I posted before that I’d look back at the Wikipedia page on writer’s block and offer more of my theories about causes and coping strategies of writer’s block as more than a writer and a psychology student. So here I am!
Of coping strategies for writer’s block, Wikipedia has a quick-fire paragraph, including the following:
“As far as strategies for coping with writer’s block Clark describes: class and group discussion, journals, free writing and brainstorming…”
Of course, there are those many traditional ideas for coping with ‘writer’s block’ as an umbrella term, but, as I specified before, I don’t use writer’s block as one term – but three, three unique stages of writing:
> Content block: traditional writer’s block
> Detail block: speech and design block
> Structure block: plan and bigger picture block
These I shall refer back to. I think it is important for writers and non-writers giving advice alike to realise that there is no panacea [Πανάκεια if we are referring to the mythology behind that word!].
I think one aim of coping strategies should be to turn writers away from content block – or, at least, the excuse of it. Because content block is not the entire notion of “I don’t know what to write,” but the idea of not knowing the immediate next snippet of text, planning should eliminate this.
Other strategies here can range from the simple like omitting a character’s name, piece of description or line of action to get the writer’s bearings back into the scene, to the more elaborate of working beyond the novel. A number of friends of mine are high fantasy writers who keep folders of extraneous data – simply because it lets them know how their worlds should work.
What sets me thinking beyond content block, though, is this quote of the Wikipedia page:
“Oliver suggests asking students questions to uncover their writing process.”
It’s about getting behind or into the novel. Paradoxically, it’s not about the content, but the way a person tackles said content. Often I find that I have become stuck because of lack of material from a lack of intent to conjure up more. I might leave a time and date as blanks in my first draft because I’m not willing to commit myself to one certain date yet – but this means that, especially where time-travel is involved, I fall at the next bridge that needs a date, as I cannot refer back to my previous notation.
So: getting behind the story and pushing it from there may work. If you have been working to hone the beginning, but have left the ending untamed for whatever reason, it’s time to leave where you are comfortable and go into the wilderness. If one scene refuses to come together, but you know where the next scene intends to lead (structure block), let go of the stubborn voice that trills “you must write in chronological order” and go with what you know of the next sections.
This may also help what I suggest is a cause of writer’s block: burnout. That is: physical and mental exhaustion leading to a lack of interest. If a writer comes back to the same chapter with the same attitude he or she had yesterday – perhaps it is a difficult scene for the characters, or one that needs its exposition transformed – he or she will be making no process. Often, writers call this writer’s block because of the exact lack of progress that sounds like “I don’t know what to do here”. But is it truly a lack of material? No: it’s a lack of enthusiasm from the writer’s side, not the content side.
To get rid of this – and perhaps detail block if it correlates towards burnout with more writers than simply me – one thing to do is to tackle a different section, or, as with traditional solutions, work outside of the novel on character charts so that one will know the way a character should act in this situation. But often I find that if I don’t want to write for one novel, I’m even less keen on the ideas of writing unnecessary external pieces with its flavour.
On the other hand, and because this is about coping strategies, it may be best to turn away from this certain piece of work for a while to do something not related to writing. I can’t say this will help with the writing part of ‘writer’s block’ – though, I myself tend to think about composing or actually compose blog posts when I can’t cope with the workload of writing – but it helps with de-stressing the mind. And, of course, that tool is the most effective cure for writer’s block.
There are other theories as to the cause, maintenance and resolution of writer’s block that I won’t yet go into here. For instance, if one takes to believing that writer’s block is affected by split-brain theory, there are suggestions that utilising more of both hemispheres – the ordered left and the creative right – will increase productivity there: ‘clustering’.
Still, each writer has their own way, dependant on their personality…let’s not get started on that as affecting writer’s block!