Dealing with Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a terrible thing. You have something to say, but you don’t know what it is, not really. Or you know what you want to say, but believe it’ll suck.

I’ve noticed that writer’s block comes in two forms.

1. Lack of Focus

This one hits me less often than the other. A lack of focus is not having a clear understanding of what you want to say. Maybe you want to write science fiction, but beyond “my setting has aliens carrying blasters,” you’ve got nothing.

My cure for this is to let the idea continue stewing. If I can’t articulate what the idea is, it’s just not ready to be written.

2. Too Much Focus

This one sucks the life right out of me. I’ll come up with an idea, write a synopsis for it, write an outline out of the synopsis, revise the outline, revise it again…Two years later, I’ll have seven versions of the story in outline form sleeping comfortably in my Google Drive. That’s enough for an entire series. (I could be J.K. Rowling rich several times over if I just pulled the trigger!)

Pulling the trigger is so important here. I won’t write that book or design that game because I feel like it’s going to be the thing that I want to be awesome. Questions like “what if it sucks?” “What if no one likes it?” will suck keep you from writing it.

Here’s the thing: nothing you write or design is going to make or break you. I got lucky with Jadepunk, but I had other games that I thought would be just as huge. They weren’t. There’s nothing you can do to determine which projects will be popular. You just write them and let the market sort it out.

My cure for this is to write something I’m interested in, but not passionate about. So dispassionate, in fact, that I won’t even bother writing an outline. I’ll just come up with a main character and an ending, then write until those two meet.

After that little project, I’ll go back to a passion project, but I won’t even look at my outlines. I’ll throw them out and start over. And if I’m successful in getting to the end, it’s because I didn’t use an outline.

I really want to be an outliner, but I tend to let perfection get in the way of great. That’s no bueno for writers who use outlines.


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