Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writer's block, taking breaks, skipping over parts, working on something else, and other methods to run away when faced by a challenge

I am not a professional writer yet, so maybe my advice is not the first place to stop on your research. That said, I want to talk about what happens when the going gets tough, and how I see other writers handle challenges in writing and editing. I like to join writer discussion groups on facebook. I like to participate in sharing thoughts about how a writer can act to be successful.

Lately, the topic has been what to do when you’ve hit writer’s block or what to do when editing has you hung up.

I always see the same responses to these problems. They go something like this:

Take a break from it.
Skip over it and come back.

Work on something else.

I just want to say that I think that this is all awful advice. When you’re faced with a challenge, your first instinct should not be to run away from it.

so many writers

…never finish their manuscripts. So many would-be writers never even finish chapter one. They claim that they have writer’s block. They claim that they just cannot think it through, when I believe the truth is usually that they just don’t want to think it through. They don’t want to put in the work, the effort.

There’s a difference between planning a break between large projects and taking a break because you’ve hit a giant challenge. I always take breaks between finishing, drafts, and major goal points like that. Usually my breaks are about a week-long. But, when I have a major challenge in front of me, that is NO time for a break. That is a time to work.

time doesn’t heal plot

They say a couple should never go to bed angry, well I say don’t let your biggest challenges sleep. Challenges do not suddenly get easier over time. However, they will make you more reluctant to return if you try and hide from them. Facing your challenges doesn’t necessarily mean working on your keyboard, either. Get in bed, turn off the lights, and just think. Thinking about how to confront a challenge is working on that challenge. It feels like a break, because thinking is peaceful, but it will get you through it before running away from it will.

Truly, though, taking a break usually just gives you an excuse not to work. You’ll push it back, push it back, until your novel is just another thing on your bucket list that you’ll never complete.

skip it, skip it

Some say to skip over it and work on the next part. While I agree that this is better than running away from it, I still think that this is problematic. When you don’t face the challenge before you, it will keep on haunting you as you go. This is the snowball effect. Sometimes an issue left alone will only cause you to create more issues down the line… which will give you more to have to go back and fix… which will only make the work more overwhelming… which will only make you more reluctant to finishing your project.

Think about your job. Say your boss gives you what feels like an impossible task to do in an impossible time, don’t you usually find a way to make it work anyway? That’s why bosses do that: You’ll make it work somehow. Make your challenge work. Don’t give yourself excuses.

Chapter one is easy

Some say work on a different project, but I say that this only leads to a great deal of unfinished projects. Most writers have a stack of chapter ones from a billion different book ideas they have, but the difference is that professional writers actually finish stuff. If you start a project that you fully intend to finish, then finish it. Don’t start a million other projects, because then you’ll never get one finished. Chapter one is easy; Chapter eighteen is hard because it requires you have to completed chapters 1-17. Most people who wish that they were writers never get past the first few chapters. Most writers who wish that they were published never get through editing. Be one of the few.

Haha! Sorry I don’t sugarcoat this stuff, I’m just not a believer in writer’s block. I feel like writer’s block is an excuse to quit working through the hard parts.