Writer’s Block

I’ve often heard that surgeons don’t have surgeon’s block, so writers shouldn’t have writer’s block. I think I’ve even quoted that. But now that I’m suffering (that’s probably not the right word to use since what I’m going through doesn’t really equal suffering) from writer’s block, I’m rethinking the analogy.


Maybe when the surgeon is standing over the patient, knife in hand, he (or she) shouldn’t be experiencing any sort of a block (I certainly hope the doctor knows what to do next), but there may be a time before the patient is wheeled into the operating room when the surgeon wonders if this is the right thing to do…and may put off acting because of this indecision.

That’s where I’m at with my wip. I know how I want the story to end, and I know most of the major steps my protagonist must take to get to that ending, but I’m procrastinating because I’m just not quite sure if the next step (next scene) is the right one to take.

I’ve tried outlining the ending, and I’ve come up with several scenes I know will work, but something still isn’t quite right, and I can’t figure out what it is. So what do I do? I play FreeCell. I stare out the window. I take walks.

So yes, I have writer’s block, but maybe I’m simply using that as an excuse not to write. Maybe what I need to do is simply write. The advantage writers have over surgeons is if I make a mistake, if a scene doesn’t work and I have to rewrite it, I can do that. I can take scenes out or put them in until the story flows.

Anne Lamott, in her book bird by bird talks about the shitty first draft. So that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to write crap…and maybe something good will come out of it.

(By the way, if you haven’t read bird by bird, I highly recommend it.)

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Writer’s Block

  1. I’m sitting at a writers’ retreat, where the purpose is to write. No talking, no family, no errands, so distractions (other than the internet). And I’m reading blogs instead of writing. Because I can’t think of what should come next. But as you say, it’s okay. If I wrote something wrong, I can fix it. Thank goodness I’m not a surgeon.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Patricia, I’m envious. I’ve always wanted to attend a retreat like that. Of course, I’d probably end of doing as you are. So, okay, get writing.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    That’s what happens to me. Great beginning, know where everything is going…even have a wonderful ending. Sometimes that middle just doesn’t feel right.

  3. I love Ann’s book!! Definitely a must have for writers! I actually got mine signed a few years ago when I saw her at Schuler’s-so cool!! I, too, am suffering this very dilemma in my WIP. And you reminding me about the shitty first draft inspired me to write it, lol! Thank you, Maris! And I know you will find your way 🙂

  4. I think it should be called “Muses Block”, as it is their agenda that paralyses us. Maybe, we need to take our stuck times as a shouting voice saying , “STOP”. Maybe this is the way our muse gets us away from the keyboard, out the door and down to the corner where we see something that gives us the idea that lets the words flow again. I don’t question the muse blocks anymore because I’ve found unbelievable word caches waiting for me when I’ve followed my urge to wander away for awhile. I always come back with an armload of ideas I never would have found if I’d stayed at my desk and suffered.

  5. Elorise Holstad says:

    By all means, Maris, play some more FreeCell … ha. I’ve made that almost a ritual, and have to play/win at least once before I open my wip file.

    • Maris Soule says:

      What always surprises me, Elorise, is how quickly time passes while I’m playing. I wonder how many hours I’ve lost to that stupid game. Actually, I don’t want to know.

  6. Diane Burton says:

    Great post, Maris, and very appropriate for me. I’m at the same point in my WIP–know where the story is supposed to go, what will happen at the end, etc. but I can’t seem to move on. I’m playing Spider Solitaire and Mah Jong when I should either be writing or packing boxes.

  7. Lucy Kubash says:

    Wow, must be contagious. Stalled-in-the middle syndrome? More fun to read blogs and emails, look at Facebook, YouTube, anything but figure out how to get from A to C when B is so darned elusive. I also love Bird by Bird. One of my favorite books on writing.

  8. I’ve tried outlining the ending, and I’ve come up with several scenes I know will work, but something still isn’t quite right, and I can’t figure out what it is. So what do I do? I play FreeCell. I stare out the window. I take walks.

    It’s amazing to me since I’ve joined MMRWA in March, how much we all have in common when it comes to writing. I do the same thing – I play Spider Solitaire, stare out the window and walk to the mailbox and back. If that doesn’t do it, then I’ll pull out another manuscript of another story I’ve started and take a look at that. Sometimes for me I need to step out of the story and give it a rest.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Connie, you’re right. Writers do have a lot in common, which is one reason why a group like MMRWA is so good. Writing is a very solitary endeavor and it helps to discover you’re not the only one facing a particular problem. I’ve heard a lot of people say they play Spider Solitaire. I’m staying away from that game. I don’t need to be adicted to two games. One is bad enough.