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Writer's block often comes up as a topic on here and I've often wondered what causes it as it is so common. I've come up with the following which may not be correct. 

I'd be interested to hear what you think on the topic

"Writer's block is not a psychological barrier, nor is it arriving at a lack of creativity or motivation, but a lack of understanding, or ignoring story structure."
 

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Decon said:
Writer's block often comes up as a topic on here and I've often wondered what causes it as it is so common. I've come up with the following which may not be correct.

I'd be interested to hear what you think on the topic

"Writer's block is not a psychological barrier, nor is it arriving at a lack of creativity or motivation, but a lack of understanding, or ignoring story structure."
If that were it, it would be almost entirely an experience of pantsers and rare among plotters but that doesn't seem to be the case. It affects both camps. I don't think it can be boiled down into a simple answer.
 

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Decon said:
Writer's block often comes up as a topic on here and I've often wondered what causes it as it is so common. I've come up with the following which may not be correct.

I'd be interested to hear what you think on the topic

"Writer's block is not a psychological barrier, nor is it arriving at a lack of creativity or motivation, but a lack of understanding, or ignoring story structure."
I think it's a combination of exhaustion, be it mental or other, and self-doubt. But that's just my experience. Usually my immediate cure for writer's block is simply reading someone else's work and finding inspiration.
 

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For me writer's block occurs because I'm tired, and I need to go to bed.
Or I'm feeling overwhelmed and confused, and I don't know what to do next.
Or I'm writing something I hate, and I don't want to write it any more.
 

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Lack of information, and doubt of ability.

I was pretty stuck yesterday. A bunch of new side characters were being introduced, and I realized I didn't know enough about these people despite my outline.

So, I took a day to "interview" them. And I learned a lot! Now, I can write their characters, know their motivations, and have it all make sense. My block was from lack of information.

As far as the second reason, doubt of ability, I like to give myself permission to suck. To not use the best words. To even have repetition and long sentences and to info dump. I can go back and fix that later. When I allow myself to suck, then it's just about getting words on the page and worrying about the clean-up later. I'm my own worst critic, so I try to relegate that critic to the phase that matters: editing.
 

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ever notice how you're not blocked anymore when you have something to say?

most writer's block is caused by people trying to write something that it really doesn't matter if it gets written or not

 

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nightwork said:
ever notice how you're not blocked anymore when you have something to say?

most writer's block is caused by people trying to write something that it really doesn't matter if it gets written or not
Profound. Hadn't thought of it this way. I was going to say writer's block is connected with self-doubt, and 'paralysis-by-analysis', but there's a 'why' correlated with that which gets missed in my terse assessment... and I think nightwork's post above cuts to that 'why' quite well.
 

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I don't really believe in writer's block. I think it's basically a result of something else. It could be depression or distraction, but I think writer's block is used as a catch-all excuse. In general, I find if you set a goal that has to be finished, and then don't allow yourself to deviate from that goal (meaning you can't go out with your friends, watch television, watch a movie, etc.) until it's done, then you will get your words in no matter what. You'll likely get them done faster too if you actually hold yourself accountable. If you allow yourself to make excuses, you will make excuses.
Now, if it's depression dragging you down, then that's an outside factor that needs to be treated. Depression is real and can cause a lot of problems in this business. I basically think writer's block is an excuse, though.
 

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Poor self-discipline. I write Monday through Friday from 6 am until I reach 1200 words. That's usually by 9am. Without fail, every week, except when I take a week's vacation, which I do three times a year, at least--it's necessary to recharge. Good words, bad words, mediocre words, it doesn't matter. The bad and mediocre words can be made better in rewrite. Before adding new words, I read and edit the previous two days' work. The door to my office is closed and locked. My office is not in my home. I'm not interrupted, ever. I listen to jazz or cinematic music without lyrics. All these things combined, IMHO, create an ambience of creativity.

ETA: I've been doing it this way for seven years, and have never spent more than a few seconds staring at a manuscript that wasn't getting longer.
 

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I think it's real. I've experienced blank screens. Oddly, sometimes I get the opposite. I'll write in a frenzy like 20K words.

Self doubt - definitely.
Fatigue - maybe. But if I'm really excited about a project, I just won't bother sleeping.
Lack of inspiration? Lack of the muses' grace? ??
 

