://www.openculture.com/2013/02/seven_tips_from_ernest_hemingway_on_how_to_write_fiction.html

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve always liked that anecdote.

      • Richard Jones says

        Hemingway’s stuff is enigmatic. It’s like he has to play a game with you before he lets you in on his secrets. And then sometimes, he just plays games (Hills Like White Elephants). When he talks about squeezing the orange peel and squirting the little droplets of oil into the fire or just looking out over the rooftops, I believe he was encouraging himself to have faith *in himself*. “Take your mind off things. The words will come. They always have. They always will. You can’t rush them.” All we can do is fix our thoughts on the one fact we know is true and not speculate on things we know nothing about.

        In the “Old Man and the Sea,” he starts out with the old man going 84 days without catching a fish. Yet, Santiago doesn’t whine or worry. He doesn’t control when the fish will bite. I think that was another one of Hemingway’s ways of saying, “Don’t worry. Be Happy.” The one true fact in that scene is that you can’t control when the fish will bite. But you sure won’t catch anything by worrying.

        Just my $0.02.

  18. Mary George says

    For me, “writer’s block” vanished two years ago. I’d read James Scott Bell’s “Voice” and found a huge gold nugget: the 300-word sentence. Here it is.
    1) Get a yellow legal pad and a good black-ink pen.
    2) Isolate yourself. Be in quiet, staring, still mode for 10 minutes.
    3) Speculate on two or three scenes that might work. Pick one.
    4) Write a 300-word sentence, using only commas, ABOUT that scene.

    (For example, “this scene is about Julia, and she just saw her ex in the grocery store, behind the cabbages, and she hunkers down but, damn it, Jake saw her and he is smiling so she just leaves the basket on the floor and makes it to the exit, but instead of going to her car she tucks into the drug store and heads down the shampoo aisle, accidentally bumping into two elderly women, and takes refuge next to the reading glasses display, wondering why the hell she is avoiding him in the first place, why couldn’t she face him because it had been over a year now, and just when she felt calm and collected there he was, looking for her, and when she turned to leave she knocked the entire display case over, spilling glasses everywhere and in her panic to pick them up Jake shows up, just stands there with that smart*ss grin and she could have smacked him hard for it but, no, that would reek of unfinished business, and all she could do was accept his help and apologize to the employee who had already up righted the display case, and she knew that after they picked up all the readers she’d gather her wits and tongue and do the infuriating mature thing and act surprised to see him, this non-committal, video-gaming hot mess that moved to Chicago, leaving her behind.”)

    5) Fix it.

    Works every single time.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a great exercise for blocks in the drafting stage. My outlining process isn’t so much about getting words on paper as it is working through causal relations for scenes. Essentially, however, what I’m doing in the “dreamzoning” phase is a stream-of-conscious equivalent for a different part of the process.

      • Mary George says

        Yes, the different kinds of writing . . . for me it’s the Post-it outlining stage, the 300-word sentence stage, the getting it on the laptop stage, then tweaking the chronology and lastly, the revision stage. Don’t know why we call it writing. It should just be called ‘re-writing.’

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes, even for someone like me who prefers to do most of the heavy lifting upfront in an outline, rather than in revisions (when all goes well), the process is still a long procession of tweaking and refining.

  19. “In the artistic life, discipline extends far beyond the desk.” I shall write this above my desk as it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Working it out may take some time but that doesn’t negate the truth behind it. Thanks for that, Katie.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve been mulling on this concept quite a lot lately. I will be doing posts on in it in the future. Basically, I find myself more and more interested in something I’m currently calling “whole-life art.”

  20. Deborah Turner says

    I sometimes deal with this, especially in the summer. I need to be outside in the sun, in the wind, listen to the ocean breaking a block away from me. Being stuck inside is the worst! So I bought a table for the deck, and some chairs. I sit in the sun and write whatever I feel at the moment. It’s nothing that will be published, that’s not the point, it’s just for me. It doesn’t feel like spinning my wheels, and sometimes, something good comes out and moves one of my plots forward. I always have more than one book on the go, because I run myself into plot problems and need to let them stew until they figure themselves out. Mostly, I take time for me, with a long walk through the waves, or sitting and reading a book or a series I love. I get a good tan (and the much-needed Vitamin D I’m chronically short on), and I get some space for whatever I’m needing. We have 9 months of rain here on the Oregon Coast, so those three or four months of sun are precious and much needed. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, but you’re doing it right. Hang in there.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Generally, winter is the more difficult writing season for me. But summer certainly presents its own challenges. Somehow I’m always surprised by how much busier I tend to be in the warmer months.

