While I’m sure others will argue it exists, it’s always been my opinion that it doesn’t – at least for me. What I’ve experienced is that what others call writer’s block is more an unwillingness to continue, for whatever reason, than any utter lack of inspiration. Writing isn’t about waiting for a muse to fill your head with words, forcing you to hurriedly dictate it all before it’s gone. Writing is a skill, like any other, honed by countless hours of practice, tempered by avid reading, and perfected over millions of words put to paper. The notion that a writer could suddenly run out of words is like a runner who suddenly can’t run. He or she may be exhausted, lacking energy to continue, but you don’t need inspiration to run.
Running out of ideas may be an obstacle, but it isn’t insurmountable. Writing anything, even working on a bad idea, will often lead to a better one. You can’t edit what isn’t written. There are tried and true formulas to fall back on. Sure, they can be cliché. That’s why we write in drafts. The simple act of working through a dry spell, knowing you’ll rewrite or even toss whatever’s stinking up the page, will help spark the inspiration for better material. It’s been my experience that fear of failure (writing crap) or being unwilling to toss out what doesn’t work can contribute to these periods when inspiration runs dry.
What has worked well for me is to set aside days and times to write. It needs to become a scheduled habit. Writing is work. It’s a job. You might not get paid, but it’s a job all the same. I know my limitations and how long it takes to write a page. Once I decide to start a novel, I make sure to work on Monday through Friday from roughly 8am to 1pm. I have a goal of three to five pages at least. The hours may vary, the days can be flexible for appointments or unexpected goings on, but the schedule is ingrained in my mind. I’m my own boss, telling me when to write. I could write on the weekend or during the hours I don’t plan for. That’s not an issue. What’s important is to have hours absolutely set aside to write.
Sitting in front of the screen, staring at the flashing cursor is just part of the job. Can’t think of what comes next? Reread the last chapter. Still nothing? Start a simplistic outline of events and dialogue. You can add description and details later. Already working with an outline or can’t think of a single thing to write? Force yourself to put words on the screen. It doesn’t matter if they suck. No one’s seen them yet. It’s just you and the words. You can toss them at any time. Until they’re in print, sitting on a shelf, every word is up for grabs. Work your way through it.
It’s the unwillingness to continue that needs to be overcome.