Writer's Block: Fact or Myth
By Mackenzie Flohr
When I sat in the writing panel of #1 New York bestselling young-adult author Rachel Caine at Wizard World Chicago in 2015, Caine presented the idea that there was no such thing as writer's block. She explained there is nothing actually physically blocking you. Instead, YOU are blocking yourself.
"There are legitimate reasons a writer has to go idle," Caine recently told Bubblelife in a recent author interview... "illness, whether physical or caused by less obvious things like depression, are very valid and would be just as valid in any job in the world. But when we talk about a "block," we're externalizing an internal problem. Sometimes that problem can be solved by taking a vacation for a week and coming back fresh. Sometimes it's the wrong idea or worked on in the wrong way. But regardless, if the story isn't coming, change what you're doing and try again. As the writer, you control the problem and the solution. You are the block."
This, at first, I honestly had a hard time believing myself. I mean, it only took me thirteen years to write the first book in The Rite of Wands series! However, now that I have gone through the experience of publishing a novel, I can say what Rachel Caine preaches about writer's block is true! The key is discovering the root cause.
So, you may be asking, what took me so long to write my debut book? Though at the time I didn't understand the real reason, I later reflected and discovered it was because of a combination of issues: not giving myself the time to work on my series consistently, obsessively re-writing my story to get it just right (which led to an even further fascinating discussion on writing with Caine), and writing the character, Mierta McKinnon, the wrong way. Now, using Caine's argument, how many of those things did I actually have control of? The truth is, all of them.
I could have found time to consistently write. Instead, I made excuses. While obsessively re-writing my story did eventually lead to how the story looks today, I also was permitting myself to delay my finished product. And then the issue with Mierta, well, he wasn't convinced that I was serious to write his character until my encounter with actor Matt Smith.
Tips On Overcoming Writer's Block:
1. Write - Write about what you did during your day. You never know how doing something as simple as that may help to jump-start the muse.
2. Erase the last thing you wrote. No, I don't mean permanently. Save what you have already in a fresh document. Then make another document, copy and paste everything into that and then erase to the beginning of the last scene you wrote. Re-write it! It may take you in a direction you never expected.
3. Look at books and websites of writing prompts. For example, I am writing two new short stories in The Rite of Wands universe for RustCity Book Convention, following the prompts origins and treasure. This has allowed me to explore and further develop characters that were already well-developed in the original novel, as well as led me to the answer to the burning question I've been asked by fans: what did Armand do to upset Mierta?
4. Use a writing program like Write or Die. Yes, just the name can sound intimating, but if you're looking for something that will force you to write without stopping, trust me, this program will do the trick! Rachel Caine uses this program to meet deadlines, and even I used this program this evening to complete this entry!
"What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks 'the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.' And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I'm writing, I write. And then it's as if the muse is convinced that I'm serious and says, 'Okay. Okay. I'll come." - Maya Angelou
Whether you believe writer's block is real or not, the key is to keep writing, even if it's just writing something simple like a grocery list.
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