The One Popular Myth Writers Believe About Writer’s Block

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From Writers Helping Writers:

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block!”

No doubt you’ve heard this myth before.

Worse, you may have believed it.

And that’s rarely a good thing, as it tends to keep you where you are—in that stuck place you dare not call writer’s block.

Myth: There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” says writer Leigh Shulman. “It’s an excuse.  Your way of telling yourself you have a reason for not writing.”

You’ll find a wide variety of writers echoing this same sentiment. Whenever I heard it, I worried. I didn’t want to be one of “those” writers.

“The secret about writer’s block is that it’s an indulgence,” writes Amy Alkon for Psychology Today. “…The way you end so-called ‘writer’s block’ is simply by sitting down to write—’blackening pages,’ as Leonard Cohen called it.”

Lazy! Undisciplined! We hear it again and again. Stop coddling yourself. Sit down and write!

I vowed to do just that. I wouldn’t be weak. I would be a strong, productive writer.

No writer’s block here.

Then along came my third novel, The Beached OnesAnd it humbled me in a hurry.

My Novel Taught Me All About Writer’s Block

Draft after draft, I came up against a wall. No matter how hard I tried or how many hours I put in, I could not figure out how to get past the midpoint of that novel.

Now understand: I was no newbie to the mid-novel struggle. I had gone through it with my other two published novels, but never to this extent.

I bought books. I went to conferences. I talked to award-winning writers. I sketched out the plot. I outlined the chapters. I examined each of the character’s inner and outer motivations.

I did everything you should do when experiencing writer’s block—things that before had led to a breakthrough—and nothing helped.

It was frustrating, to say the least.

I looked writer’s block squarely in the eye and withered. So much for strength and discipline. They weren’t helping me at all.

My Cure for Writer’s Block

I finally had to admit that I was suffering a bad case of writer’s block.

Oh, the shame!

I’ve since learned that other writers—much as they may lecture about there being no such thing as writer’s block—just have a slightly different definition of it.

Says Schulman: “Here’s the thing: Every writer who has ever existed feels stuck at some point. That’s why I say there’s no such thing as writer’s block because it’s part of the writing process.”

Oh. So it is writer’s block. You’re just calling it something else.

And that something else is comforting, isn’t it? Shulman is assuring us that everyone experiences being stuck now and then. Relax. It’s normal.

But I couldn’t relax. The story sat in the back of my mind bugging me day in and day out.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

PG notes that the link to the author’s “latest” book on Amazon shows that it will be published in June of this year.

This is not the only time PG has observed this phenomenon.

He expects that in some publishing circles, this may be regarded as the best way to induce friends, relatives, etc., to pre-order your book so it gets a big bump in Amazon’s ratings because a lot of online purchases of the book happen on a single day.

People have been using this strategy on Amazon for a very long time. PG has his doubts whether the strategy still works to finagle Amazon’s Sales Rank algorithm, but is happy to be proven wrong.

One consequence that does occur when an author writes an article for an online publication and includes a link to the book is that Amazon’s Look Inside feature does not work. It’s not an option and won’t work until at some time after the book is published.

PG believes that Look Inside is one of the most powerful tools for inducing a curious potential purchaser to be converted to a buyer. PG virtually never buys an ebook without checking it out via Look Inside to get a better sense than the book’s description provides about whether he is interested in the book, whether the author knows how to write or not, etc.

This is exactly the same manner by which PG examines a potential purchase at a physical bookstore. (PG thinks this is correct, but it has been quite a long time since he has entered a physical bookstore with the intention of purchasing a book.)

End of rant. PG is happy to be informed in the comments that he is the only person who buys books in this manner, is a complete fool, should listen to his betters in large offices of traditional publishers, etc., etc., etc.

6 thoughts on “The One Popular Myth Writers Believe About Writer’s Block”

  1. Draft after draft, I came up against a wall. No matter how hard I tried or how many hours I put in, I could not figure out how to get past the midpoint of that novel.

    Or figure out what happens at 51% before writing anything?

    • You’d think a disciplined writer would know upfront what a book is about, and hence it’s endpoint, before even starting. It’s one thing to be unsure how to get from one state to the next but at that point a viable solution would be to backtrack and try a different approach. It’s my understanding that even “pantsers” can usually figure out “what comes next” with some thought. 😉

      I suspect most true cases of block are from lack of focus or disinterest (like the Martin dude fighting with fans over not writing his next book when his heart really isn’t into it. He’d rather be writing video game bibles or TV show treatments. The latter being his native environment.) Out in the real world not every project that starts gets completed.

      If the OP doesn’t know what comes next, the likeliest answer is: something else. Watching a movie, taking a vacation, bingeing video, or just doing a different story.

      Too much angst over very little.

  2. I’m absolutely with you, PG. I will not purchase a book on Amazon without first reading the sample pages. Do I like the writer’s voice? Are the prose engaging? Does he/she even write well? The story itself is one thing, but compelling prose is another. Even if I’ve read other things by this author, I want to know about “this” book, the one I’ll be buying. No sample pages, no sale for me. And absolutely no preorder.

  3. Preorders work best for existing fans who want to have the book as soon as it’s available. They already know what they are getting and want to have it on the first day it’s available.

    Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter would be an extreme example of a preorder. I would expect virtually all the people who participated have already read at least one—and probably several—of his books. (Yes, it’s also an example of offering more than just the story for value, but pointing out it’s paying for a future work.)

    I will also note that the author you mention has previews available on her website and other retailers. I checked it out at my preferred online store, Kobo. She also has a few pre-publication awards and other promotions.

    I think her pre-release marketing is more about building an overall buzz and less about the Zon’s ranks (and preorders don’t even count as release day sales at the Zon, unlike other retailers).

    Besides, you mentioned her. I checked out her book to see what you were talking about. The power of marketing.

  4. It varies for me.

    There are a tiny number of writers (as in I can leave my shoes on) that I begrudge the time wasted in hitting the Buy With One Click button and waiting for the download to finish.

    There are others that I will check the book budget before taking the plunge (they end up on a wish list if they absolutely must wait).

    There are those where I will check the price and read the blurb – when someone that I believe knows what s/he is talking about, like that PG guy on history, say that they have enjoyed it.

    Then there are those that I’ve never heard of, and nobody I know has either, where I’ll do a Look Inside. That’s usually not enough; I’ll wait for a decent number of serious reviews before considering it again.

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