Skip to main content

Here's a real life example of writer's block from the post-apocalyptic book I'm writing.

Every now and again on this blog I've commented about writer's block.  Usually it takes the form of me complaining that people use the term incorrectly.  So today I figured, why not share some personal experience with it?

So, to recap: writer's block isn't just a simple lack of inspiration.  It kinda is, but that's not really the problem.  It's a situation where you find yourself completely stopped up and unable to just get the words out - literally, you are blocked.  Whether or not you have an idea to write about is a completely separate issue.

And that's the maddening thing about it: most of the time, you know exactly what you want to write about.  You actually have your story plotted out well enough that you can at least write something.  But either you're fixated on some small detail that doesn't make sense, or your mind keeps wandering to other unrelated things, or some other nagging thoughts get in the way and just stop you up.

The worst writer's block comes when you're still plotting out your book, as I am with the novel I'm trying to work on now.  It's a post-apocalyptic comedy (sorry Internet, there are zero zombies) about two people who go on what is essentially a road trip through the remains of the Gulf coast while poking fun at anti-immigration and anti-government hysteria.

I basically know what the story is at this point, but there are two notable gaps in my outline.  One is right after the third act turn in which the characters reach their destination and make some discoveries, and one is right after they make said discoveries and engage in a showdown with the antagonist(s).

The book is only about 20,000 words long so far and I'm expecting the first draft should clock in around 80,000 or so.  (If you've read either of the two novels I've put on Amazon already, you'll notice I don't like to drag my stories out too long.)  I feel like the stuff I'm missing will eventually account for, oh, let's say 6,000 words.  So if you do the math, that means there's about 54,000 words I could be writing right now to fill in all the parts of my outline that work.

And yet, I'm not writing those.  At all.  I just can't.

Any time I start working on the parts where I know what to write, I freeze up and think, "Oh, shit, what am I going to do about that 6,000 word gap later on?  I should figure that out now."  And I dwell on it and I freak out and I get tired and then I close Word and start screwing around with my Netflix queue.

That's writer's block - and it sucks.  It's like trying to clean your room, but you never get around to the obvious task of picking all your dirty clothes off the floor because you're too busy trying to figure out whether you should re-alphabetize your CD collection.

Every "Week in Review" post from this past November was a total wash for minutes spent writing, and this is the reason why.  It's because of that 6,000 word gap.

It is important that I figure it out, though - those 6,000 words are pretty critical.  Maybe I'll talk more about that next week.

All the Other Nonsense That Got Pushed Off the Main Page (Post Archive)