I’m often asked if I get writer’s block and how I get past it. The first answer is yes. Absolutely, without a question, I get terrible bouts of writer’s block. I’m talking about fortified WALLS that go up in my mind. I have yet to come up with a foolproof way to get past these blocks, but I’ll walk you through a little of my own craziness.
This week I am about to finish my seventh book. With all the writer’s block I’ve experienced, I cannot believe I’ve managed to write that many full length stories. Looking back, it’s honestly a blur of tears and prayers and coffee and junk food and more tears, mixed in with encouraging emails and texts from friends and family, aka my cheerleaders.
My first book, Sweet Evil, was literally the only book that I did not have writer’s block with. That book felt like it soared from the very center of my heart. It’s all I thought about. I actually lost weight while writing because I’d forget to eat! I was utterly lost in that story world and it was glorious. I’ve heard a lot of people say that about their first book—that it felt incredibly inspired. Now, don’t get me wrong, my first book required a total overhaul and huge amounts of revision, but I never minded a minute of it. I wasn’t under contract or obligation and it was just fun.
And then I got picked up for publication. Dream come true, friends. DREAM. COME. TRUE. But everything sort of changed. Suddenly my stories were going to be read by people. Strangers who would judge it. And I no longer had complete control over everything. I had a publisher picking out titles and covers and leading me editorially. My intimate writing experience became a group effort. Not a bad thing, just different.
And then it was time to write the sequel…and that overwhelming inspiration wasn’t there quite as strongly. I’m not sure why this happened. Maybe because there was the pressure of deadlines and expectations from readers, but I found myself feeling stress that was never there before. I found myself stopping during the writing process and wondering, “Now what’s supposed to happen? Does this feel right? Is this working? Is it too much like such-and-such book?”
I still loved my story. I loved my characters. I wanted to tell their tales. And now I was required to finish because I signed a contract. What is it about obligation that sucks the fun out of a task? Oh, the pressure! I pushed forward, though I swear some days felt like I was trudging through sinking mud. And with each and every book I finally finished, I bawled my eyes out. Partly because I was so glad to be done, and partly because I loved it and missed it. I’m a mess of emotions.
So how do I push forward? I absolutely rely on my support group of friends and family, including my beta readers. It helps me so much if my beta readers critique as I go and cheer me on. That is what good beta readers do, and I do it for them in return. They read, tell you what they love about it and what they suggest changing/fixing/pondering, and brainstorm with you when needed. And then you revise or march onward.
There are days when I stare at the computer for hours to perfect a single scene that I must get right before I can move on. There are days when life is so busy that I can’t write at all, and I have to allow myself some grace. And then there are days when all the words come and I crank out several chapters. I just go with it. I pray/meditate a lot. I allow myself time to simply daydream about the story, playing around with scenarios in my mind.
Last week when I hit yet another block on this book, I went out to one of my favorite places—a place that inspired a scene in the book—a beautiful dock on a creek near my house. I spent an hour in nature, taking pictures and just letting my mind rest. As creative people, writers are so tough on ourselves, aren’t we? We beat ourselves up and put ourselves down and come to the conclusion that we can’t do it. I have days like that. Wasted days. And then a cool plot idea will zap into my mind while I’m doing some mundane chore, and that quickly I’m on top of the world again. This writing life…it’s crazy, I tell ya. And I wouldn’t trade it for any other job out there. I promise you this, writing friends: If I can do it, so can you.
Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NY Times bestselling author of the SWEET EVIL series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology THE GREAT HUNT, and her independently published Irish Fantasy SEE ME.
After earning a Creative Writing degree from George Mason University and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford, Wendy taught high school English until achieving her dream job as a full-time writer.
Wend lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her husband, daughter, son, and little doggie Rue.