I’m spending a lot of time writing and a lot of time with Milo these days, so I’m honored to have some great folks writing on the blog for me. Today’s guest, Chris Niles, is a talented novelist and wise woman when it comes to the ways of the business side of the writing life. I think you’ll appreciate her wisdom below a great deal, especially if you’ve found yourself absolutely stuck in your writing.
My fingers tremble above the keyboard. As I stare into the white void, the Leviathan rises from the tempest and lunges toward me…
Can my words escape the jaws of the beast?
Writer’s block is my Leviathan
I write sea adventures, so of course the manifestation of this beast, for me, is a sea monster.
In the early years, I listened to gurus who said it was a figment of my imagination. I just needed to sit down and type.
So I did.
I pushed out more words, each one slower than the last. And they grew progressively worse, too. Until one day, I stared at the blank screen, frozen.
And the Leviathan rose from the water and swallowed me.
I’ve got some bad news for you. Writer’s block is real.
It’s not in your imagination. It’s not laziness or a lack of will. And it’s certainly not an indicator that you don’t care enough.
In fact, often, it’s the opposite.
You care SO much that you’re afraid nothing you do will be quite good enough. Or you have so many ideas all pressed against each other like logs jammed up in a stream.
But I’ve got good news, too.
If you can root out what’s causing it, you can usually find your words again.
Sometimes it’s an easy find.
Maybe you’re afraid?
Pick a pen name, write something awful, and get it out there. Either you’ll realize you’re better than you thought, or you’ll learn writing something awful is part of getting better.
Maybe you’re overthinking everything?
The information about writing and publishing is overwhelming, and it can get in the way of actually writing. Take a break. Write something short — straight from your heart — and see if the joy comes back.
Maybe life really is too much?
Even before 2020 rained havoc down on all of us, life was busy. And now, almost everyone’s life has been turned upside down. It’s okay to not be okay right now. If life is too much, maybe cut yourself a little slack.
Three Unexpected Sources of Writer’s Block
I’ve experienced all those things and lived to tell the tale. But sometimes the words are held up by deeper challenges. So let’s slay this beast together, okay?
An Empty Tank
Love tanks are a hot pop psychology topic.
But what about your creative tank?
Writing — creating something out of nothing — takes tremendous energy. And it’s a special kind of energy, too.
If you’re constantly pouring that energy onto the page without pumping enough back into your tank, you’ll eventually run empty.
So take a little time to refill your creative tank.
Read a book outside your genre. Watch a movie and just experience it rather than dissecting it.
Or give your mind a total break. Bake bread, get a massage, or take a silent walk around the block.
Experiment to find whatever helps you feel full again, then make it part of your regular routine.
A Story Problem
No matter how perfect my outline seems, I find a plot tangle or two as I’m writing. And my intuition usually picks up on it much earlier than my conscious mind does.
And in that gap, The Beast lies in wait.
If there’s something wrong , no matter how hard I push, it won’t let me go any further until I fix it. In fact, I’m fighting through this now.
In the middle of Book 4, everything looked great. But the writing kept getting harder. My daily word count dropped. Until it just … stopped.
Then my VERY wise writing coach https://betterfasteracademy.
I thought I could point to a spot near the midpoint. But when I looked at my numbers, it was actually much earlier — at the end of the first act.
And I found a huge plot hole. Right. There.
An Emotional Disconnect
After I wrote my first novel, a super-heavy political thriller, the world changed. My imagination couldn’t keep up with reality. For real. So I switched genres.
I chose sea adventures because they’re light. They’re fun. I grew up in Florida and it was a natural fit.
But increasingly, the pain and conflict of the world just weighs on me. I’m frustrated with the status quo. I have a deep desire for an outlet.
However, this story can’t be that outlet. My genre is one for escape, not for heavy-handed social justice. And that’s creating a little bit of a disconnect for me.
And I know a lot of writers who feel trapped in similar corners for a number of reasons.
I’m not going to quit my genre. I love my characters and the setting and my readers too much.
But I just know I can open more minds with a story than I can with a facebook post. So I am going to start playing with a new pen name that is able to say a little …more.
Maybe something like that will work for you, too.
The Leviathan in the Room….
Some writers need space and time to think. Room for the characters to bump around in our heads and work through their flaws and deal with their conflicts.
I need time to refill my well, and grace to deal with the unexpected crises that are bound to arise from life.
And until I do those things, the words stay in the belly of the Beast.
Maybe some of this rings true for you, too.
If it does, I want to encourage you.
It doesn’t last forever.
As for me?
The Leviathan still looms sometimes, yearning for another taste of me.
But I pull my lungs full of the heavy salt air and remember that I’m a word-warrior. I rise up and tell him, “Not today.”
And I begin to type.
P.S. Please know I’m not really this wise on my own. At all. For more in-depth resources on writer’s block, please check out Becca Syme’s Writer’s Block series on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/