Wikipedia calls writer’s block a “condition.” Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Like a chronic malady that a writer struggles to keep at bay, the threat of a recurrence is always lurking in the dark shadows of that last sentence, paragraph, or scene. It’s something you might get a bit of respite from, but is guaranteed to return at some point. I suspect anyone who writes has felt at one time or another that they are unable to move forward with their WIP (work in progress). Let’s see what can be done about this “condition.”
End by Getting Started
It might prove helpful to write a few sentences or ideas related to where the plot of the story is going before stopping or taking a break. That way, when you return to your WIP, you won’t be staring at a blank page, and it will be easier for you to pick up where you left off. I type my bits in all caps so they catch my attention and remind me that they’re not part of the story. It might be something like, “WORKS IN STORE, THEN GETS AN EMAIL FROM GREG” or “NEED MORE HERE ABOUT HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MIKE.” They are my own prompts that help with plotting and make it easier for me to pick up where I left off. The writing may end up going in another direction, but at least you have a starting point that triggers your creative mind.
Sometimes the words just won’t come. Do not despair! Physically leaving your writing space and going/doing something else may be the solution. Focus on something unrelated (weeding a flowerbed, taking a walk, and baking all work for me). While you’re away, mull (or not) the scene or problem area. Working through the scene in your mind may help it move forward. Or the answer you’re looking for might just pop in, out of the blue. Giving your writing brain a rest may be the key in finding the answer.
Flick or Book?
There are two ways I approach this: book-related and non-book-related. I may need a complete break from my WIP and choose an unrelated genre’ to give my writing brain a chance to rest and reset. On the other hand, I may be searching for ideas, and a book or movie in the genre’ or time period I’m writing in may be just what the doctor ordered. I may see how a similar scene was handled, how conflict was (or not) resolved, or how an object with little significance at the start comes to play a major role by the time the story is over. With those ideas in mind, I might tailor them to my own WIP and see how it feels. You might start with a reaction to something along the lines of what you saw or read, then end up going in a different direction. That’s great! Go where the story takes you.
Rather than succumbing to the term blocked, I find more comfort and self-forgiveness in the belief that my creative mind has encountered a temporary slowdown and needs a healing pause in order to restore and rejuvenate itself. I find that if I respond by addressing it and kindly giving it the time and space it needs (and employing one or more of the gentle prompts I mentioned above), the characters in my story are ready, waiting, and pointing the way forward when I return.