Do You Suffer From Writer's Block? by James Glass

Do you suffer from writer’s block?

Have you hit the wall? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us do from time to time. The words won’t come or if they do, they’re all jumbled. The story doesn’t seem to move in any direction. Or worse, you stare at a blank page or screen for hours. Terrible, I know. It’s natural. Baseball players get into a hitting slump, so it’s fair to say, writers also run into a bit of a slump.

Don’t worry. As a retired Navy veteran, we have a saying, “Don’t give up the ship!” This is also true is of writing. “Don’t give up the story.”
Every writer I’ve ever known has hit the wall at some point. Some may give up. Actually, that’s not true. Many people who start their first story will quit because they run into the wall. The more time you procrastinate, are unable to come up with ideas, the more you get discouraged. However, what makes you different from the rest is you continue to write. “Don’t give up the story.”

How do I overcome this slump? What if I can’t get back into the story? What if I’ve gone as far as the story will take me?

All great questions. One thing I’ve come to recognize is that I tend to run into a wall at a certain point in all my books. The plot may be weak or too simple, the characters all sound alike, or I haven’t written enough action to keep the readers attention. If you find yourself in the similar situations, this is when writers lose confidence in their writing. And like me, if you stay in this mindset too long, you can’t move forward in the story. So where do you go from here?

If I find myself stuck and can’t move forward in the story, I’ll go back and see how I can make the plots more exciting, the characters more compelling. Find ways of getting the writing spark back. If I can’t, then I will jump several chapters ahead and see if this gets me out of the rut.

If this doesn’t work, it’s time for me to set the story aside for a while and work on a different project. This might be another novel or short story. If I still remain stuck in some writing virtual abyss I will try one last thing—writing prompts.  

Writing prompts are geared to kick-start your muse, flex your creative mind. Below are examples to choose from. Aim for a hundred words. If you feel inclined write more, do so. There are no rules. One of these may turn into a short story or your next novel. The skies the limit, cliché I know.

  • You hit a deer with your brand new car. While the car is in the shop you discover something about the car you never would have known if you hadn’t hit the deer.
    • Your best friend gives you a surprise party, but you’re not the one who’s surprised.
    • You find a key. You don’t know what it fits. You set out to solve the mystery, asking yourself, “Why did I hang onto it?”
    • You’ve been captured by cannibals. How do you try to convince them not to eat you? If that fails, how do you attempt to escape?
    • You receive a message on your answering machine. There are only 3 words before the message is cut off. “I need help …”

Writing prompts can help you hone your writing skills. They can also be fun. Now you have something to start with, yet the rest of the story is up to you. If you don’t like the examples above, go online. The internet has plenty you can choose from.

Do you ever hit a wall in your writing? How do you deal with it? How do you overcome this challenge?

James Glass achieved the rank of Command Master Chief before retiring after 22 years in the United States Navy. After retiring from the Navy, he exchanged his rifle for a pen. He and his family moved back to the Florida Panhandle. James is also the President of the Panhandle Writers Group.