Thursday, June 26, 2014

Paralyzing Fear—Also Known as WRITER'S BLOCK

by Edie Melson

Paralyzing fear, also known to those of us who scribble as a living as writer’s block. Most writers have experienced this at some point in their career. Traditionally, we define it as a time when the well runs dry in the middle of a project.

I have a different opinion. I’ve talked with (okay, occasionally ambushed) many writers over the years and find the conversation might go something like this.

Me: “Have you ever had to deal with writer’s block?”

Anonymous Writer: “No, never. Once I start a project I just keep going, no matter what I’m feeling.”

Me: “What about before you begin a project? Have you ever postponed it because you doubt your ability to do it justice? Or maybe you needed to think about it some more - just work out the details in your head?"

At this point the person I’m speaking with usually takes a step back and begins to hem and haw. I can tell that what they really want to do is put their fingers in their ears and leave. Most writers don’t include being afraid to start a project, as writer’s block. I would beg to differ – anything that keeps you paralyzed and unable to write is, by definition, writer’s block.

Funny thing is that the people who suffer most from writer’s block are writers who’ve had a modicum of success. Maybe they’ve won a contest or two, or written regularly. Far more often I find that they’re afraid they can’t live up to what’s gone before. I also find it crops up when a writer is trying a new genre. They might be going from fiction to non-fiction, or from writing devotions to writing a column or even romance to science fiction. Let’s face it, trying something new is always a daunting prospect.

Now that we’ve defined it, how do we combat it?
  • First, quit putting it off. Make a commitment to spend a certain amount of time in front of the computer – writing – and do it. Sound hard? Of course it is, otherwise everyone would be a writer.
  • Begin by writing what you’re afraid of. Fear of failure? Write why it matters. Fear of inadequacy? Define it. You’ll find that it looks small and a little silly when you actually write it down.
  • Next, remember how you got here. Recognition in the writing world comes (99.9% of the time) from putting in time. It comes from being willing to let others see your work and getting back at it after rejection. Give yourself some credit – you’re obviously not a wimp, or you wouldn’t be trying to become a writer.
  • Finally, give yourself permission to try and fail. Just because this one project doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. I would say the contrary is true. If everything you’ve tried, succeeded, maybe you’re not trying much.
So get out there, quit procrastinating under the guise of "I have to think this through before I start." Blow a raspberry at writer’s block and hit those keys!

What do you do when fear and/or writer's block hits you? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the section below.

Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to join the conversation!

How to combat the paralyzing fear known as #WritersBlock - via @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Are you struggling with the paralyzing fear also known as #WritersBlock? @EdieMelson can help (Click to Tweet)


  1. My only block comes when I'm not sure of my plotline. I'm a planster, so once I have the plan, I start writing. But sometimes, usually about 15 to 20K words in, I stall. Then I need to brainstorm or go back to my plan to see what I need. Since I KNOW that abotu myself, I don't panic. I call a brainstorm buddy. :o)

    1. Ane, these are great tips! My natural inclination as as writer follows yours. I have a plan, but I tend to stall out at about 15k words and need to set things more firmly in my mind before I continue. I think it really takes me that long to get to know my characters in the setting. Thanks so much for stopping by, Blessings, E

  2. What great timing, Edie. I've just discovered in the last few weeks that I put off writing and/or submitting things for fear of rejection. As a perfectionist, I'm afraid to fail You can't be rejected if you don't submit. Thanks for the ideas of how to conquer this.

    1. Ellen we all struggle with that fear. But one thing I've learned, I can never be accepted if I don't submit. Furthermore, by not submitting, I'm dooming myself to failure. Thanks so much for stopping by, Blessings, E