Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#1

Hi there! I'm Lavy. The title should be self-explanatory enough. What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

It's not a writer block where you just don't have any idea of what to write. It's more of suddenly losing your writing ability. I have written stories starting when I was little. Though I mostly wrote for myself, the people around me said I'm a good writer and I could make a decent novel if I ever try. I'm not trying to brag here. But in terms of writing, I'm pretty confident with myself.

It's just that there would be times when I just can't write. I already have the idea and plot in mind, all the conversations the characters would have and how the story would flow. I have it in my mind and I just need to write it down. But in that particular time, I just found myself unable to type a single good sentence. I can't find a good word to describe the situation I had in mind nor can I compose a good enough word composition. Everything is just a complete mess. I feel like I'm back at being a noob where I can't even differentiate between verb and adjective. It's like all the vocabulary I've learned throughout the years have suddenly disappeared from my mind.

It frustrated me so much because when this happens, I can't continue the story I currently write until my writing ability comes back again. And this will only happen after months have passed. The feelings I had from the story have disappeared already. And I just can't continue it anymore.

Moreover, whenever I had this really good idea that I wanted to write, I just can't. The same feeling as wanting to explain yourself but couldn't because you don't know how to. It annoys me to death. I don't know what to do!

If you ever experienced something like this too, please help me! I'm feeling desperate right now!

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#2

Yep, this happens to me all the time too.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution, and this part of your post gets to the root of the problem:

Lavy Wrote:
I just found myself unable to type a single good sentence. I can't find a good word to describe the situation I had in mind nor can I compose a good enough word composition


The problem isn't that you can't write. The problem is that you're judging yourself and holding yourself to an impossible standard.

If you can't write something good, then give yourself permission to write something bad instead. Try giving yourself a word count goal (e.g: 500, 1000 words) and then force yourself to meet that goal without worrying about the quality of the writing, or even spelling errors or typos. Use whatever words come to mind. If you get stuck on a piece of dialog, just write, "Character X replied with something witty" so that you don't lose momentum. 

It's like if you were drawing a portrait of someone. You wouldn't get hung up the eyes right away. You would outline the entire face and then worry about the details later. The eyes would probably start out as a couple curved lines, but there's nothing wrong with that.

If you do this, then you'll give your future self something to work with and improve. And I guarantee your future self will appreciate a page full of bad writing vs. an empty page!

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#3
Getting into the habit of writing sentences one after the other even when you don't feel inspired is an important skill to train as a writer. Otherwise you'll end perpetually having one excuse or another for why you can't write this month, waiting for the elusive return of inspiration which may never arrive.

Personally, I spent probably ten years feeling the same way. Trapped by the whims of inspiration, starting projects only to lose interest and focus on them, trying to come back later only to find the story voice had disappeared irretrievably. I have countless stories I began, loved, but couldn't force through and never finished.

Until I started posting here, and discovered the power of a weekly deadline.

Once you commit to putting out a chapter every x days no matter the quality, your creativity will learn that it has to show up and do its job or else it'll be left behind. And, yes, there will be times when that writing is like dragging yourself through a swamp when you just want to give up and sleep. There will be chapters that are so boring and useless that you have to scrap them entirely and start over. But at least you're making progress. At least you're still inhabiting the world of the story, keeping the thread of it active in your mind, not letting it fade away.

It's a cliche for a reason. When you feel like you can't write, just write anyway.

And maybe one chapter every week isn't the right target for you; that's fine, that's just the equilibrium point for me. Perhaps for you it'll be one sentence a day, or a chapter every month. Perhaps it'll be two chapters a week, or 2000 words every day. Every writer is different. It'll take time and experimentation to discover where your particular balance points lie.

Don't let inspiration bully you into waiting for it. When it doesn't show up, go on without it.


EDIT: And get enough sleep! 95% of the time, when I really truly can't force words out, it's because I haven't been sleeping enough.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#4
-- Take my meds and wait for them to kick in.
-- Take a nap.
-- Go for a walk.
-- Make sure I've eaten healthy food today.

"Can't write" for me is either my ADD acting up or my body telling me that I've been neglecting it.

Not everyone struggles with the first, but a ton of writers do the second. If you've hit a wall, instead of asking yourself what deep psychological barrier you've reached, ask yourself if you've been eating junk food, have a crap sleep schedule, and/or spend too much time on your butt.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#5

Lavy Wrote: Moreover, whenever I had this really good idea that I wanted to write, I just can't.



