I’m going to do a few posts on how to defeat writer’s block. I have four or five already in mind, and I write this because recently it was a true issue that I had to fight through.

There’s a number of reasons for writer’s block. Children, too much alcohol, not enough alcohol, significant others, pets, an unruly character, a poorly developed [insert plot, character, setting], a computer that doesn’t work, fear of success, fear of failure, and I will promise you a hundred others I will never experience or understand, and a few hundred more you will never experience or understand. But they’re out there, and just like a traumatic moment with a child, it’s real to them and you should treat it as such.

The other day something horrible happened: a character went against me and changed his role in the story. This caused a block because, though it wrapped up one loose end, it caused the next chapter to falter. I didn’t know what direction I would go in. For three days I stared at my computer any time I brought up the document, wondering why I was vexed so immensely by malignant characters.

I daydreamed and eventually came up with what would happen next, and while daydreaming is one of the forms to defeat the great wall dividing us from our creativity I will talk about later, the first one is to write sideways.

The Northern Wall from Guild Wars. Sometimes our writer's block looks as insurmountable.
The Northern Wall from Guild Wars. Sometimes our writer’s block looks as insurmountable.

A visual if you would. The mind is like this huge board, and there are different channels running down the board. Each one is an idea. Some go farther than others, but they’re all important because they’re all venues for you to explore.

When we start writing an idea seriously, we have a tendency to go down one chute, ignoring all the other ideas. Look at it as our time is water, and we dam off all the other outlets. So we’re rushing down the one path, excited, perhaps even elated, as our writing rushes forward to fill the cavity. Then we realize the path is filled but the story isn’t done. We’ve filled the channel and there’s obviously more to it, but a dam has been imposed upon us which we have very little control over.

Often at this point we stare at the stopper. We curse and shake our fist, but we’re impotent to remove it. This is a path to futility.

Why do I call it writing sideways? Because there are all those other fabulous ideas that you can open up. You can write on them for a little bit, outline, brainstorm, and just generally lose yourself to something other than your core work.

I wrote a number of mythologies that would tie into my world. I wrote a few that had absolutely no immediate importance. Even outlined book number two. All the while I continued to think of my story, but at least I was writing, creating, and moving. I was writing sideways, and suddenly, yesterday, the floodgates opened.

So if your path is blocked, travel down another one until you’ve opened up your original route.

Next time we’ll explore more writer’s block! If you have a specific issue, let me know, shoot me an email, check out my other website, and so forth. I’ll try to include it.

8 thoughts on “Defeating Writer’s Block 1: Write Sideways

  1. Thank you for this fantastic post! I completely agree that ‘writing sideways’ can often be the way to go. As long was I’m writing, I know the ideas will fall into place.

  2. Great stuff. If you can’t focus on the immediate story, flesh out the world build and the story will come to you =)

  3. I actually wrote a piece that GAVE me writers block for 16 miserable months. It took me that long to figure out where, why, how etc it started, and then I had to write around it and get over it. It was like falling on my own pen. Totally crazy, but real. One of the most frustrating things to ever endure!

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