Where the Magic Happens


Sometimes I’m writing along, writing along, and then wham. Bam. Wall.

It’s not something you can predict. Writer’s block just happens. I can be on a roll and have a NaNoWriMo-esque month only to find myself scratching my head, wondering what happened. It doesn’t happen to me often, but it happened to me this week.

Whenever I used to get writer’s block, I would stop writing for a few weeks. Or months. It happened when I plowed through the end of my first novel and halfway through the second — and again when I plowed through the end of the second and halfway through the third. The difference between those two moments was that I learned how to deal with it.

Stopping writing? Not the right answer.

If you stop, it’s that much harder to start again. Writing is like working out. Sometimes you have to start with baby steps. Just a few pushups, just a few reps, building up to those long workouts. And if you stop for a while, those muscles atrophy.

What I learned in the three and a half years between finishing my first novel and starting my third was that letting those muscles atrophy stymied both my creativity and put my dreams on hold. Writer’s block is a hurdle to be sure, but it’s one you have to refuse to give in to.

If you get burnt out on the big sprints, go back to the little stuff. Try a short story. Write some non-fiction. Write anything. Poems, articles. Change it up. Each time you thumb your nose at your writer’s block even in a little way, you start boring through that wall. Eventually you come to find that somewhere under all that brick, there’s this:

A spark, lit fuse, holy hand grenade.

You never know what it could be, the thing that blows that wall to smithereens. For me on Tuesday, it was a tweet from a fellow writer recommending the book Save the Cat! If you haven’t heard of that book, it’s a guide for screenwriters about structure. And it wasn’t the book that blew up my block. It was the title.

What had gotten me stuck was trying to take a character who is dealing with something traumatic and huge and paranormal that she doesn’t understand and show how it begins to wear on her life. How her goals begin to crumble around her. How everything she’s been working toward now sits on a ledge, waiting for gravity to shift it over the side.

In this new draft, I gave her a kitty. It’s sheer coincidence that the name of the book is Save the Cat! It just so happened that my protagonist had something I could use with that. If you want to find out what happens to furry little Piggles, well…stay tuned.

The point is that writer’s block is a straitjacket we put on ourselves. When at first we’re stumped, we have a choice. We can throw up our hands and go play Fruit Ninja, or we can put fingers to keyboard or pen and paper and keep writing. Keep pushing. Keep tunneling for that spark that will blow the block to hell and back — that’s where the magic happens.

Because I think we all know that blowing things up is fun.

When was your last experience with writer’s block? If you’re not a writer, what’s stymied you lately? It could be a project or fitness or even a phone call to family. 

I haven’t had to say it yet, but apparently it does need to be said after Tuesday’s post — keep all comments civil and respectful. I encourage discussion and disagreement, but if it’s not respectful, it’s not welcome. This should be a positive environment, and if my family members can get along when they have different religions and political views, we can discuss other things without being rude to one another.


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on April 5, 2012, in Thorsday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Very interesting! When I struggle with ideas I tend to pick up my scruff book and just write anything… sometimes I’ll read a paragraph from a book and carry on the story just to start getting my brain thinking again!!

    xx GnG xx

  2. Much needed encouragement!

  3. I totally agree when you say writer’s block is a straightjacket that we put on ourselves. I compare it to the monster under our bed when we were little. You were afraid of what you thought was there and when you got up the courage to look, found there was nothing under there all along. You gave the monster the power and you can take it away too.

    I’m the type of writer who stays with his story until it is finished. I don’t give in to the temptation of calling getting stuck writer’s block. That’s just me. I’ll go back over what I’ve got and see if the answer is already there, or nitpick over something else in my story, or maybe even try writing from a different character’s point of view, but I can’t go and write something else. Everyone is different and you just have to find what works for you.

    It’s always nice to see what another writer does. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • If I work on something else, it’s usually just to get me going again, and then I’ll return. But ever since my eight month hiatus after the first book, I never let myself stop cold turkey anymore.

      Now if only I could apply that to working out…

  4. “If you get burnt out on the big sprints, go back to the little stuff. Try a short story. Write some non-fiction. Write anything. Poems, articles. Change it up. Each time you thumb your nose at your writer’s block even in a little way, you start boring through that wall.”

    In a way, I am hoping each blog entry I do chips at that wall a little bit more. I also have discovered, through keeping my blog, how much I actually enjoy writing non-fiction commentaries and reviews. But I still have my eye on the bigger prize. 😛

    As to Tuesday’s discussion, may I suggest you put your new “Comment code” on it’s very own link so it doesn’t disappear when this post gets shuffled farther down the queue? I have a link to my comment policy, and while I’m sure virtually no one reads it, at least they can’t say they were never warned if I decide to deny their comments. 🙂

  5. I always get it in the middle chapters of the novel. I slow way down, and may even take a few days in between writing and come back to it. In the meantime, I try to read more, and go back and work on those middle chapters in smaller bites. Eventually I plow through it, then head full speed ahead to the ending.

  6. Nice and timely post. I’ve been in a middle of a block myself. Of course, between being sick, being out of town, and watching my nieces for a few days, I guess it isn’t so suprising.

    What was interesting was that, this morning, before I sprinted off to an appointment, I finally skipped ahead in my book to a part I had been thinking about and cranked out just over 300 words in about ten minutes. That was rather eye opening. Turns out, I don’t have writers block, I have that section of the book block. 🙂

    Of course, I can’t put that discovery to work for me now because I have to run the horses to the vet for their dental and vaccination visit. Tomorrow perhaps?

    Happy Thursday!

  7. A timely post for me, Emmie. I was stumped on my 1st draft of my new novel, and I just changed horses. I’ve been working piecemeal on a screenplay since last year and I switched over to that for the past couple of days. And I’m working off of Save the Cat! LOVE that book. I bought Save the Cat! Strikes Back a few months back and while pouring over his 50 Questions, I had a great breakthrough. Recommend both books highly.

    And as for rude people, I received my first over-the-top, mean-spirited post. I marked it as spam. Life’s too short for jackasses. 🙂

  8. Kourtney Heintz

    Emmie, I completely agree with you. There are reasons I feel stuck or stymied, but that is not when I should give up. I just try things from another angle. Get to the middle and not know where the book goes. Stop and write the synopsis or query. Or revise the first half. Or pause and revise an old manuscript.

    I firmly believe in writing everyday. Even if it is just 1 hr. 🙂

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