On Writer's Block

Question: What do you do when you get “stuck”? Is this what they mean by writer’s block?

Writer’s block and being stuck are two different things. In truth, we’re not sure that writer’s block actually even exists. In many ways it’s just a fabrication that aspiring author’s use to legitimize not spending time with their butt in a chair doing the hard work of being a writer. Feeling stuck, however, is a very real phenomenon. It happens when you’re putting together a story and some part of it – or many parts – just aren’t working out and in your heart of hearts, you know it.

Writer’s block is a made-up psychological disease; being stuck is a very real writerly phenomenon.

How you get unstuck, of course, happens only one way: by working the problem.

Perhaps the best strategy to use to “get unstuck” begins with actually knowing what the problem really is. Once it’s clearly named – and only then - can you go about the work of fixing it.

Like a car, a book of fiction has many parts. Just saying, “The car won’t run” isn’t how an automobile gets fixed. A mechanic fixes an engine by identifying the precise reason the car won’t run – and then they go about remediating the issue, with either a tweak, a new part or an entire engine overhaul.

Maybe a plot doesn’t add up? Perhaps a character simply would not do what you are saying the character does? Possibly the motivations are off or the scenes are too filled with exposition. To get unstuck become the mechanic that clearly identifies the problem.

Then go work it. Amateurs call these resolutions epiphanies. Professionals know they are solutions born from grit, craft, time and effort spent focused in the proper place.