This is an OLD blog post I’ve reworked. It’s also one I wish I’d listened to more carefully to at first myself. Not only is the advice valid despite being surprisingly simple, it’s been also repeated by both Dan Brown and Neil Gaiman in their individual MasterClass programs on writing.
First, the two actual causes of writer’s block are 1) a need, subconscious or otherwise, to be perfect right out of the box. 2) Your subconscious or intuition picking up that the story is heading in the wrong direction:
Thinking back though, every time I’ve hit a case of writer’s block that’s just seemed absolutely insurmountable, those have been the causes. It’s either been unrealistic expectations, or I knew on some level that the direction of my work was off.
After hearing it from multiple sources, I’ve accepted that it’s one of those things that’s as close to a universal truth as we’ll ever get. The important thing is that once you realize what the problem is, you can develop a plan to work around it.
The fix is actually the universal answer you get from well established writers, albeit in a short snarky way. It was only when I found the video below and listened to the two Masterclasses that I truly got an expanded answer and understood. Just write… anything. Give yourself permission to completely take the story off the rails and write garbage. You’ll see ways to correct or rewrite the story as you progress.
The video is only a little over 4 minutes long, but if you don’t want to watch it, the synopsis is below (and at the start of the article).
Writer’s block is caused by a need to be perfect (or at least really good), and the cure is to give yourself permission to write garbage, and then let it work itself out in the editing and rewrite phase of your work.
If you’re too OCD as a writer to do that, at least stop, take a step back and ask yourself what’s NOT working with the project. Then STOP and listen to the answer from that little voice in the back of your head. From there, you can figure out what changes to make.