A Writer Without Words

Witer's Block

Writer's BlockThere comes a point in every writer’s life when he or she has that moment. You know what I’m talking about…that second of sheer terror when a rogue thought appears and begins planting seeds of doubt.

“What if I can’t write anymore?”

It’s a very real, very common fear among us literary types. In Bag of Bones, Stephen King addressed it. His main character had been attempting to publish stockpiled manuscripts for years only to find none of them were any good. Each of us has a moment where we look at our in-progress folders and wonder what’s going to come of the things we’ve started but have yet to finish. We wonder if the legacies we’ve created to date will be enough to sustain us (and in most cases, we know they’re not). But most of all, we wonder about the reality which could accompany that hypothetical loss of words.

Let me tell you what it feels like.

Witer's BlockI have twenty-three unfinished works in my In-Progress folder. Twenty-three of these little monsters are things with mostly- or fully-formed plots in varying stages of completion. Some are short and some are long. They could be something one day. If we expand that to all of the unfinished things I’ve started over the years, we jump to somewhere above eighty. Granted not all of these are marketable things. Many of them are bits and pieces of things that have come and gone and will likely never see the light of day. Some of them are stream-of-consciousness writing, or scenes from dreams… things which could one day be used to fill in gaps in a plot somewhere. My point is, there’s a lot of stuff just hanging out there in the bowels of the cloud, waiting for a day in the sun.

It used to be I could write 6,000 words or more every day. I could rip through a short story in a day or two, a novella in a week. I used to have that writing stamina. Case in point – I wrote my paranormal romance novella, Blood Doll, in four days sitting in my grandmother’s hospital room in September 2011. It was what I did to keep my mind off the fact that she was sicker than we realized and would ultimately land in a nursing home for the last three years of her life. But back then I could do that, and the words coming out of me were good.

But the last four years have seen me on a steady decline word-wise. It really began in April 2012 with the crippling depression following my father’s death. Losing him changed me, and not for the better. I got very, very lost, and if we’re being perfectly honest, I’m still doing a little bit of searching. Not to find who I was, mind you…but who I am now without him in my life.

From April 2012 to December 2014, I completed and published two novels, a co-authored novella, and five short stories, each with longer lead times in between. Also during that time, I had the rights to four works returned to me, which on top of the nightmare that was my life for those few years, was a blow to my writerly ego. They were doing pretty well, but my publisher chose to go in a different direction, and I had no control over the fate of my beloved books. Couple that with the multiple times I’ve been burned by independent presses, it sort of put me off the idea of submitting anything. Frustration and heartbreak suck, y’all.

Since January 1, 2015, I have completed two short stories. Only one has been contracted. I have two publishers waiting on novels which aren’t written. I have two blogs languishing by the wayside while I sit here paralyzed by my own self-doubt. I have ideas, sure. Lots of them. I even have notebooks full of outlines and scribbled notes for various plots and scenes, but I can’t find the words to properly execute what’s in my head.

There’s real, physical pain associated with this type of writer’s block. Anxiety hurts, and the tension it causes in my body brings headaches, muscle pain, and all sorts of other aches and itches. The Pavlovian response to those negative stimuli is enough to break any writer of the habit. The thought that doing something I love will come with that sort of physical pain has put me off even trying lately. I know, I know…that’s a stupid way to look at things and I’m only hurting myself in the end. Logically, I get that.

Emotionally…that’s another story. So rather than sitting down at my computer or with my tablet and actually doing the writing, I find all manner of things to fill up my time. Yes, it’s a bad habit, but it’s one I’m trying to break. I know better than to let it get the best of me, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Having attended multiple conventions since my “professional” writing career started five years ago, I’ve heard every argument imaginable both for and against the concept of writer’s block. Some people say it doesn’t exist and is an excuse to procrastinate. Some say it’s real and is deadly. Others waffle between the two extremes. Personally, I believe it can be some of both. Having survived nearly a year of it, I can say it’s certainly not always an excuse. Has it been in the past? Yes. But right now, it’s not, and it’s horrible.


