Tell me if this sounds familiar to you:
You’ve read a few books in the same genre as your work-in-progress, you feel inspired, you’re inspired to begin a new draft of your book.
You begin writing a few paragraphs. But no, not quite right. Not the right tone, not the right imagery, better to start again.
You write more. Dah! It still feels wrong.
Again and again and again this process repeats itself, and suddenly you find yourself locked in a kind of madness. You can feel the story in your imagination, you’ve written a draft of it before. Why can’t you get it started again? Where’s the magic?
That’s been my world during the last couple of days.
can’t break the writer’s block
I made a goal of finishing a new draft of my memoir, Maintenance of Way, by the end of July and have it sent off to an editor in August. I finished a draft just a few weeks ago, and when I aimed to begin again, I was coming off the high of finishing a 70,000-word manuscript.
The first page remains unwritten. I’ve deleted about seven or eight versions of a new prologue or first chapter. Something’s just not right, I reason. Gotta start over.
When this happens, I start grabbing published memoirs to see if I can find inspiration. Really, it just leads to a few high-reaching piles of books cluttering my desk.
The anxiety begins infiltrating other aspects of my writing life. I don’t feel like posting on social media, I lose momentum to start other projects, I begin to wonder if this memoir of mine really has what it takes to win the heart and mind of a literary agent and/or publisher.
I’ll step away from the blank page and blinking cursor on my computer screen. Try again tomorrow, I reason. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the previous night or other things in my life are stressing me out, thus suffocating my creative muse.
I try again the next day. Same result. It’s an ugly cycle.
what it takes to move forward
After several days of this, I had to come to a completely difficult solution rather than be bull headed. My work was mired in whatever you wanna call it — writer’s block, anxiety, lack of ability, lack of perspective.
Honestly, despite my own self-imposed deadline, the best thing I can do is walk away. Let it go.
If I have two hours of writing time scheduled for tomorrow, then I should spend those doing something else. Exercise? Go for a walk? Clean out a closet? Mow the lawn? Just do something other than try to work on the manuscript.
That’s what I’m concentrating on now. Wish it was different, and hopefully soon it will be, but for right now, I’m stuck mentally and empty creatively. I could really use a swim, a hike through the woods, or a trip around the local landscape on a bike.
What strategies do you use to combat writer’s block? Leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear and learn from you.
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org