Sometime ago I wrote about things that may be blocking your writing. I started out intending to list ten things because, well, I’ve had to deal with at least that many writing blocks.
But I got up to number six and hit the thousand-word mark, so I decided to reduce my original list to five and call it good.
But those other things also deserved mention. So here’s my follow up.
6. Too much advice
Let me make it clear that learning from others who are ahead of you in the writing journey is one of the best ways to learn new skills and avoid pitfalls.
You can, of course, do it your own way, but be aware that it will cost you time and effort. Why? Because you’re likely to make a lot of the same mistakes others before you have made.
Seeking—and listening to—the advice of others is quite simply a case of learning by example rather than by experience.
Here’s the secret. You can’t use every method used by every writer and accomplish anything. It simply is not possible.
One writer espouses outlining and another writer blasts it. You can’t have it both ways. Somewhere in the middle, yes. But both ways? No.
Yes, you need to read books that help you write better stories. But you also need to know how to find what works for you and what doesn’t. Then you need to learn how to throw out what doesn’t work.
7. Trying Too Many Things
When you find something that works, stick with it. This has been my big problem over the years. If one type of story planning works, then another type might work better. I’ve fallen into the habit of trying everything I read about. The end result is that I haven’t stuck with anything long enough to find out how well it works—or doesn’t work.
Learn from my mistakes and don’t do that!
8. Too Little Knowledge of Your Writing Self
Do you remember a couple of posts I wrote a month or two ago? I described what to do when you’ve lost your first writing love and followed up with post asking who you’re writing for.
I wrote those posts because I’d forgotten my writing self. Why I was writing. Who I was writing for. The purpose behind all the words.
Part of that equation is knowing when and how you write best. Reams have been written about both subjects, so all I’ll say here is that it’s important to know what part of the day you’re most productive and how you write best—what type of writer you are.
Of course the obvious two categories are pre-planner and pantser, but there are other categories, as well.
It’s important to understand how your mind works because knowing that allows you to sort through all the how-to information and more quickly find the material that works for you. Read what fits your writing personality and discard what doesn’t. It helps you avoid too much advice.
But it also helps you know what methods of process to avoid.
I love planning. I can write pages of summary and characterization, but it blocks the writing of novels because once I’ve written all those pages of summary and whatever else, my mind thinks the story has been told. The net result? The novel comes to a screeching halt.
If you’re a pantser by nature (which I appear to be), don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to pre-plan just because other writers do.
That works both ways, by the way. The key is to know how you work best. Then you can ignore the things that don’t complement or advance that writing process.
9. Too Many Ideas
The problem here isn’t just the ideas. We all know new ideas are good things. They’re the fertile soil from which new stories sprout and grow.
But if you’re in the middle of a first draft, the last thing you want is a new idea popping up and laying claim to your attention.
You can’t keep that from happening. But to keep those new ideas from taking over the current project, you do need a strategy for dealing with them.
The best strategy for me is to take a little time to summarize the idea. A few words or a few lines to describe the thought either in a digital document or on an index card.
I’m also doing a timed writing challenge this year, so I sometimes use those timed writings to develop a persistent idea a little more fully.
Also setting aside time each week for dedicated idea generation is a good way to nip rampant ideas in the bud.
10. Too Much Life
This was suggested by a reader and she called it displacement. As in having to move and having no place to write.
I know all about that, having moved several states 14 years ago and having endured a two-week cold a couple of weeks ago. In both cases, the only thing to do was take care of the matters at hand.
There is, unfortunately, no solution to this problem. There comes a time in every writer’s life when circumstances take priority and everything else is either tended on a reduced scale or set aside altogether.
The best advice I can give you is to tell you that these circumstances are quite often temporary. Moves are completed. Colds heal. Kids grow up and start families of their own. Don’t stress over the days (weeks, months, or years) you can’t write. Do what you can and prepare for the day when things change and you can write more.
That concludes part two of this no doubt ongoing saga. Which block do you have the most trouble with? What other things would you add to the list?