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Fighting Writer’s Block

The bane of any creator is when you hit that wall that stops you from going any further with your story, artwork, etc. It can come at any time. When you’ve just started, right in the middle or when you’re so close to the end you can taste it. And it can become aggravating as you struggle to get your brain to try and help you finish but all you can get from it is a headache and frustration.

I’ve seen a lot of pro level people talk about this, and they’ll almost always tell you that it’s a myth or simply something only amateurs deal with because they’re not putting in enough work. I have been writing most of my life, trying to make a career of it since I was sixteen, and I will still sit down with Word open and be unable to make the words come out of my fingers. Every time I saw “Writer’s block doesn’t exist” I would scoff and equate it to some magical fantasy like elves, leprechauns and Doug Walker’s sense of subtlety.

And then last month I finally found writing nirvana.

So yeah… I have some apologies to make.

However I will not entirely recant my position because I still find the idea of dismissing the whole thing as mythical to be unprofessional as well as anyone can hit a creative block. I saw an interview with Joe Quesada, pro artist and former Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, over at Comic Book Resources where he admitted some days he sits down to draw a page and just can’t get it out.

When I read or hear advice on getting past the wall, it seems to miss the point, in my opinion anyway. Over at webcomics.com, when it was still a free site, someone did an article about the subject that implied block were only the fear of continuing and that creators always have alternate routes that they just aren’t taking because of stubbornness or whatever. I tried to explain that this wasn’t a block, to me at least, but no one seemed to see where I was coming from and would just repeat what the article said, even though I would point out it wasn’t related to what I was asking.

My personal definition of writer’s block is when you reach a point in the story where you run out of ideas and cannot see where to go next. You can’t go back one or two pages, you would have to throw out most of the work you’ve done in order to push in another direction because the beginning is the only place you can see a new starting point. Hell, you might still be at the beginning. You strain and think but what happens next just refuses to come to you. That was the problem I always had and no one could give me an answer for it.

So how did I finally overcome my nemesis? Well a month ago my job had a training program and the instructors handed out pens and writing pads to take notes. And by writing pads, I mean A4 paper with about 70 pages. I used at most two, so on the train ride home I decided to kill time by writing a short story. That turned into a novel that I write every day to and from work on the train, which takes about an hour. This morning I finished my 120th page. Let me make it clear, I’ve tried writing novels before but I’m lucky if I can do forty in a month, which is why I usually give up since most of the time I just sit there straining. The train is also where I write articles for Webcomic Overlook, this one included.

It’s so simple it sounds stupid but I think that’s why pro creators tend to dismiss the idea as false. It’s all about finding a method that works best for you, and then easing yourself out of it so that you can write and draw whenever and wherever you have time to.

Before, I always wrote everything on my computer, typing up everything and focusing on it being perfect. But on paper, I don’t worry as much because I know it’s just a rough draft and that I’m going to rewrite it when I type it up as my second draft. I mean I still do my best to make it good but it’s more about getting everything down than making it into a masterpiece.

Really, getting past the block is about who you are as a creator and as I have found out, it’s not always something you can do by imitating what the pros do. I know creators who will say never write while listening to music as it will only serve as a distraction. I’ve never had that problem and in fact I write better with a little background noise. Others will say to just sit down, write, and stop complaining. No, it’s not always that simple, sometimes it’s about your environment.

Now some people may point out that a lot of pros would say the advice that I’m giving here would just breed bad habits as you’d have people who can only write at a certain coffee shop in a certain chair. It would not be beneficial in the long run. And they would be right, if you make that setting into your habit. But you can ease yourself in. I’ve started writing with pen and paper at my desk and it’s going well. Every body needs a starting point and some won’t find it unless they put themselves in a place where they can be their most creative. You just need to find that place. I did and I’ve gotten more work done than i could have hoped for.

If only I could get my art up to scratch.

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Posted on May 10, 2013, in webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I find my best method to deal with writer’s block when writing pieces for this blog is to walk away for a while, try something new (for me this year, it was poetry), and then come back with fresh new writing perspectives. It’s worked for me for 6 years, and somehow I managed to accumulate over 200 reviews doing it.

    Of course, that doesn’t apply to long form storytelling, which is a different animal altogether. I notice when I walk away from a story, I am sapped of all momentum. In that case, I find it best just to get things done as soon as possible just because ideas tend to get sapped from my mind, and new story ideas come from time crunches. So I usually try to set limits on myself, like trying to hammer down a story within a month. This is where the NaNoWriMo philosophy helps. Get it done now, edit it later.

  2. Great post, and it’s one that I’ve certainly had to deal with myself from time to time. I’m also not a fan of “professionals” who will go out of their way to tell you specifically what to or not to do in order to be a good writer, such as your example of “don’t listen to music”. I work around a ton of writers, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that every single person has their own styles that work for them. I know some people who CAN’T WRITE without listening to music, for instance! Where as me, on the other hand, I’ve found that I tend to break almost every single writing “rule” that I’ve read somewhere or another, because that’s just what happens to work for me. Not enough “pros” add on a note that what works for them may not work for somebody else, and might consider calling these “tips” or “ideas” as opposed to stone cold “rules”.

    • On the music note: I write fiction and also draw comics, and I can’t listen to music and write– it’s too distracting. On the other hand, I can’t draw without music in the background. If I get tired of music, I put on Netflix. When it comes to drawing, silence really bothers me for some reason! It makes me antsy, even though I prefer it when I write.

      So yes, everyone should experiment and find out what helps them work instead of listening to “experts” for advice.

  3. sonofsplatman

    Nice article, David. Another possible solution: collaboration. Two people that view the same subject from different perspectives can each contribute their particular strengths. Each plodding themselves not to let the other down or maybe in friendly competition…? Think: A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder, maybe?

  4. Tequila is the answer

  5. Personally I’ve never hit an artist/writer block, quite the opposite in fact, where theres not enough time (or expertise yet) to do all the great ideas.

    But there comes a time every now and then when I’m told to figure out something new in 5-15 minutes and I’ll be forced to stare at the blank screen without any idea I had already cooked up way before I started doing something. So I guess that would be my equivalent to the issue. How I solve it is to just le tthe mind and ideas basically flow on paper. Doing the raw text or pictures without really striving for perfection yet. From there IMO its much easier to shape and sculpt the raw text into something better.

    In a way, writing is a lot like drawing, you need to “sketch” the ideas first before you even worry about the details and inking and stuff. Trying to make perfect text as you go along may work for some, but otherwise I think its like trying to build a house, and then worrying about the window decorations way before having even built the basic frame of the house.

    And I’d advice someone lacking new ideas to just start looking for the inspiration from somewhere else than usual. Make a spontaneous trip to a park, maybe go to a bar and have a chat with someone you don’t know. Maybe go watch a movie or read various books. Having a hike or a walk during the early hours of morning, buying more new music for yourself, etc.

    But like I said, I’ve never experienced a writer’s block, so I’m probably not the topmost expert on how to fight it.

  1. Pingback: Some Tips For Writers | Nielsen Ink

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