The phrase in this sentence "really good idea" tells me exactly what this challenge is that you're facing. Let me tell you a little story. When I set out to write my first novel, I did it with the understanding that it wouldn't be good, that it was my first try, and of course, it had to be crap, right? So I outlined it and wrote it in about a month. I didn't care about the book, because I only wanted to know if I could write a novel, no matter how bad it was.

After I finished that novel, I saw that I could indeed write a novel! How cool is that?! So I decided that my second novel would be really good. I would do my best on this one. Couldn't write a word. For weeks, I sat for hours every day, trying to come up with something to write. Nothing. How strange? Then I decided, "Well screw this, I'm just gonna write and not care." So I wrote another novel!!! To this date, my very first novel currently has the most amount of downloads on Smashwords out of the eight projects I have listed, and personally, I believe my prize piece of prose currently is Wakiagaru, the coolest, fastest, longest piece of writing I have, and still it's getting beat out by my first novel. Oh the questions.

Do you see what I'm getting at here? When you "try hard" or "have a really good idea" you want to give it all the attention it deserves. But when you drop into this mindset, you're no longer creating "art." You're not in creative mode, so you don't create. You're in critical mode, and critical mode says what's not good, or what's bad. It does not create.

So what you need to do is get out of critical mode and get back into creative mode. Creative mode doesn't care. Creative mode has fun!

I have "really good ideas" I haven't touched in years. They've been on the back burner and will probably remain there indefinitely, because I'm too scared to mess them up. Meanwhile, when I write a story I don't care about, and have fun doing it, I get a Silver Honorable Mention on in the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. A Silver Honorable Mention is like top 100 out of thousands. And it's the largest science fiction and fantasy contest in the world. So what does that tell ya? I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging, but I'm trying to illustrate my point.

Critical mode. Turn it off. Creative mode, turn it on, have fun, enjoy yourself. It's hard to do this. It really is. Forget you're "really good idea" and just sit down and start on a new project. Decide you don't care about it. Write it, have fun. Watch how good it is.

I've taken this to such an extent, that I'm actually publishing under the pseudonym Waraji-sama. It's Japanese for, Lord Sandal. Pretty goofy, huh? Because I don't care. Go look my name up, you'll find my books online.

I hope this helps.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#6
Oh, yeah this is my specialty. Do you sit and stare at a blank, endlessly white word processor for what feels like hours? That blinking cursor is is oppressive if you let it hound you for too long. My strategy? I proceed to beat my head into the keyboard relentlessly until I can no longer feel my face.

Metaphorically! Or something like that.

In all seriousness, if you feel that you are literally incapable of writing then your brain needs a break. It's a muscle, and like any muscle if you use it too often it needs time to rest. So do something else! Watch some mindless TV, go cook something, exercise, stretch, play a game, take a nap, do anything that doesn't require you to strain your creativity. I'm dyslexic, so I get the feeling -- sometimes I can not, for the life of me, focus enough to see complete words. Resting helps me tremendously.

And if that doesn't do it? Go write something else. Anything else. Grab another story, pen some poetry, journal a bit; hell, you can even write something further into your own story. Let your noodle stew at what it couldn't figure out before, then when you're ready go back and finish the job!

That's my advice, anyway. I'm sure with the people above there's already a ton of wisdom to sort through.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#7
Personally, I've found that writing on my tablet is easiest, writing on a computer is slightly harder, and writing on paper is downright impossible. For other people it's the other way around. Some people use text-to-speech apps, and say that's totally the way to go. Some people need music, while others need complete silence. Some people need twenty internet tabs open, others need to turn everything off before starting. Some people have a thesaurus at hand, others a dictionary, others a motivational poster.
Try different environments, different methods, different things. Something will click with you.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#8

David Wrote: ...The problem isn't that you can't write. The problem is that you're judging yourself and holding yourself to an impossible standard.

If you can't write something good, then give yourself permission to write something bad instead...



Exactly this. Let yourself write trashy, cliché, plot hole riddled paragraphs and don't worry about it. Don't worry if your grammar is a mess or if the pacing is off, or if that magical item that you totally didn't write about in the chapters before suddenly showed up to save the day. Whenever I hit a wall with my main project, I just force the words out even if they seem like they were written by a grade schooler.

