Well, it is if you actually believe in it. I’ve run into more than my fair share of scribes who emphatically state that writer’s block is about as real as Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs. I’m of the opinion that if it’s real to you, then it exists. But whichever side of the fence you personally stand on, there’s no denying the fact that writers, somewhere during the process of penning their magnum opus, can get stuck.
The first telltale sign of blockage is Oculos Computator, better known as The Stare. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know exactly what I mean. Hinder parked in your favorite writing chair, knuckles cracked, fingers nimble and hovering above your keyboard… when you become mesmerized by the siren song—I always hear Bali Hai from South Pacific—of the vast white void of your computer screen.
But you’re a determined writer, so you shake it off, gird your loins, and make resolute your desire to put words to paper. The problem is you can’t. That scene that’s so clear in your mind has suddenly become uncomfortable and difficult to write. Your synopsis refuses to mold itself into story form. An unbridgeable chasm has open up between you and the end of the story. The next scene (or chapter) is an empty pit of nothingness that stares back at you like the abyss and mocks your talent and very existence. Somehow—not through any fault of your own, surely—your characters have all been written into inescapable corners. But you have to write, that ache is in your bones, so what do you wind up doing? You rewrite, edit, rewrite, and edit what’s already been written instead of moving on.
That, my friend, is the kiss of death for creativity.
So, what are the workarounds? Hate to break it to ya, kiddo, but there ain’t no one surefire method. It’s like that line from the Diff’rent Strokes theme, “What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”
What’s that? You think that’s a cop out answer? You want what? Actual advice, even though everybody and their mother uses a different approach? Fine. Here are some of the more popular methods, in a nutshell:
Plot the story out beforehand. It’s akin to knowing the destination before you begin the journey. Stop whinging, you artsy bastard. Sure, preplanned structure can be viewed as limiting the creative spontaneity of your currently unwritten baby, but it’s only a suggested story path that you can alter along the way. Nothing’s written in stone—rewrites’ll drive that point home soon enough, trust me—until your work has been published.
Gender swap. As silly as it might sound, tinkering with the XX and XY chromosomes of your protagonist or antagonist actually helps change the character’s viewpoints and perspective. Or if you’re not up to playing God—who are you kidding? You’re a writer. You think you’re God, go on and admit it—try switching up your writing style. If you normally write in first person, why not give third person a go?
Dora, of Explorer fame, is keen to shout, “Swiper, no swiping!” But you ain’t her and no one’s watching, so why not rip a page from the Star Trek TV series plot device book (from Next Generation to Enterprise) and give your characters a mini goal they must accomplish and pair them up with other characters they absolutely cannot stand. Conflict is story. Just ask Moses. It was written on the back of one of the stone tablets. Trust me on this.
Don’t allow yourself to get hung up on formatting, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and all that crap, and save editing for the very end. Right now, your goal is to transport that nagging story from the ether of your mind and plunk it firmly down on the page. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and gussy it up later.
And the simplest bit of advice I can offer any of you lazy sods who positively hates following patterns and formulas or doing any sort of precursor to writing; the quick and dirty solution to putting the boots to writer’s block is to stop waiting for your muse—she’s really not that into you and it’s embarrassing how you chase her around like a lovesick puppy—and simply write. Let your thoughts spill out and let it be awful and unstructured and nonsensical, just as long as you’re actively engaging in the process of writing. Hell, start a blog. Works for me.
Now, what are you doing still staring at this? Stop procrastinating. Sally forth and be writeful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys