When writer’s block is really a breakthrough
Shawna Ayoub Ainslie explains how what feels like a roadblock might actually be a breakthrough to the story you’ve been trying to write—and how to keep moving forward.
A writing student recently shared with me that he has been stuck for three months on the story he’s developing. He wrote a chapter, then felt the pull away from that piece to another. This was troubling for him because he is a person who keeps his commitments. He is an exceptionally talented writer, and when he makes up his mind, he gets the work done.
Except he’s not getting the work done he made up his mind to do. He’s getting other work done instead. Raise your hand if you’ve been here. My hand is up.
I could think of several reasons why this student might be experiencing this “block.” The first is that he needed a relief project and his subconscious pointed him in that direction. A second is that this new story he’s writing is actually another draft of the story he started (one is fiction, one is nonfiction). I asked him to send me his stories so I can investigate further where the separation exists, but I also told him he can perform his own investigation by reading the pieces back to back and making note of any common haunts.
Whether this new writing is a distraction or a story that jumped line in priority is yet to be determined. Either way, I was able to give this student great news. I want to give you the same news in case you are in this predicament:
This isn’t actually writer’s block.
How do I know? You’re still writing. Sure, it’s on a different project, but you are still chipping away at that word count. You are still flexing your writing muscles. You are still growing as a writer even if you aren’t writing what you expect to be writing.
Many writers work on concurrent pieces, and not just for relief. Creativity breeds creativity. You are probably just in a fruitful period. Enjoy it! And if you want to be sure not to lose track of Piece 1 while you are developing Piece 2, set mini-goals and check in with yourself periodically to keep the sidelined writing fresh.
You can be consistent and stay on course even when you take a detour. Think of it as off-roading with the path in sight, or coming up over a rise in the mountains. You lose sight of the road ahead for a minute, but once you crest the top, there it is again and you get to ride.
What is the last writing breakthrough you’ve experienced? Leave us a comment about it so we can congratulate you!
Related reading: 3 steps to banish blocks through expressive writing
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