The other day, I had a student come up to me and ask for some advice. He’s been working on several science fiction novels, and one story in particular has been hard for him to move through. “There’s just this scene that I have to write,” he complained. “It’s so boring, but I need to include the information, or else nothing afterward will make any sense. If I’m this bored while writing it, there’s no way anyone will want to read it. I’m stuck! What do I do?”
Personally, I hate writer’s block almost more than anything else. For me, it comes when I start judging my work too harshly. I’ll re-write a paragraph ten, fifteen, twenty times (not even exaggerating), and still feel like what I’ve written is clunky, boring, or just lame. This contrasts with the times when my fingers fly across the keyboard because the story seems pre-written in my head and I’m just typing it out. Hitting the metaphorical wall that is writer’s block hurts, in a very emotional-hurt kind of way. I start to worry that I’ve lost any skill I’ve had with writing. That I’ll never finish writing the chapter I’m on, much less the rest of the book. That I’ll never be able to write anything readable ever again. (Yes, my brain is ridiculously histrionic, and tends toward worst-case scenarios).
Although I don’t have a sure-fire cure for writer’s block, there is one thing I’ve found to be particularly useful when I’m faced with the beast:
When I find myself ramming my head against the wall, trying to perfect a paragraph that refuses to cooperate, I have to remind myself to take a step back. I look at my painfully messy writing, and I tell myself “you’ll come back and fix this later.” And then I move to the next scene, or the next chapter, or the next part of the story that just works. I move on to convince myself that I can still write, and that this story that I’m crafting is actually going somewhere beyond the scene I’m struggling with.
As the amazing movie, Meet the Robinsons says, “Keep Moving Forward.”