So, you’re moving along, kicking out the words like a machine. Things are going great, the story is coming together and you’re moving toward the final spark, the climactic twist that will take you to the finish line. Suddenly, you realize that you have not thought through that final spark and there is a flaw or you need to come up with that final twist to bring you to the climax of the story. But nothing’s coming, you’re drawing a blank. You sit and try to come up with what you need to continue to the end but no ideas are coming. Nothing. You know it’s there, on the fringes of your brain, but you cannot access it just yet. The well has dried up, at least temporarily.
How long is this temporary dry spell? A few hours? A day? A week? A month? It all depends. Is this the true definition of writer’s block or just a temporary brain lapse? I’m not honestly sure but it can be frustrating. I have run into this phenomenon that has lasted a day and one that lasted just over 2 months. That was rough, to not be able to come up with what you need for months. It was the last third of my book and the pivotal point that would bring everything to its rousing conclusion, to end the story in a grand fashion. No such luck, I was hung up for what felt like forever. In the first few weeks, I tortured myself trying to come up with what I needed. Forcing the issue with my brain did not help, at all. I finally gave up trying because I knew what I needed would come to me at some point.
Up to this point, I had brain farts that lasted a few days, maybe just over a week tops and then the idea I needed would pop into my head. The subconscious is always at work, trying to figure out what you need without you even knowing. Satisfying when it happens, that’s for sure. Frustrating as hell when it doesn’t. This went on for weeks, which turned into a month and eventually into 2 months. For the first week or two, I would lie in bed at night, thinking of the story and trying with everything to come up with that final spark for the book. It’s strange, the ideas I had been waiting for on previous occasions, would come to me at times when I was not even thinking of the story. The same thing happened here.
It was over 2 months later and I had already gotten myself over halfway done with another novel plus about a third of the way into one other. Getting into the shower one day, late afternoon, it came crashing into my mind. I was not even thinking about the story or trying to figure out what to do. I was honestly focused on one of the other books I was working on when the final idea I had needed for 2 months came bursting through the saloon doors in my brain and announced itself. The idea flooded my brain and I was elated. This new idea came out of nowhere but thinking about it after, it had to be my subconscious that continued to work on the problem after I had given up.
I thought about the solution all throughout the shower and once out and dried off, I ran to my computer and started typing away. The rest of the book was completed within the week. What a great feeling that was when the idea came to me. It was like opening the floodgates and letting everything behind come rushing in to fill in the space. I knew the idea would come as they always had whenever this happened prior to that time. This one just took a hell of a lot longer.
My point here is to have faith in yourself. Everyone gets stuck and although it may not be true writer’s block, it is frustrating. Eventually, it will all come together but there are things you can do that can work to break you out of that stalemate. One thing I did on another novel, from a suggestion that my wife threw at me, was to write a side story about one of the characters. I was writing one of my novels and was at a standstill, not sure where it would go from the point I was at. She suggested writing a side story about one of the characters. It did not have to be one of the main characters and it did not necessarily have to be included in the story. It was an exercise to unstick what was stuck… and it worked like a charm!
As a matter of fact, it gave me the direction for a major plotline in my story, one that never existed before that exercise, and helped form the rest of the book. What a feeling that was, to be able to continue writing something about a character in the story and then to have it lead to such a major piece of the story. I’m not saying this will always work but try it and see. If it has the same outcome that I had, you’ll be better for it. Besides, it was really a lot of fun to come up with a backstory for this character. To catch a glimpse into an event that changed his life in a major way was fun to come up with and create.
Call it writer’s block or whatever you want. Whatever it is, it can be very frustrating but do not let it stop you from writing. If I had, I would have sat for over 2 months without writing anything. In that time, I completed so much work that I was kind of happy my brain stalled on the story I was working on. I believe there is always a reason why things happen. If you look at it as an opportunity instead of some sort of failure, a lot of good can come from a hiccup in your work.
Happy reading, happy writing!