Help. I can’t write. I can blog, but I can’t write. I can sit here on ‘my thoughts on a page’, and many possible posts come into my head. I’ve heard of writers block but here on my blog I’ve no experience of it at all. Writing here is something I really enjoy, and look forward to.
However some of you may remember I have signed up for a creative writing course. It’s been a great experience, and I’ve looked forward to the challenges it’s presented me. Until the latest one.
Three weeks ago I was asked to write a story, any story. It must begin with the summary, then go into the scene, followed by a flashback and finish with slow motion. As I read it I began to think of a couple of stories I could probably apply that format to. Then I read the final words, “No more than 5000 words”. 5000 words! I felt my brain shut down, the creative shutters closed and even though time has passed I cannot re open them.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. To date I’ve written three stories, but stopped three quarters way through and trashed them, wishing they were written on paper so I could throw them in a bin. I am so frustrated by my lack of success. I’ve come up with two recurring excuses for it, ‘I’m very busy and I can’t think clearly’ , or ‘it’s the format and the 5000 word deadline’, but if I’m honest I don’t believe either of them.
I think the real reason is that I am beginning to understand what it is that makes a good short story, and I am over thinking every word. For a while I write, the words flowing, then for what ever reason I am interrupted. When I return to my ‘wonderful’ story I re read it and I think… rubbish. If I do decide to keep trying I find myself watching the word count and thinking, this is only one third of the story and I’m already nearing the end.
I have no idea how to get past this. Time is ticking by and the course finishing deadline is coming closer. I would hate to ‘fail’ to get a story written and I’d love to get feedback from my tutor when I do write it. I hoped by writing about it here I might begin to understand why I’m drawing a blank, and maybe even come up with a solution, but sadly I’m no further enlightened.
Maybe someone else has experienced this? Maybe you have some tips to get me through? All I do know is I have three stories of over 7000 words in total, and do not like any of them, and because I don’t like them I don’t like their characters or the plot.
Am I doomed? Should I begin afresh, or try to finish one of them?
All advice appreciated.
39 thoughts on “Is this what writers block feels like?”
I think writer’s block is different for everyone. And the solutions would be different as well.
I am drawing a block on solutions too Jackie. Almost resigned to ‘failure’.
I don’t know what your deadline is but you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Why not take one of your 7000 word stories and cut it to 5000. Even if you don’t like it, you still can submit it to your tutor and the feedback will be valuable.
You might also be blocked by the format. Don’t discount that. Creativity is not a paint by number affair. Good luck. 🙂
Thanks Carol. I think the format is an issue. It’s the first time I’ve not been able to fall for my characters and enjoy telling their story. Maybe if I l forget the deadline, leave them a couple of days and finish one, regardless what I feel. I like your comment ‘Creativity is not a paint by number affair’, that makes sense. Thank you.
Tric Do you think it’s because there is restrictions on you, when you write on your blog, your free to write as you please without limits and restrictions. It’s amazing how we can enjoy something until someone starts to tell us how we have to do it a certain way then it can become a chore, and I think the restrictions of 5000 is blocking your creativity, don’t worry you’ll get though it, your a fantastic writer xx
I agree Sandra. Up to now I have enjoyed the challenge of a forced challenge, one out of my comfort zone but this one has got to me.
Thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it Maybe there is still hope.
Perhaps you could lay them aside for awhile and start afresh. Don’t be discouraged! You’ll get through this. You are a writer!
Thank you. This is such a new thing for me and has dented my confidence a bit. I think I’ll have to, and see does it open the doors.
If you don’t like the ones you have, I’d try something fresh. Nothing worse than dragging out the process of writing something you’re just not feeling anything for. I must have about 10 draft blog posts I couldn’t motivate myself to finish in the last couple of weeks. Then I’ll write one that feels right and have it edited and published the next day.
Oh the thought of trying to begin again is hard, but I’m beginning to think it’s the best solution. I’m only hoping that the same thing doesn’t happen for a fourth time.
When I get writers block its usually when I have so many things in my head that I find it hard to get the things I need to write out. I found recently that writing down normal every day things in a journal helped to free up my mind and tbink more clearly about what I wanted to write. Hope it clears up for you soon
Thanks Sara. I might try that. You are right, part of the problem is that as I am writing I am conscious of other things I should be doing, and even though I continue to write I am only half committed.
Hope you get over your writers block soon!
Thanks. I took some of the comments and hints on board and did a little yesterday. I was definitely in better writing form. I’ve decided to park it until Tuesday and hope by then I’ll be itching to try.
Definitely forget the word count. Write the story then edit. That’s what it’s all about. I would write it then go through and cut out obvious things. Then go through again. Keep going through and cutting gradually. Don’t try to go from 7000 to 5000 in one edit. It will take several edits. You can do it!
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I got some great advice and I’m beginning to believe I can once more. It was such a new experience for me, and to be honest dented my confidence.
You are right I can and I will.
You’re being really hard on yourself Tric. Even if you’re not entirely happy with it, just send it in. You could always tweak and restructure it later. I’ve written things which are a bit blah and hit publish. If you submit something you’ll learn from the feedback and it’ll never be a waste of time.
