Overcoming 3 Big Sources of Writer’s Block

How many times have you overcomplicated something in your life and made a mess out of it?

Yeah, me too.

This will especially happen if the thing you’re trying to approach is something you care about very much, and something in which you’re heavily invested regarding the outcome.

There are 3 most common ways writers over-complicate the process. Here’s how you can make it simple.

 

Materials

When I first started writing again I was neurotically convinced that I had to have the perfect notebook to write my novel. Something thick and leather-bound, with beautiful creamy white paper. I waited on starting my book until I could find just such a perfect notebook and ended up putting it off another year.

It’s awesome if you’re able to start each writing session with your favorite notebook and the particular brand of pen that really works for you. But if those things aren’t available, you have to get past it and use whatever’s at hand.

In my case, being rigid about the materials used fed an already serious case of procrastination.

Make It Simple

The resistance you feel around writing that first page isn’t happening because you don’t have the perfect writing implements. It’s coming from your own fear, and the only way to move through it is to write that first page and then another one after that.

Look around for what you want, but use what you have.


Space and Time

The excuse, “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t have a room of my own” is hard to argue with because, on the surface, it just seems to make so much sense. How are you supposed to write with children underfoot or a crazy work schedule?

This might be the most over-complicated facet of the creative process for all artists.

Don’t successful writers spend their best hours of the day hard at work in a secluded room in tranquil surroundings?

Make It Simple

Stephen King locked himself away in the laundry room when his kids were toddlers and wrote Carrie, after he finished his day teaching high school. Jane Austen hid the manuscripts she was working on under safer correspondence whenever anyone caught her writing in the family drawing room. You can do it too.

It might not be easy, or fun. But if writing is a serious priority in your life, you will find the time and space to do it.


The Perfect Idea—with the Perfect Ending

If you’ve ever been hit with a lightning bolt of pure inspiration, you know how intoxicating it can be. And as an artist, it is very, very tempting to sit around and rely on those lightning bolts.

It’s uncertain and even nerve-wracking to work with material which is raw and confusing in the unfinished stages.

And because we writers read so much, we’re used to seeing novels and stories in the completed state in which everything makes sense and fits together in a tight, interlocking pattern.

Make It Simple

Really, you have no other choice. Even if you do have the perfect idea, with the perfect ending, you still have to devote the hours to writing it all down, and most likely you’ll still stumble across some surprises along the way.

Take it day by day.

 

When we over-complicate things in our own minds, what we’re really doing is setting up barriers that manifest in our physical reality and create resistance. Our ego uses that resistance to ensure we won’t ever get where we dream of going.

This suits the ego just fine, because it’s convinced that basically everything is out to hurt us, and if we fail then we lose the game forever and ever.

However, you—the real you, your beautiful true essence—knows better.

If you fail, you just feel disappointed for a little while and then you get up and try again.

If things don’t work out the way you expected, you just feel scared and uncertain for a little while, and then life keeps moving ahead as it always does.

And when you do the things that scare you, the payoff of experiencing your own courage feels amazing.

Keep it simple. Start with today.

Use what you have. Do what you can.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Lee Champagne 31 October, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Thank you, Lauren! Just what I needed to hear today.

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 31 October, 2013 at 9:13 am

    ‘Overcomplicate’ is my middle name. Great advice Lauren. The same idea works in so many parts of our writing life. I found the same issue when it came to plotting my novels. Keep the core of the story simple and build around it organically. Once I cleared the clutter, the writing came easier.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 31 October, 2013 at 10:41 am

      That’s so funny, because it’s my middle name too! 😉 My novels tend to get out of control, FAST. I’m currently editing one of my manuscripts and tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to integrate the five or so separate storylines. I’ll be interested to see if the tight deadlines of NaNo keep writers on track and force them to keep it simple.

  • Reply K.M. Alexander 31 October, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    “It might not be easy, or fun. But if writing is a serious priority in your life, you will find the time and space to do it.”

    Can I get an AMEN! Woo! This is 100% true. I love simple no-frills tough-love statements like this.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 31 October, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      I love them too. Now, as for carrying it out…

  • Reply Kimberly Hill 1 November, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I usually get the case of ants-in-pants where I think I can’t POSSIBILY sit down to write without a cup of coffee, my preferred brand of pen and oh yeah I should do that load of laundry too because if I don’t I’ll forget/be distracted. You know what solves all of this? Just sitting down and writing.
    You’re absolutely right that if this is a priority, we will do it. Of course, we may not always write as much or as well as we would like…

  • Reply Paul Sutton Reeves 4 November, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Top advice as ever, Lauren.

    I’ve not suffered from ‘block’ for many years myself. When I did, though, it was because the project was wrong. I don’t think that writing can be forced. Sometimes we need to let go of a piece and start afresh. And writing doesn’t happen unless we have a story that demands to be told or something pressing that we need to say. This has often been the problem faced by other writers whom I’ve known.

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