    • Mary George says

      Personally, I write best when it’s cold and dreary, when I’m stuck inside comforted by the wood stove. I think of everyone reading good books in wintertime – it allows me to envision my reader, to capture her attention. I can edit well in the sublime days of summer, but right now is my planting season and I damn the crocus.
      (Go Ducks! My alma mater.)

  21. I always find it funny how similar the minds of creative people work. Going through a similar valley myself for a while now, I appreciate someone else speaking the same truths, and especially, coming to similar solutions!
    Everything in this post hits with me, but especially #5. I don’t know when I realized this as a creative writer, but whenever I did (a few years back), it opened a whole new understanding as how to nurture my subconscious. And the thing is, I felt like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Ugh, I wish I had a fire place ;-p.
    But yeah, you’re so right. And if I can encourage you any more, just remember that each season or chapter of your life gives you (creative) tools that you don’t even know were instructive. Whatever happens in your personal difficulties, it *will* influence your art for better. I have no doubt about it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Fire places (and pits) are awesome. But just get a big candle. I found a big three-wick soy candle at TJ Maxx. It does the trick admirably–and with far less mess.

  22. When getting to the page is the problem, I try to forgive myself. There are so many reasons why writing seems to take last place in life some days. But often I WANT to get to the page, even when life is throwing me curveballs.

    When I don’t want to write because I’m fretting over a plot problem, I force myself to sit down. One technique I use to get past the block is to bring another character into the scene I don’t know how to write, typically a know-it-all who tells the other characters what to do. It might be good advice or it might be bad, but whichever it is, the new character acts as a catalyst. Whether the advice is good or bad, the protagonist then responds — he or she may do what the catalyst says to do, or may not, but SOMETHING will happen.

    Once something has happened, and the scene is written, then I can edit it. It’s the blank page that’s most frightening.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Similarly, I used to have a list of prompts on the bulletin board by my desk. One was: “Have somebody shoot a gun at somebody else.” I never literally used it, but just glancing at it always got my creative mind going.

  23. Hello

    WOW! I am impressed. I’m a new subscriber and so this is the first time I’ve been here. The way you have designed this website is great. A moment after I clicked on the email you sent, I was here reading your fact filled blog, with no beating around the bush like some places do. The amount of useful information you have packed into this one article is amazing. I know I’ll have to go back and read it again several times just to absorb everything.

    I’m not an author like you in the true sense of the word because I’ve never published anything yet, though I do enjoy playing with words. About four years ago, I completed a short, creative writing course sponsored by the University of Iowa. From three of the assignments, I’ve slowly, yes sadly to say, very gradually, been developing a story. Lately I’ve found that I can’t seem to get back to it, though after having written about 30,000 words, I’d like to see it finished. My tired fingers have punched out about the same number on another tale that’s unrelated to the first one. It too has come to a screeching halt. In my defense, I will admit that for awhile my work occupied every waking moment. I’m hoping some of the ideas presented here will get me going again. If nothing else, you have given me lots to think about.

    I wanted to stop in to say ‘HI’ and to let you know I think you are doing a marvelous job here. THANK YOU for sharing some of your experiences with us. It is helpful to learn about how other people that have ‘been there and done that’ have worked their way through similar problems. Your fan club just grew by one because I know, I will be back.

  24. Robert Th. Lazet says

    When I get to that place that the flow for that day is not starting. I start writing a part that might or might not fall in place in this book. I have to pretend that it will be a part of one of the next scenes. Mostly it will fit in…but it gives me a next point to go to or to go from.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thinking outside the box is huge in breaking through blocks. Usually, I find it’s not so much about a solution as it is simply rephrasing the problem. One of my favorite approaches is to work backwards. I’ll jump forward to a scene I know about, then start working my way backwards toward another known point, until I’ve filled in the blanks.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.