Fingers crossed you’re right Olivia, but it’s hard to send something you are not happy with. I am leaving it until Tuesday and hope by then with the help of the advice I’ve got here, I’ll get back on track.
take one of your stories and edit it down to size
what needs to be in there and what does not?
can the characters say what they need to say in fewer words?
did you need to be so verbose in your descriptive text?
when I read a book I always skip over some paragraphs that I think are unnecessary clutter
if an author tells me it was a stormy day, I know the sky was not blue and dotted with white fluffy clouds. I don’t need several paragraphs describing the sky
have one of your family (or a friend) read your story and ask them which parts they skipped over – that’ll tell you where to look to make cuts and trim your story down to size
Well I have gone with your advice and got a reader who thought two of the three were good. Seeing it through her eyes and hearing her read it really helped. I’m parking it until Tuesday so hopefully by then I’ll be set free.
Thanks again Duncan.
i think you’re freaking yourself out with the ‘must-do’s’ and format. i like duncan’s advice. cut down on what you have, and call it done. start fresh when you’re ready. you’re a naturally good writer, tric and it seems to be the restrictions that are pulling you down.
Thanks Beth. This one really got to me and your words ‘freaking yourself out’ were true, even though I’m a calm individual. It dented my confidence and I began to think I couldn’t.
I have got some great advice and encouragement here, so come Tuesday I’m going to go back to it. I’m trying to stay away until then to try to climb out of the rut.
Arrgh. I hate it when it all feels so pressured. Cramps the creativity. A couple thoughts…I’m an over-writer, so my stuff always exceeds the limit. I write it anyway and then cut, cut, cut. I think of the trimming as an exercise in simplicity. When I’m blocked, I FORCE myself to write, even if it’s crap. I can slog away a whole day grinding out two pages. It’s like getting stuck in a pot hole, I work the car free and then I’m back on the road. Good luck to you. Take a deep breath.
I love your vision of getting stuck in a pot hole and just working the car free. I do think that is part of what I will have to do, to just force my way through and hopefully get to where I am free.
Thanks a million I’m feeling a lot more confident now. I honestly began to think I was never going to pull out of this.
Writing is fun, a passion, and a whole lot of WORK! You’ll be fine, Tric.
I know you are getting advice on both sides and hope that doesn’t throw you. I will phrase this more from my own experience. I tend to write first and then edit down to a word count. I also tend to get to a point where I get either tentative or just plain disgusted with whatever I am working on. If I take short break and then come back, I can usually be more objective and realize that, while not perfect, there is merit to what I have done and I can get back to work on improving it. Also, I find a lot of help from feedback from someone else reading my work, especially when it comes to making cuts or pointing out elements that are missing.
Thank you Joanne. I loved reading the fact that there comes a point when you are tentative or disgusted by what you wrote. That was really getting to me. I think that is why I wished it to be paper so I could rid myself of it.
I did get a reader yesterday and as you said it really helped.
Thanks again. I’m waiting until Tuesday but hopefully this time next week I’ll be free.
I’m glad things weren’t on paper so that you still had them to go back to! Best wishes on your story-making process. You can do it!
I think sometimes what you have to do as a writer is forget that you are a writer and become an editor, just rip into it, start removing and reworking everything with no mercy on all those wonderful words you laboured over. Once you have your 5000 words done and dusted you can slip back into writer mode and see how you can jazz it up here and there, maybe describe something in a sentence that previously had been an entire paragraph. Add a little humour here and there maybe. Then edit, edit, edit all over again. As William Faulkner once said when asked for writing advice, ‘In writing you must kill all your darlings.’
I like that idea J.D. I think part of my problem was I was becoming an editor as I was working (due to my limited newly acquired knowledge) and was editing each word and losing my feel for the story. However if I just write freely and switch off, before returning with my editors hat on and strictly editing I might free my writing brain up.
Thanks J.D. Hopefully this week will see my jump to freedom.
Lots of good advice here, but lots of different approaches too. Pick one; don’t try to please us all.
My contribution is that you have to not listen to the little voice that tells you it’s all crap when you’re halfway through. That’s your brain trying to sabotage you. Just power on anyway, write through the crap in the knowledge that you can cut it away later.
With that in mind, I’d say you can start afresh or work with one of the ones you have. I also find that when I’m stuck, it helps to go for a walk or a drive and talk myself through my plot. I say “Now, what should happen next?” and I look for something that’s both logical but also just unexpected enough to make me happy. I usually talk out loud to myself, so in the car might be safer. 🙂
Thanks. I had never before heard that voice saying this is crap, but during this exercise it was roaring, “rubbish, unbelievable, badly written, are you joking?”. I was as beth said ‘freaking myself out’, and was losing my confidence. It has been going on for three weeks.
Just knowing others hear that voice has made a big difference. I will do my best to silence it, but failing that I will write on this week regardless and I will finish no matter how awful that voice tells me it is.
Thanks again. I really appreciate your advice.
Maybe you should take one of those walks in your beautiful area and try to find inspiration in the beauty as you will find on your way. When I feel blocked for anything it always help me to take a walk in beautiful surroundings.
Thanks Irene. You’re right I need time away. I have decided not to look at it until Tuesday and hopefully I’ll be ready and able to write then.
Send you my best wishes for you to find your inspiration 😉
came across this vid today – thought you might appreciate Kurt Vonnegut’s tips on how to write a short story 😆
I saw your comment on my phone yesterday, but still haven’t had a chance to sit and look at it, but here goes. I am smiling wondering if it’s a smart comment/video or a nugget of wisdom. With you it could be anything 🙂
Thanks Duncan it was really helpful. You were not setting me up after all!