Being stuck in a certain place in your story is different than writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition that paralyzes writers and prevents them from ever getting started in the first place, or derails them so completely they can never finish that first draft. But being stuck is more like running your car off the road into the mud. You know it’s possible to get out of it, but it still feels like a big messy unpleasant obstacle in your creative life.
Right now, I am stuck. I am just about in the middle of the last quarter of my novel, and I am most definitely in the mud. Things were going so well up until now. I was writing consistently every week and my plot and characters were moving along at a good clip. And then, I hit this wall. I got…stuck.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in the unique position of having my fingers on the collective pulse of writers today. I talk to unbelievable amounts of writers every week. Some of them are my clients, some of them are new people thinking about becoming a client, and some of them are completely random strangers from the internet who email me to talk about writing. I talk to sci-fi writers and memoirists and bloggers and romance novelists and everything in between.
The thing that always astounds me is that almost every single one of these writers, sooner or later, brings the same problem to me.
I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to give up on writing.
This is not something people usually expect to hear. My circle of friends and colleagues know that writing is something I am deeply passionate about; it’s the thing I sacrifice my free time and extra sleep for, and the thing I seemingly never stop pursuing.
But what they don’t know is how many times I have really, seriously, TRULY thought about throwing in the towel.
This week’s guest post is coming to you from a fellow writing coach, Anna-Marie O’Brien. Anna-Marie describes herself as a “little bit OCD+ADD+ESP and an INFJ.” And I can tell you from experience that she’s easily one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever met. If you’re looking for someone to help get you unstuck as you write your book, Anna-Marie is very definitely who you’ve been looking for. Big thanks to her for contributing this awesome piece on why your progress as a writer might not fit the conventional norms.
Before I started my memoir, my idea of book writing was that it was a linear process—you show up to the page, you write your 500 words a day in perfect form, and in a few months you have a beautiful, publishable book. According to the writers I was studying, there were no pauses, breaks, or blocks allowed. Daily habit is a big theme among writers, and I was assured that if I showed up to the page every day, the muse would find me and the words would flow effortlessly.
Out of the entire world population, writers are the harshest on themselves when it comes to self-judgment.
No, I haven’t done a study or anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true. Based on the emails I get from writers, and the blog posts I read written by writers, I can see clearly that self-judgement is one of the biggest, ugliest problems we deal with on a constant basis.