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Amanda M. Lee said:
I don't really believe in writer's block. I think it's basically a result of something else. It could be depression or distraction, but I think writer's block is used as a catch-all excuse. In general, I find if you set a goal that has to be finished, and then don't allow yourself to deviate from that goal (meaning you can't go out with your friends, watch television, watch a movie, etc.) until it's done, then you will get your words in no matter what. You'll likely get them done faster too if you actually hold yourself accountable. If you allow yourself to make excuses, you will make excuses.
Now, if it's depression dragging you down, then that's an outside factor that needs to be treated. Depression is real and can cause a lot of problems in this business. I basically think writer's block is an excuse, though.
Basically, I agree with Amanda ... writer's block? Define it? As a journalist for over twenty years, and a fiction writer more recently, five years or so, I've never experienced 'writer's block' in the sense that I could not write. I do, however, admit to distractions that create 'procrastination' ... easy to get involved in family and recreation / social events. Having worked under a deadline all those years, it makes me set a time-goal for my fiction, and occasionally adjust it as needed when other activities call in a louder voice. :)

Don't be afraid to 'take a break' when you need it, and don't feel guilty about it. You can wear yourself out if you set goals you have a hard time achieving. As writers and artists, we cannot call up creativity on a whim, it comes on its own whenever it feels the emotion. Remember, we live in an art world, not a science lab. :)
 

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Working the brain is like working the body, sometimes it's hard and you feel a lot of resistance ("I can't do this"), especially when you're out of practice. The more you push through and exercise the writing muscles, the easier words usually flow as you get into the habit of working at the same time every day. Still, just like your physical condition effects your workouts, your emotional or psychological state can effect your writing.

Some causes of that may be exhaustion, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, illness sapping energy, stress, distraction (such as financial issues or sick loved ones), or medication causing muddled thinking.

Then there's the creative stuff, like confusion about where the story is going, and growing bored with your plot or characters.

For published writers, there's also discouragement over negative feedback, lowered enthusiasm after poor sales, fear that nobody's going to read the next book.

The first step to fixing it is probably figuring out the cause. I tend to think for most people, especially newer writers, it's low motivation and difficulty easing into a consistent routine. When there's no accountability, it can be hard to prioritize a thing that you're not feeling inspired to do right now. That's why some people find writing sprints with friends helpful. Also, publicly sharing a goal with regular progress updates.
 

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Burnout. Exhaustion. Real life problems distracting you away from such mental intensive creativity as one needs to write books.

I would think those are more accurate than writer's block, although there are times the creative juices aren't kicking in even when those above mentioned things do not happen -- that's when the discipline thing needs to kick in. I've found that if I work at writing, eventually I feel enthused enough about what I'm writing to where the creativity flows again. It's a process.
 

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I don't think it's a real thing. At least not the way people often present it. Do you hear about plumber's block, doctor's block, or architect block? The vast, vast majority of the time I hear about it, it's from pantsers. I think imagining and planning out or at least brainstorming the story should help a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
H.C. said:
I don't think it's a real thing. At least not the way people often present it. Do you hear about plumber's block, doctor's block, or architect block? The vast, vast majority of the time I hear about it, it's from pantsers. I think imagining and planning out or at least brainstorming the story should help a lot.
I'm not sure about what you say in relation to plumbers and doctors, though I understand the context of the anology. However, if you'd have said builders working to an architect's plan it would have been nearer the mark in relation to outlining.

Doctors and plumbers are both basically fault finders. They work systematically to come to a diagnosis, then cure the problem. It doesn't always work out that way as there can be many directions to discount to arrive at a prognosis any one of which can be a red herring and stump them.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
J. Tanner said:
If that were it, it would be almost entirely an experience of pantsers and rare among plotters but that doesn't seem to be the case. It affects both camps. I don't think it can be boiled down into a simple answer.
Maybe I should have put up a poll to ask the question to see if what you say holds water.

I don't doubt that outliners also experience writers block at some stage, but I have a feeling it would be less so than pantsers, though I can't know that. Whichever method, a story can change direction and need time to think about how it affects the story imagined further down the line, but I wouldn't call that writers block. Sometimes a story just doesn't work or you can write yourself into a corner that you just know messes up the structure.
 

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Decon said:
Maybe I should have put up a poll to ask the question to see if what you say holds water.

I don't doubt that outliners also experience writers block at some stage, but I have a feeling it would be less so than pantsers, though I can't know that. Whichever method, a story can change direction and need time to think about how it affects the story imagined further down the line, but I wouldn't call that writers block. Sometimes a story just doesn't work or you can write yourself into a corner that you just know messes up the structure.
That's part of it, yes. Sometimes, what people call writer's block is writing themselves into a deadend by discovery writing. Sometimes, they have no idea where to go next because writing by the seat of your pants(or doing anything without proprer preparation) is hard stuff. Sometimes, people are tired, unwilling, etc.

I don't think any of those things are some magical state called writer's block. I fall in with Amanda's view, pretty much.
 

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H.C. said:
That's part of it, yes. Sometimes, what people call writer's block is writing themselves into a deadend by discovery writing. Sometimes, they have no idea where to go next because writing by the seat of your pants(or doing anything without proprer preparation) is hard stuff. Sometimes, people are tired, unwilling, etc.

I don't think any of those things are some magical state called writer's block. I fall in with Amanda's view, pretty much.
I was going to make this same comment. When I have 'writer's block', the biggest culprit is that I've written myself into a dead end, or I've gotten away from my point, or I've deviated away from structure. In any case, I back up to the point that created the jam and start again.

I also agree with Amanda Lee. If writer's block is a result of depression, then it's depression and not writer's block. Seek help to address the depression, not the writer's block.
 
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