Overcoming Writer's Block.
by Esme Carmichael
My longest Writer’s Block lasted almost three years.
It was during 2015, when I first started the complete re-write of The End of Everything, Book One in The Connection Series. I wrote the first chapter without a hitch, then the Block hit. In the months that followed, it was a never-ending cycle of stops and starts. Sometimes I tried to push through and wrote the odd 1000 words, but it was always interspersed with months of very little writing progress, and lots of frustration.
Then, in 2018, I finally broke through. I completed the rest of the story over five months, then I immediately went to write Book Two in the series. Then I started writing Book Three. In March 2020, and with only ten more chapters until the end of the entire series, another Block hit. But I was prepared. I’d faced this frustrating adversary before, so this time I knew how to beat it…right?
The first thing I did was try and push through, which seemed the most obvious solution. So I took a week off work and dedicated it to writing. I even decided on a new routine and tried my best to stick to it, pushing out 1000 words a day and hoping the motivation to continue would ignite from there. The initial stage, and the dreaded blank page, was undoubtedly the hardest. My solution: just write solidly for 5 minutes. It didn’t have to be written well or consistent to the plot, and certainly not grammatically correct (I even turned off spellcheck), but the key thing was getting those words down on paper for a consistent 5 minutes.
And it worked! After those 5 minutes, I wanted to continue writing. Finally, I’d found my writing groove again!
Unfortunately, this didn’t last. Once my dedicated week was over, the Block returned with a vengeance. I still tried to push through, but once my 5-minute writing sprint became something I dreaded, I conceded I needed to try another method. Something we love should never become a chore.
So I did the next best thing and focused on something else entirely. Instead of stressing over a book I just couldn’t seem to write, I edited the first two books in the series, sent them to my first ever beta-readers, then edited some more. I created my Instagram author account and started connecting with The Writer Community. Not only that, but I drafted up two other completely fresh stories, and even started reading again after my decade long reading slump.
While this didn’t actively address the issues with my Writer’s Block, those months were some of the most productive I’ve ever had. I did all the prep for my debut release during this time, and I even had the zero-draft bones of two new series to pick up again in the future.
I slowly fell in love with reading again, my creative well filling up with each book. And while this didn’t actively put words on the page of my troublesome Book Three, I felt my motivation increase with every other thing I accomplished. When I finally felt ready to sit down again and get Book Three done, I was like a revving car, raring to go.
During my productive break from Book Three, I accepted that maybe the problem wasn’t me, but the story itself. Was the reason I was having this immense, unbreakable wall to writing because – simply put – there was something wrong, not with me or my motivation, but the actual plot?
I went back to basics. I considered the themes of the story, the ending I had already planned inside my head. Did it make sense? Was it a natural end to the series? Was it…satisfying?
That was it. The lightbulb not only lit up, but exploded into thousands of tiny shards. My planned ending was not satisfying. The reason I couldn’t write it was because I didn’t want to write it.
Suddenly, my possibilities became endless. I went back to the beginning and read everything I’d written so far. I scoured new albums from my favourite artists, searching for the next track that would lend some inspiration. I listened to those tracks during my afternoon jogs, allowing myself the freedom to consider what a new ending could be.
After a few weeks, I found the solution: my beloved 3-book series would turn into 4. A whole new book was born, giving my series the satisfying ending it deserved. Book Three suddenly felt a lot less daunting and I was excited about writing it, for the first time in months. Eight months after the Block hit, I finally finished it.
The dreaded Block is undoubtedly something every writer will experience. I truly believe it’s just a natural part of the process and it’s fruitless to stress about, or even to dread. How we ultimately push through the Block is down to our preferences, and no technique is going to work the same for everyone. For example, some people swear by writing X amount of words per day. As a mood writer, this just doesn’t work for me. If I’m not in the mood to write, the process can feel grueling and not at all enjoyable. Similarly, I know that working on multiple WIPs isn’t for everyone, but I love it. In fact, I’d even say it’s a form of productive procrastination.
But from my personal experience, I can irrefutably say that Writer’s Block does not have to be the horrible, frustrating chasm in the road which you just can’t pass. It can be productive. It can even be eye-opening. Would I have published my debut novel if Book Three’s Block hadn’t happened? Doubtful.
In fact, I think the extra productivity, and, frankly, the procrastination from finishing Book Three helped spur my publishing goals in the first place. I can certainly say that the series would have been different if that Writer’s Block hadn’t occurred, and it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.
So, my biggest piece of advice for overcoming the dreaded Block is not to overcome it at all. Embrace it. Harness it. Use it to your advantage. Who knows what might happen.
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