Why?

Because writers have a magic tool.

Its called editing. 

peoEsmile

Write hot garbage, then edit later on to make it all nice and purdy.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#9
Being the Luddite that I am, I can stare at a blank computer screen indefinitely, but put a pen in my hand and '2 steps from hell' on the headphones, and the subconscious begins kicking in.  There have also been writers who used the spoken word-to-screen program 'Dragon' to dictate their stories.

You're not alone in having the muse suddenly abandon you, but don't ever give up hope of her return! (Bribery with red wine also helps...)

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#13
I'm assuming this isn't a motivation issue or a distraction issue, that is you can sit and write with the word processor open without tabbing out.

If that is the case two things come to mind, writing fresh and writing a stream of story from your head.

Fist, If you are writing at the end of the day you might just be too tired to write, try writing in the morning after a good nights sleep.

Second, you can write in a way that is extremely sloppy as long as you know what you are writing. Not worrying about sentence structure or phrasing or grammar, hell, spelling can sometimes come out phonetically even though you know the right spelling, you are just voicing your thoughts very literally.
You aren't so much writing the story for other people to read here but putting to paper the story in your head. I think this style is pretty similar to "stream of thought" writing but you do have actual direction and a story memorised, it feels a bit like an outline but the outline is literally the story 1:1. 
Anyway, the advantage of that style is you can do it while not being on top of your game and then revise it later, revising broadly has a smaller motivation and focus requirement than writing out from a blank page.

Re: What do you do when you suddenly can't write?

#15

SJ Wrote: -- Take my meds and wait for them to kick in.
-- Take a nap.

This, but lazier for me. It's a miracle I can write even a sentence. if docs, keyboards, and mobile keyboard things didn't exist(I'm pretty sure a typewriter can be considered a form of keyboard, so I'm not stupid. I'm also not old enough to remember that stuff off of the top of my head, usually.), then I would never have written at all. For me, I write when it's convenient. I want to reach the next part of my story as soon as possible. So I wrote over 300k words in 3 months, and it was the first time I ever wrote a story. You know what I found odd? Most of that time was spent slacking off, doing nothing. I'm pretty sure that's due to burning myself out from writing so much(Oh boy, 12 concurrent fictions and counting. Just uploaded another one, too.). My assumption is that it's hard to think straight because of things like exhaustion, lack of sleep, eye strain, etc. I often just feel groggy. I can stare at a doc for an hour and not form a single coherent thought.(horrid adhd is prob. the cause more so than exhaustion in that case.) I just relax and let it come naturally.

Take a break. Have some cocoa.(not coffee. too bitter >:0)
Or you can say screw it and do what my idiot friend does and just take adderal or whatever it's called. 
Don't do drugs kids, they only might help you occasionally, but improper usage will have negative side effects which can cause lasting/permanant damage or death.
peojudging  
Find something to help you focus. It varies from person to person. Some people need strict schedules, others fucking die trying to follow them. Some people like looser schedules, and some just get snapped to dust by thanos, their mind drifting off into nothingness. I have no idea what would work for you personally.
Do you have anything that makes you go "holyshitwhatthefuckeverythingsoclearohwhatsthatheyshinysquirrelineedapokeballgetinmypokeballreeeeee"? If so, I recommend that. I think using it too much will cause lessened effects, stress, physical health will worsen, and burnout. Again, humans are mysterious things. People are even more so. There are general tips you can always follow, though. I'm pretty sure one of the suggestions above might actually help. Even Ramos had a decent suggestion, despite it being said as a "joke". Keep in mind I never said it wasn't true. Just that it wasn't meant to be 100% serious. I hope. Then again.....You did choose coffee and tea over hot cocoa. So I still suspect you of being an alien or something. Hmmmmm.
peoconfused  
I wonder if I forgot to mention anything. Not sure.
Oh, right. I recommend not trying to do too much at once. Don't be me. It's not good for your sanity. Though I doubt anyone else is currently doing over 12 fictions consecutively on a single account, around 15 total, and helping with a few others. Dear god, I haven't even scratched the surface, either. I already wallowed in my misery of that in another post, though, so I'll omit that here.
But seriously, don't bit off more than you can chew. Go at your own pace, be it rigid and fixed, or slow, loose, and steady.