Understanding (and Conquering!) the 4 Parts of Writer’s Block

‘Writer’s Block’ is basically writing-related procrastination. This means that overcoming procrastination = overcoming writer’s block.

In ‘How to be a Knowledge Ninja,’ productivity expert Graham Allcott claims procrastination occurs when we find something:

  1. Difficult
  2. Undefined
  3. Scary
  4. Tedious

Fighting writer’s block comes down to fighting these 4 concepts, which have the handy acronym of DUST. If you can deal with DUST, you can beat writer’s block. So, let’s work out how to tackle each word:

Difficult:

“How do I create a lifelike, interesting character?”

The reality is that it takes a long time to become a good writer – I know I’m certainly not there yet!

However, even if you lack the skills to do what you want, give it a shot. Through trying, experimenting, developing and most of all putting word after word on paper or screen, your writing will improve. You don’t have to focus just on creative writing. As I wrote about recently, any form of writing will make you a better fiction writer.

So, in short, don’t worry about not having the skills. Just start. The result might not be perfect, but the journey will improve your abilities.

Undefined:

“I don’t know where to start!”

Writing a novel is a mammoth planning task as much as it is a creative one. This can make it difficult to know how to tackled a novel.

If you’re feeling like your actions are undefined, break your writing into smaller chunks. This might mean:

  • Outlining each scene with a few key words
  • Breaking your story into 3 parts (to correspond with 3-Act Structure)
  • Writing chapter summaries/overviews
  • And generally planning out your story

What’s important to remember is that you don’t need to know all the steps ahead of you. You just need to know the next one. As E. L. Doctorow said:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E. L. Doctorow

Scary:

“I don’t want to write, because I know my writing will suck.”

The fear of failure is perhaps the biggest reason behind writer’s block. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves, so we don’t start.

The ‘easiest’ way to overcome fear is to stop comparing yourself. In particular, stop comparing your first drafts to famous writers’ polished, proofread, revised, professionally edited final books. It’s called a first draft for a reason!

Obviously, it’s ultra-hard to not compare yourself. I know I always fall into the trap of comparison. However, (coming back to the topic of overcoming fear), I try to use this comparison to motivate and push myself to improve my writing.

Tedious:

“Urgh, proofreading takes so long …”

Some parts of writing can make you zonk out. For a lot of people, editing is particularly tedious (Coming from an academic writing background, I personally love it!).

Self-motivation is the key to ploughing through tedious tasks. You could motivate yourself by promising a reward (i.e. I’ll have a gummy bear if I write 500 words today). You could also motivate yourself by listening to music (Two Steps from Hell is my top pick, but anything without lyrics should help).

Conclusion:

So, that’s how to combat DUST and writer’s block! Ultimately, it’s up to you to discover an individual approach to beating writer’s block, but hopefully my dissection of what causes writer’s block has helped. Happy writing!

What are your thoughts on writer’s block and/or my analysing of it? Do you have any tips for smashing writer’s block? How much has writer’s block affected you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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5 thoughts on “Understanding (and Conquering!) the 4 Parts of Writer’s Block

  1. You know, suggesting housework could help with writer’s block might not be the way to go – ‘DUSTing’ – 😀 😀 😀

    Okay, okay!

    With character driven stories, I wasn’t having any success with prompts, edits, or free-writes when the voices in my head stopped talking. (That doesn’t look good when you write it down.)
    Trying to meet a deadline, I began to ‘script’ the ending of a scene… and it sucked… but it also jump-started the character voices again – they didn’t want ME putting words in their mouths.

    (I’m glad you’re an author because anyone else reading this post might send medical professionals to find me! 😀 😀 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not to worry, your creative metaphors won’t have me calling for the doctor :). It can certainly be tricky to deal with writer’s block, and sometimes there’s no way around it!

      Like

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