I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Is it Really Writer's Block?

By Jennie Atkins

Have you ever struggled with a scene not being able to wrap your head around what to do next? Or been unable to coherently piece together more than a handful of words? Of course you have! You’re a writer! I am not going to assume I’m the only one that goes through this.

Some people refer to it as writer’s block. Now you can find a hundred different articles and blogs telling you how to snap out of your writing slump. All of them provide excellent ways to get your fingers humming across your keyboard once again. But like a doctor looks at your wound or blood chart trying to find the reason or the “root cause” of your problem, I am suggesting that you analyze “why” this is happening to you at that very moment.

Yes, there are many reasons which can be divided into several areas.
     1) Physical—we’re burned out, or we’re not feeling well.
     2) Time—family pressures or our dreaded day job eats away at our writing time.
     3) Mental—we haven’t taken time for ourselves, be it spiritually or going for a long walk to clear our heads.

I challenge you to another reason, one I found that causes me more writers block than anything else—my story. When I find I can’t move forward, I’ve learned I need to look back. It’s like I’m trying to jam that square peg into a round hole or force a puzzle piece into a spot that looks perfect, but isn’t.

So in a sense, it is not “writer’s block”, but “writer’s stop”. My brain has stopped moving forward because the parts of the story I’ve already written don’t logically fit together and I can’t resolve it by writing more words.

The root cause of my problem is I haven’t taken the time to fully flush out my story. This had caused me to write myself into a corner with no way out.

Next time, you find yourself eager to blame writer’s block for your inability to push through; try to analyze the reason why.

Now it’s your turn: What causes you to stop writing?


  1. Jennie, I think you're right on the money about "writer's stop". When this happens to me, it IS usually because I've lost the logical progression of events in my story. Time to back up and take a run at it from another direction. :)

  2. I'll stop when I realize I have nothing more to say on the subject. A couple of novel ideas I thought promising came to a full stop that way. The story was there, but I just didn't have anything to add to what was there - at 30,000 words, or 70,000 words.

    I may get back to them again, but in the meantime I'm doing other things.


  3. Jennie, You've nailed it! My writer's block results primarily from problems with the story. I use Susan May Warren's "My Book Buddy" to ensure I've figured out the pieces I need to tell the story.

  4. Great insight, Jennie. Most of the time when I have writer's stop, it's because I haven't given my character a goal for that scene.

  5. You're so right, Jennie. The other thing I've found is that I'm writing a scene where I don't have all the information right. Or I don't have enough tension in the scene. But, I guess all of these add up to the parts of my story not quite adding up.

    Thanks for the reminder to look back. And I'm with Roxanne. The Book Buddy has been hugely helpful in making sure/fine-tuning the essential elements of my story.

    Loved this today!

  6. Yes, clearly defined goals for scenes, but it's also helpful to go back far enough to get a running start to go forward again--like backing up on level ground to rev up enough RPMs to take us up hills. Thanks, Jennie, and va-va-va-voom!

  7. Anne,
    I totally agree. Sometimes my line of thinking has gone astray and I need to back up and regroup.

  8. Andrew,
    I sometimes feel like giving up on my story as well, but it may just be a small change to put me back on track. Don't give up on what you wrote!

  9. Roxanne,
    Yes I use the Book Buddy too, but sometimes its a small detail that is tripping me up that just needs correcting.

  10. Pat,
    Great thought! Its kind of like your characters are mindlessly walking around! I'll keep that in mind.

  11. Jeanne,
    I always seem to find some detail looking backwards that is nagging me to fix it. And until I do, then I can't move forward.

  12. Dee, I love you analogy. Next time I get stuck I'll think of a race car!