Writers will offer myriad explanations for why we’re not writing, some are very creative explanations (guilty), and we usually attribute a dry spell to writer’s block. While I used to believe writer’s block was a real thing, I no longer feel that way. Here’s my story about writer’s block and a few questions to ask ourselves that may help to get to the heart of the matter.
After completing the fifteenth chapter of my work in progress called THE LAMENTS, I feared I might be coming down with the dreaded writer’s block. What I felt at that time had never happened to me before and I wanted to distance myself from that “curse”. The only way to describe the experience was feeling muddle-headed, a bit lost, but still hopeful. I was at a difficult place in the story, right smack in the middle, which is a tough place. There were two distinct story paths I could follow at the time. I was literally at a fork in the road and wasn’t sure which direction to follow, so I stopped to think for a few days, which is always a good thing. It turned out I didn’t write for a week. Not good for me.
(My next blog post will be about dealing with middle of the story issues).
Now, sometimes writers need renewed inspiration. We’re not robots. Writing a book is a grueling, mentally-challenging endeavor, and the more passionate (obsessed) we are about our story, the more unforgiving and hard we are on ourselves. And, let’s not forget the guilt that sets in when we’re not writing; it’s awful. The stress almost takes on a human form–a dark presence that never leaves us; always hovering over our heads or looking over our shoulders, asking, “Why aren’t you writing?”
We’ve created wonderful and complex characters, we’ve given them life, and we’ve abandoned them, often at a crucial point in their personal stories. We wouldn’t do that to a friend, would we? No, we wouldn’t leave them hanging! Yet, we leave our characters hanging. Why does that happen?
Julia Cameron (a personal hero), the author of the seminal book on creativity, THE ARTIST’S WAY, encourages us to take weekly Author Dates to recharge our creative batteries. My Author Dates have included museum tours, strolling through a city garden, visiting my local flower nursery, sharing coffee with a family member or a good friend, and shopping for creative and fun writing supplies. I did all of the above during that difficult time. I also connected with fellow writers, who could relate to the dry spell I was experiencing. They encouraged and supported me to hang in there; it was only temporary, they said. Well, a week turned into two weeks without writing a damn thing. I was lost. I thought it might be time for a vacation, but I’d just returned from vacation! What was going on?
I then recognized what I was feeling; it was pure, unadulterated fear. So, I put on my counselor hat and asked myself these questions, hoping to ascertain what was really going on.
- Do I fear failure, judgment, too much exposure, or the fear of succeeding?
- Am I afraid of sitting with and thinking about the story, the characters, or possible endings because that takes away from valuable writing time?
- Should I rework my outline?
- Am I really a writer or a wannabe?
- Am I experiencing mental clutter, physical disorganization at home, or are there too many distractions in my life at the moment?
- Am I focusing too much on research and not on writing? (This does not pertain to writers of historical fiction or writers of nonfiction).
- Am I stressing about putting out a book a year for fear of losing readers or letting down my readers?
- Am I comparing my writing journey to other writer’s journeys?
- Is there a truth that needs saying or exploring in my novel, but I’m putting on the brakes for fear of hurting others or exposing myself?
- Do I believe my second book won’t be as well-received and successful as my first book?
- Is it true I can’t write today? Thank you to Bryon Katie, the fabulous creator of THE WORK.
- Am I afraid of acknowledging I’m lost and in need of a good editor’s help?
Each item has one thing in common–fear–and fear can stagnate or stop the writing momentum entirely for any writer at any time…IF you give in to the fear. I answered yes to many of those questions and I took action. I acknowledged my fear and sat at the writing chair once again.
Yes, I’m putting it back on us and placing us back in our writing chair–where we belong. Readers need you. I need a writing community, and we all need more good books. Sure, there are harried and frustrating days when I don’t meet my hoped-for word count goal, and there will be frustrating days when I know my writing certainly isn’t my best. But I give myself credit and a pat on the back for showing up at the writing desk–that’s key.
Do what you have to do to get back to your story, no matter what.
Thank you for your visit. I hope this blog post helps, and don’t give up!
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and it was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.
A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second historical novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, dreams of traveling, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time before her hips give out. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.
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