When did I stop believing in writer’s block? Somewhere between the time that I learned the ugly truth about how bananas are garbage fruits and that my phone has a notes app built into it. Writer’s block can be a monster when you’re up against a deadline, real or imagined (but at least the latter only makes you feel terrible subjectively?), but for me, the question has never actually been if I could find a forward in the piece I was writing. Depending on the situation, the issue could be anything from feeling like I wrote myself into a hole and forgot my ladder, to spacing out on that one idea I had that one time on how I’d handle part of a piece of writing, to some next level procrastination that’s one of the few reasons I vacuum on a semi-regular basis. But isn’t that writer’s block?
Well… Shut up.
If you’re writing, and you’ve already stopped, filled in the hole you wrote yourself into and went back to the drawing board with your outline (you did make a proper one, didn’t you?), and you’re still at a loss, what should you do? Start planning ahead from the get. One of the stereotypes about creativity is that it always hits you at times like being in the shower, while you’re traveling somewhere, while you’re working on something else, or more generally when your mind says, “THIS WOULD BE AWESOME!” and your hands reply back, “WE’RE KIND OF IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING HERE!”
In the age of smartphones, the ability to take notes or voice memos while on the go is your best friend you didn’t know you had. If an idea comes up in the shower, stop, don’t pass go, and hold onto the idea as you have it. If you can get out and record it or type out enough of it that you’ll remember it, do it. Otherwise, do what you can to resist the urge to explore it right then, before you’ve written down the basis for it. I can’t count the number of times that a story idea has come up, and in the time between when it came to me and when I could record it, I’d gone so far sideways I couldn’t come back to the original point.
It doesn’t mean that you have to go ahead and use the idea right then, or that you’ll use it in the form you’ve recorded it. It doesn’t even mean that you’ll remember what it was about when you look back on it, or that it’s anything beyond, “what if space sheep and bendy rocket ships,” the point is that the thought stood out to you at the time. When you can refer back to your disjointed and potentially poorly written pile of ideas you had that one time, you might just find that an idea originally unrelated to what you are currently working on can help you fill the hole you didn’t realize you’d made that deep.
But if the issue isn’t the story itself, but rather that you feel like you don’t want to write in the given world anymore, the story has gotten more complicated, and you’ve reached a point that it feels like pulling teeth to try and come up with what comes next, what should you do?
When in doubt, make it weird. No, seriously. If you don’t know what you should do next, take a leaf out of the Unicorn Western playbook, and take the story on a hard left turn. Kill off a character that you “shouldn’t,” bring in a story element that no one would expect (SPACE SHEEP), and play it totally, unequivocally seriously. I mean, if you’re already going stir crazy trying to figure out what’s going to happen next while you’re writing, you could do us all a favor and share the love. It’s about the least you could do.