Friday, December 3, 2010

The Causes of Writer's Block

Some people treat writer’s block like a sickness, or something tragic and random that every author eventually goes through. Other writers try to seize control of their writer’s block by using force. I don’t look at it in either of those ways. I think writer’s block has preventable causes, and that (like a sickness), they can be cured if you treat it the right way.

Cause Number One: You don’t like what you’re writing

When I talk to an author who’s struggling to finish a project, more often than not I find out they hate what they’re working on. They loved it at first, but 10,000 words into it they lost interest and their creativity became as difficult to move as a stubborn mule.

Every project has its up and downs, but you should always be in love with your work. It’s like a marriage; you fight, but the love is still there. If the love isn’t there, it’s time to call it quits.

This is the worst type of writer’s block because while you’re focused on finishing a dead piece, you could be writing something spectacular. I knew a writer who hated her book and I tried to convince her to drop it. She did, and she immediately wrote the most fascinating series of short stories I’ve ever read. She just needed to fall in love again.

Cause Number Two: You’re emotionally unprepared to write

A huge reason Sacred Fire took me so long to write was I had a lot of unpleasant things to distract me. Not only is your emotional health more important than any book, but your book will suffer if you have other things to deal with. Take care of yourself first. The writing will come later.

Cause Number Three: You’re bored

You can have all the skill in the world, but it won’t matter if you don’t have something to write about. That’s why I’ve started posting my “World is Awesome” series. You have to have some kind of fire, some kind of inspiration or motive or message. It’s important to live an interesting life and learn interesting things.

I knew a writer who had writer’s block, then heard a story about someone buying Napoleon’s mummified penis. She thought that was hilarious (I did too), and for some reason it created a spark in her and she started a new book. I can only imagine what the book was about.

Writer’s block happens to everyone, but we aren’t victims. Writing is within our grasp; we just have to know how to reach for it.


  1. You've written a whole book?? How did I not know this?! By the way, I still think we should perform the Jamaica play. It was brilliant for a middle school piece.

  2. Heck ya! I've always wanted to do that.

  3. I agree. And also, that link is kind of funny.


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