Thinker’s Block vs. Writer’s Block


All writers claim to have writer’s block at one point or another in their careers. It’s sort of a badge of honor: if you haven’t broken through that dam of stopped-up prose at least once, you can’t really call yourself a writer, right?

I think I might be experiencing my first bout of WB, but I’m not so sure. I’ve got all sorts of writing ideas running through my head. The problem is their competing with what seems like ten times as many other thoughts and ideas.

I worry about my 86-year-old mother-in-law, who’s been staying with us the past three months and suffers from dementia.  I think about my dad, who had a kidney and bladder removed, then got peritonitis and almost died during emergency surgery two weeks later. (He’s finally on the mend :-)) I worry about my health and my wife’s.

I worry about my Little Brother (from the Big Brother Big Sisters program–check it out if you can spare a few hours a month mentoring a disadvantaged kid. See link at right.) He’s been in trouble with the law, gone through drug rehab, is dealing with a suicidal mother, dropped out of school his junior year, etc., etc.

I worry about the stock market. I worry about the economy. I worry about the idiots in the Federal government destroying this country for their own personal gain and aggrandizement. I worry about whether or not to buy a stupid gas grill this fall or wait until next spring, when I’ll actually use it.

I stress over my golf game, woeful putting, what to try next to solve the yips, and figuring out how to shoot even par at least once this year.

I worry about learning the craft of writing in one tenth the time of the average writer, who knew they wanted to be a writer as a child. I’m 55, and if I want to get a book or two or more published before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I need to learn fast, write fast, edit fast, revise fast, and do everything else necessary to be a successful writer … FAST.

With all those worries cluttering up my brain, revising and rewriting a stupid novel keeps getting shoved down the priority list. But then I ask myself,  “Am I just making excuses to not do what I know what needs doing?” Maybe, maybe not.

To combat this thinker’s block, I’ve been working on the Snowflake Pro software program by Randy Ingermanson. (Not endorsing it–yet–since I just started  and don’t know how effective it will be until I’ve gone through the whole thing.) It’s forcing me to break down my novel into small components, work on the basic levels of plot, characters, scenes, etc., then expand them. Since I already have a completed ms., I’m not creating anything new, but hoping to look at the story in a new light, maybe gain some insight on what to change, what to keep, how to improve the characters and craft a more believable plot than I have so far.

The downside is I feel like I’m making no progress on getting the finished product out into potential agents’ hands. Or maybe I’m just stalling for time, afraid of finishing, worrying that whatever the final outcome is, it won’t be “good enough.”

What do you think? Writer’s block or Thinker’s block? Have you ever had either? How did you overcome the problem?

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3 responses to “Thinker’s Block vs. Writer’s Block

  1. I think the sight or idea of having a manuscript to revise can be very daunting. I experienced the same thing. I felt like I had a big hunk of dribble I needed to chip away at and remold and I found myself procrastinating. I think it can be a combo of fear and where the heck do I start. if the snowflake method doesn’t push you forward after awhile, I’d move on so that it doesn’t become an excuse.

    What helped me was to tell myself that this revision wasn’t the final one and I’m going to fix what I can so that now I have a draft that is a little closer to what I want, and then attack it again. I’m now almost done with my third draft and it was a lot easier to mold it even more because I was working from a second draft. another thing I did was put it in notebooks and put dividers between each scene and just concentrate a scene at a time. That seemed way less intimidating and meant I could just reprint that scene to get a fresh copy. I also put all my scenes on index cards and put them on my floor to get a bigger picture and that helped me see where I needed to add scenes. I’d make cards for them and then bring those to my computer and write them.

    Anyway, hope this helped and good luck!

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  2. I believe the software thing could be very helpful. If it allows you to look at your ms in a different light that can only be positive, it’s the first step (for me) in editing. You have to step away and come back to it later when you aren’t so emotionally invested in it – in other words you need to gain perspective. Breaking it down and doing the software thing sounds like an effective way of starting that process. Don’t spend ten years on it obviously(you seem worried about delays), but it sounds helpful.

    It sounds as though you are on the right track, though keep in mind people write well into their 90’s, so take the pressure off a little. That alone will help any blockages. Just my two cents and that’s easy coming from me, all I do are short stories. What you are accomplishing is a much greater work 🙂

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  3. Thanks for your encouraging comments, Angela and Neeks. I was out of town for about a week and forgot to respond. Almost done with running my novel through Snowflake Pro software. It’s been helpful, though I’m sure not everyone will be inclined to use it.

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