Writer’s Block: What Happens When You’re Stuck on a Dead-End Street?


Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I’m not sure if I can tell you how many articles and quotes I’ve read regarding that plague that will hit every writer at one point or another called “Writer’s Block”. No, writer’s block is not located on a street. Although if it were, it would be located near the latter part of a dead-end street. Why? Because ideas don’t seem to be pouring in, the voice that speaks inside of you has gone quiet, the muse has disappeared, imagination has dimmed- essentially your journey has ended prematurely without your consent.

Those of you that has ever accidentally, while traveling by car, turned onto a street with a dead-end that had no signs giving you any indication of this beforehand, know what I’m talking about. As soon as you think you’ve made it around the traffic you’d been attempting to avoid, BOOM, there is the dead-end. Writer’s block, for me, feels very similar. Usually right before it hits, I am gung-ho about my progress, the ideas pouring into me are so inspired I can’t type fast enough and then boom- I’ve got nothing.

Yesterday, I had an idea. Had even mapped it out somewhat but as soon as I started to type, I couldn’t get my characters to move. My fingers hovered above the keys and instead of tapping away, they stayed suspended there. But luckily a friend of mine that actually cared about the scene I was writing asked me, “Where are you stuck”? Now let’s stop right there. Writing is usually a job done on your own. Not many writers want anyone messing with their stories, ideas, nothing. Writers are very possessive and not only that, we generally like going at it alone. I mean we are writers, right? It’s a profession that doesn’t require anyone elses help, if you don’t want it and most of the time, we don’t want it.

Okay, so getting back to my friend. He asked me where I was stuck. No other writer has asked me that before (usually they give me ideas on what might help when I’m stuck or even pat me on the back through cyberspace) so for a moment I was thrown for a loop. But because I trust his infinite wisdom, I shared where I was, more specifically where my one character was stuck and what followed was one of the most inspired writing sessions ever. It took him coaxing me with the story, asking a few questions so that he could play around with my characters too. And no, he didn’t change anything about how I would have wanted it to flow. Yet, he helped me move them. I could see them better, experience them in the scene, then my own voice returned and that was awesome. Freeing, actually.

In the past after my fingers hovered and no stream of thought came to move them, I would have sighed and possibly walked away. It may have taken a day to get going, maybe longer. But not yesterday. As writers, more specifically authors because the intent is to most certainly publish the material we write, we must be willing to think outside the lines of what might help us to succeed. I’m not a fan of critique groups for the reasons I mentioned above about possessiveness and not wanting anyone else in my head, on my paper, messing with my story. However, there are times that someone may help shed light on a project even momentarily, opening your mind, helping move your story, helping to move your characters.

Writer’s Block can not only be defined by the condition where we lose the ability to work, but also the condition in which we refuse to work with anyone else. We block our creativity from other sources because we only want our own voice in our head. I get that, really I do and if that works for you all of the time, I say stick with it because what matters in the end, is your own work. I know people and I’ve done this too, that read other’s work(read: books, poetry) when they’re stuck. That’s cool but that voice is dead, it’s not active. It’s like studying Latin and I know because I studied Latin for 5 years and while I learned a ton about language and history, I can’t speak to anyone with it(blank stare) . So sometimes it offers insight but not enough to get you really going. So when you’re stuck next time, consider all of the creative people around you even if for one moment. And allow them the freedom to work with you and to coax you off of the dead-end street.

What are some of the ways you get off of what seems like a dead-end street? Share.



17 thoughts on “Writer’s Block: What Happens When You’re Stuck on a Dead-End Street?

  1. I love to role play with trusted contemporaries, and it helps when they have a decent idea of how my characters work…

    I try to step away from the keyboard sometimes when I feel like I’m pressing too hard or something like that. Listening to music when I’m stuck kind of helps too, helps me to see my characters with the background of a “soundtrack” playing in my head…

    I’m glad your friend was able to get you through it :).

    • Music speaks to my soul and can be very encouraging and inspiring so I definitely use it when writing.

      I was extremely delighted to have someone take the time with me last night so that I could get going. Very much appreciated and saved me a long slump. And It’s nice to know that you are willing to help. We writers sometimes need each other :).

      Thanks for visiting Shakir!

  2. Sounds like you have a great writing partner! It is not easy to find one.

    As for your questions, I take the stuck character somewhere else. Just like in life, sometimes a change of scenery will inspire or change us. Then I return them back to where they were once stuck when their little scene vacation is over. The diversion scene might get added, may be tossed or could end up on the sidelines in case I need to return to it after another stuck occasion. I usually try to write the opposite mood or even introduce a character whose purpose is to be my character’s muse of sorts just for the outtake scene.

    Sufferers of writer’s block often make the mistake of putting their pen down or setting aside their keyboard. One should never stop writing when feeling like writer’s block is happening. Now if there is a need to rest, then yes, rest. That is different, but don’t rest for too long. Too much rest can breed laziness. However, with writer’s block, keep writing. I don’t care what you write. Just write. Writing prompts are great. Write a poem. Crack open a journal. Copy the Declaration of Independence down on three ring paper, but the point is keep the hand moving and thoughts flowing. Athletes get injured, but they must stay active in some manner to rehab their injury even if it’s by watching film. If they stop being active in their sport, it makes returning after the injury even harder.

    Also remember that sometimes writer’s block is a bottle neck reaction to all the ideas and creativity flowing into the small space we have to produce it into something greater. We have this tiny opening and what trickles through during the bottle neck feeling makes us feel like we have nothing or very little to offer. Turn the bottle upside down, shake or swirl to release the “clog” and then return to it’s normal position. In time the juices will flow through naturally.

  3. Wow Tia! First off, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. That was very insightful and I plan to copy it and keep it close. Great advice!

      • That is not a problem and it’s exactly what I would expect when sharing my posts. I want the feedback. This road I’m on has been traveled countless times before me. It doesn’t make sense to shut everyone out. So thank you!

  4. Ben Burgess Jr. says:

    Great blog! I’ve felt like this on numerous occassions. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one with these thoughts and feelings.

Leave Aja a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s