Is Writer's Block Really So Bad? No, and Here's Why

Writer's block is the dreaded mental stumbling block many authors have come to fear. You know, the awful feeling you have when your usually prolific talent with words hits a verbal roadblock? You think,

"Omigod! I'm stuck in chapter 4 and I can't seem to come up with anything to continue the storyline!" The roadblock may last for hours or even weeks and we view this precious time lost with fear and horror. "I will NEVER finish this book! I have a severe case of writer's block!"

I can relate; been there, felt that way... and my book and I survived quite nicely although I will admit I did panic. Writer's block is not a necessarily a bad thing to happen to an author. In fact, a little writer's block now and then can actually be good for the creative processes.

First let's have a little history on the definition of writer's block and its possible causes. It is an actual condition which was first described in 1947 by a psychoanalyst named Edmund Bergler, who termed it an "affliction." If you do have the occasional block when trying to think up a story or finish one already in progress, you're in good company; author F. Scott Fitzgerald and pop-culture cartoonist Charles M. Schulz also suffered from the "affliction" of writer's block.

So what causes this so-called affliction? Some common causes of writer's block really can stem from creative problems; a writer may simply at one point run out of inspiration. Another cause may come from adverse circumstances in his or her life, such as illness, relationship problems, or financial pressures. A number of novelists have even said that the intense pressure to produce work on deadline can contribute to writer's block. Everyone has had "the block" at one time or another.

Best-selling author Stephen King approaches writer's block with this theory, "I gradually realize that I am seeing another example of creative ebb..."

Creativity ebbs and flows and when your creative juices begin to ebb, the best thing you can do is to step back from your writing project. Now that doesn't mean you should stop writing, far from it, but focus on another piece of writing, maybe a short story that is different from what you were writing. By doing this you keep your hand in the process and your subconscious may even get a jolt to get past what caused the writer's block in the first place.

You can also take a few days off from actual writing. Yes, you can and you should. We live in a 24-hour world where people send texts and emails at all hours. We're programmed to think that taking some time off is wrong. What you need to understand is that there are times when your mind needs to simply do nothing at all but relax and daydream. Some of the world's greatest literature as well as some best-selling books have come about through daydreaming.

While writing Grave Misgivings, book 2 in A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, I was burning the candle at both ends. I was meeting story deadlines for several magazines, in negotiations with an illustrator for a future book, and teaching a class. I worked through lunches and many times fell into bed exhausted after midnight. My book came to a complete standstill as I tripped heavily over that damned writer's block. My creative well had run dry. I decided that taking a few days off from my novel might not only be good but an absolute necessity.

Those few days turned into two weeks and I began to seriously panic. Was this it? Would I ever get back to the story line? Help!

But my creative juices were just taking a much-needed breather and one day while I was doing absolutely nothing but watching the birds flit from tree to tree, the storyline for Grave Misgivings came back slowly at first and then in a flood of words that knocked that writer's block out of my way. Doing nothing, not focusing on the story was good for this author.

Novelist Anne Lamott offers this piece of advice for those times when we suffer from writer's block:

"...if you accept the reality that you have been given- that you are not in a productive creative period- you free yourself to begin filling up again."

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.

Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved