My Epic Battle with “The Nothing”

The blank page with its vast, open space is looking back at me with an unblinking stare. Now I’m consumed by the fear and panic caused by the possibility of missing a deadline. I’ve got it, writer’s block, and it ain’t pretty. I know we’ve all hit the wall of supreme nothingness before, so this isn’t new, but what do you do when you find yourself with a blank page sneering at you and nothing in your brain?

This year I attempted my first NanoWriMo and quit when I realized that writer’s block was killing my story. I had restarted my novel three times before I realized I would not meet the deadline at the end of the month. Writer’s block can be a force so supreme, like “The Nothing” in the NeverEnding Story, that whole civilizations and entire universes can be devoured by its existence!

In an attempt to defeat the monster, I poked around on the internet and discovered a few tips that I thought to be very helpful.

New media maven, Mur Lafferty, has encountered the dreaded block and overcome the beast. In her podcast, I Should Be Writing, she shares, “I remembered that one of the cures for writer’s block is very Tao: do not bang your head up against the rock to move it. Just go around it. If I can’t work on the story that is going nowhere, I’ll work on something else.”

Apryl Duncan of shared some tips on Absolute Write, saying that perfectionism “will win you an all-expense paid trip to Writer’s Block Island.” The cure, she says, is to give it a few days until your mind is “fresh and clear, giving you a whole new perspective on your own writing.” More tips from Duncan include re-reading some of your previous works, a change of scenery, and rewriting another’s work.

A few years back when I was studying film, my professor, Brad Boll taught me that the best cure for writer’s block was to jot down fleeting thoughts you have throughout the day and keep them in an “Idea Envelope.” This way, when the block hits you, pull out a little nugget of inspiration and continue on your way. Today I pulled out a little nugget that said “Victory over the unknown.”

It appears that I have won the battle this time and conquered writer’s block by exposing the beast for what it is. I would love to hear your cures for defeating writer’s block too. Please feel free to post your ideas in the comments section below.

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  1. Dawson

    It’s a shame that you weren’t able to finish NaNo this year. I have won two years in a row (I am only fourteen) and what you do when you hit writers’ block is you just keep writing. Do something that won’t advance the story as you currently plan it. In all four of my books (I have done two outside of NaNo) I have done this and it has led my story in brand new directions. Hope this helps!

    Dawson Vosburg

    Double Life (December 13, 2008!)

  2. Thank you for the tip, Dawson! You are obviously wise beyond your years!
    And Congratulations on completing NanoWriMo TWICE!

  3. “Going around it,” works. My problem is staying focused. It seems there is always some interruption; someone at the door, phone, wife asking me to do something. I just finished one project and started a new one; I’m now at the end of the first paragraph. However, I will get it done.

  4. I wish I knew about competitions. LOL. Love to enter competitions. Any for 40 year olds authors?

    I did one thing to stop interruptions and distractions. I wrote them down and then I eliminated them. No phone, no text messages, no checking emails first etc. First I worked on priorities, had tasks.

    Until these tasks are done, I don’t call or answer. That’s how I finished my novel I uploaded on lulu.

    I have lots of newspaper clippings, small note pads I carry with me when ideas come to write. I have a shelf of them. They help to trigger new ideas.

    Sometimes, I have pen, note pad next to my small lamp cupboard cause I sometimes have ideas and I wake up writing them down. I know, crazy.

    I think preparation is key. To have your own amazing resource, organised. It has helped a lot. Even images of people. Headlines, stories from newspapers, crime to sad, happy to not so happy news.

    I get an image, a photo of someone, anyone. Someone you don’t know. From newsapers or magazine, etc.

    I look at it and ask, “is he a doctor, dentist, scientist, an explorer,” Then go further.

    Is it a murderar type, or a cunning detective. Is she married, or is he having an affair? Is he an inventor but what is he inventing, why, and what pain is he running from or too.

    What’s his background and I make it up and let my mind run wild. It’s fun. Try it even with kids, you’d be surprised how they got amazing stories and very imaginative.

    I use these and many more ideas which helps.

    Great blog!

  5. I’m always torn with the cause of my writers block; often rooted in anxiety.

    As I stare at the empty page of my word processor, the blank nothingness of Word (wishing words would come).

    I can’t help thinking, now again, I write and no one will read, again I write and people will only criticize. Again I pen something and the words will be lost. So this is my root. It changes daily as I confront the blank page. Sometimes, the thoughts that whirl are simply that I want coffee, not the tea I made. Or worry about the constant need to market.

    Sometimes it’s the stack of bills that I pour over and can’t help fretting about. Sometimes it’s my own fear of constantly dieing each and every day.

    Somehow, the connection I have with myself is spilled, then split, then diced, as I open myself up, willing the voice of my characters to come and sometimes to even cum.

    Yet, when it’s said and done, I still write. And write, and write. Frankly, because I can’t do anything else.

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  1. By Resolve To Write A Book | Lulu Blog on January 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    […] other hand, is a very daunting task. Carol wrote an excellent blog entry in early December entitled “My Epic Battle With ‘The Nothing’”, which described one of the problems most of us run into…the blank page. In her post, Carol […]