Why I’m (Probably) Not Going To Be Able To Give You Useful Advice Regarding Writer’s Block
I’ve had a couple of folks I don’t know well (or at all) recently ask me if I could give them advice about getting over writer’s block. The answer is “probably not,” and here’s why:
1. I have no idea what the root of your block is, and also, the chances are reasonably good that you may not understand it either, even if you think you do (people are like that). I am not a trained therapist who can dig around in your brain to figure this stuff out, and you’re not paying me to do that anyway;
2. Even if I did have an idea of the cause of your blockage, since (again) I don’t actually know you, I have no idea of how well you take advice, even if you are asking for it, or whether once you are offered advice if your next step will be to try to execute on it, or to offer another reason why that advice won’t work for you;
3. I rarely experience writer’s block myself to any significant degree. I’ve had stretches where the writing is difficult, but that’s usually to do with me hacking my way through the thicket of story; I’m writing, just not particularly linearly. Recently I’ve had to deal with the sequelae of COVID turning my brain’s plotting engine into goo, but again, it’s not that I’m not writing. It’s that I’m rewriting more right now than I usually do. So, not blockage, just a lot of meandering. Without a huge amount of personal experience with writer’s block, I can’t really give advice that is too useful on how to get through it.
These days, most of the advice I give about writing is really quite simple: Put your ass in a chair and write on as regular a schedule as you can to let your brain develop “muscle memory.” That should help you power through episodes of mental resistance, whether that’s a writing block, or lack of direction, or deficit of inspiration or whatever. I give this particular advice because a) it works for me, b) I have to remind myself of it all the fucking time, because I am so easily distractible, especially these days.
Whether that is useful for your own particular blockage, is, of course, a matter for you to decide. I could offer other tips and tricks (“Write in a different place!” “Do writing sprints!” “Eat more leafy greens!”) but generally speaking I don’t do any of those things, so I can’t speak to their efficacy (I mean, I do try to eat more leafy greens, but not specifically to get over a writing block). As I get older I’ve learned that offering definitive advice without regard to the actual person involved is often the opposite of useful. This is why, these days, I’m far more likely to say “this is been what’s worked for me” rather more than “this is what you should do” when people come advice-seeking. Not always — I can still be garrulous and fatuous and certain in my opinions when the mood strikes — but more often now than when I was younger.
So: ass in chair, write as regularly as you can, and build up that “muscle memory,” which again is good writing advice generally. If that doesn’t work, then… well, actually, a bit of therapy/and or medical diagnosis (if you can swing it, sorry Americans that our health care sucks so badly) probably isn’t a bad idea, because maybe there’s more there going on that may not be specifically about writing but affects your writing too, and I’m a big believer in improving one’s mental health in general.
But that’s kind of where I beg off giving further writing block advice to strangers. I don’t know you, sorry, and I can’t know everyone, especially when I’m on a book deadline. But I wish you luck, and an end to your block, and happy writing afterward.