That man is my literary hero, in case you didn’t already know. It’s those very words above which have kept me plodding along all these months, adding words here and there to the various and sundry things in my collection. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first day in months I actually made some sort of headway. Two-thousand words in one day is nothing short of a miracle for me right now and while I’m very happy with yesterday’s session and the outcome, I still find myself worrying about what today and tomorrow will bring. Can I do that again? Can I top it? What happens if I never finish that story?

The next time I sit down at a keyboard, there’s a good chance I’ll not get out but 100 words. Maybe even less. I can’t control the output these days. At least, not with any real consistency. I’m self-doubting and second-guessing. It sucks. It’s hard. But it’s also life.

My point here is that we aren’t always procrastinating. Sometimes we really are stuck. But it’s a phase, and this phase, like any other, will eventually pass. I’ll find my words again one day. And if you’re stuck like me, you will too.


Writer’s Block…Not Just an Excuse

So I reappeared in the world late last week and while I was writing that post I realized that I had a rant to share with the world. It’s sort of apropos considering November is National Novel Writing Month and we’re half-way through it. I’m sure at this point there are lots of writers out there who need a little bit of encouragement and they’re feeling that mid-project slump. I know it well.. and yes, it will pass. I promise.

As for the rant, it’s obviously my opinion, but I think it’s a pretty legitimate one. People shouldn’t feel bad about the inability to write, and I’m going to tell you why. This rant, ladies and germs, is about


I’ve been to lots of conventions and I’ve heard lots of arguments on this subject. Some I agree with, and some I don’t.

Let’s start with the arguments I don’t agree with:

1. It’s an excuse people use for being lazy.

2. It doesn’t exist.

3. It’s a creation of the mind and is easily overcome.

4. It’s not real. It just means you don’t know what you’re doing.

Of those four, the first one makes me irrationally angry… to the point where I did, in fact, blast a fellow author in the middle of a panel for spitting that out with such snot-nosed conviction that it made the audience uncomfortable. I don’t think it was the statement so much as the way it was said. I’m sorry, but when you’re on a panel and telling people your methods for writing and how to become one, you can’t be mean about things like this… and in the writing world this one is a pretty hot topic.

Here’s how I see it…

Writer’s Block is absolutely real. It isn’t one specific thing, though. It’s the term any writer gives to a situation that blocks him or her from accomplishing the task of putting words on paper. Whether it’s a form of depression or a busy workload or school or research or even exhaustion, it doesn’t matter. If it stops me from writing, it’s a block.

Depression is a big one. Trust me on that, I know well.

Looking at the big picture, Writer’s Block is an undefined variable in the life of an author. It’s the name you give to your current problem. It’s how you easily explain to a reader/author/agent/editor/publisher/whoever why you haven’t been able to write something.

Laziness is not classified as Writer’s Block as some would have you believe. Laziness is laziness, and every writer knows that. If I want to procrastinate, then damn it I’m going to procrastinate and I know full well that it isn’t Writer’s Block.

And no, not every author knows all the time where every single story goes. When you get hopelessly stuck on a story and you don’t know where to go next, yes, that is a form of Writer’s Block as well. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  Not every writer adheres to that formulaic philosophy. Some of us like to wing it and we have unconventional ideas. There isn’t a thing wrong with that, even if it means we don’t always get to the end of the story as fast as a hardcore plotter.

Personally, that’s the point when I put down the pen and walk away for a few minutes. I go cook, or I go for a walk, or I go play video games. And then I come back to the story and if I still can’t fix it, I move on to the next project until that one unlocks. There’s a reason I have so many projects going at once.

My response to “I don’t have writer’s block because I don’t believe in it. I never have trouble” is this… if you don’t occasionally stumble over something or get stuck on something at some point, chances are the story is too safe. It’s too easy. There has to be something in it that keeps you writing, because if you’re anything like me, you’re going to be just as excited about discovering the story while writing it as you would be if you were the one reading it.

No, I don’t go into a story without a single clue as to what’s going to happen, but sometimes my characters take turns I didn’t expect. Sometimes situations arise and things happen that I didn’t originally consider, and it makes me take a step back and reconsider my position in the story. And that, kids, takes time.

I might not be the fastest writer in the world, but you know what? I’m a good writer. And I’ll take being good over being fast any day, even if it means someone might tell me that my reasons for not being fast don’t exist.