We have all heard that procrastination, frustration, and perfection are all causes of writer’s block, but in fact, they are only symptoms of the problem. More important than knowing that we are distracted, overly focused on a specific part of the project or that we are frustrated with the project for an unknown reason, we do better to get to the root causes of those obvious signs that something is stuck in our writing process.
I have come up with five basic causes of writer’s block.
1) Myth of Waiting for Inspiration
One reason is that many people have the misconception that you have to always be inspired to write. The truth is, writing is work. As Thomas Alva Edison once said, “Genius is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.”
As writers who may have been at this a while, it is not necessarily that easy. Sit in the chair and the words will come. That might have work with fans to Kevin Costner’s movie Field of Dreams, but this is no fictional movie. Giving proper and space is only part of the solution. Even with proper space and time, the writing process may not work when a writer has a serious case of writer’s block.
Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a fly to land on your nose. It may or may not happen any time soon, however, the fly comes a lot easier if you bait your nose first with honey. Yes, you’ll have a sticky nose, but the flies will come. Inspiration comes more easily when you’ve primed the word pump. This is why writing prompts are so effective in bringing out our muse.
2) You Don’t Know What to Write
You have reached the point in the writing process you hit a glitch for which you don’t have an easy solution. This can cause the symptom of procrastination. It can also cause the symptom of perfectionism. You keep working over the same territory of your manuscript again and again because you don’t know where to go from here.
When you see yourself where you don’t know what to write, look for what is information is missing and keeping you from going forward.
3) Information Overload
Just as not having enough information to move forward can cause you to get stuck, having information overload can also cause writer’s block. You have so much information in your head that you don’t know where to start or you start something, only to stop in the middle of the process because you have so many ways that you could proceed that you are stuck.
This was a problem I had when I first started writing. I had so many ideas that I didn’t know which idea I should follow. What if this idea turned out to be a dead end? Rather than muddling through the pile of ideas, I would get stuck. I decided to do it later. Later, didn’t come for a long, long time.
4) Life Getting In the Way
Too many things to do that do not involve writing interfering with your writing process can also be a reason for writer’s block. It’s the idea that life gets in the way. The cure for this is better organization and focus. Setting aside time to write every day, even just fifteen minutes per day can help keep this cause of writer’s block at arm’s length.
Again, this is another reason for having a writer’s block. This reflects the idea of “doing it tomorrow” and then dreading the tomorrow that never comes.
5) Real or Imagined Fear
Cause five: of writer’s block that I have identified is fear (real or imagined) It can be of the subject matter or it can be caused by something in your real life environment.
In some cases, you might determine that fear of a subject means that it might be necessary to let the project go. Other times it might mean that you should square your shoulders and move on into the project with your head held high and your weapons ready for battle. However, most often, our fears are not real, but are imagined. We make the issues about the book and not what is really bothering use, but is about how we think about our own abilities to write the book.
We also are afraid how what we are writing will be received by our audience and in the process we freeze. It’s like being on the stage during a rehearsal and freezing because someday an audience will eventually see what we have written. It makes no more sense for us writers than it does for an actor on stage.
Simply understanding these causes of writer’s block may be enough for some people to overcome this malady, however, next week we will dig deeper and examine some of the solutions to the problem of writer’s block.
Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church 1 1/2 miles south of Brandsville, Missouri on Hwy 63. Sunday services are at 10 am and Wednesday night Bible Study at 6:30 pm. As Author Cygnet Brown, she has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener
She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga