Writer's Stuck


I have been trying to write for an hour every day. My goal was to write more fiction but right now I’m in a bit of slump. Instead, I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts, which, to me, still counts as writing. It’s still not the kind of writing I wish I could be doing, though.

It makes me wonder what’s behind my current writer’s block. Maybe my life has been too stagnant recently. Or maybe I’ve been looking for inspiration in all the wrong places.

By inspiration, I mean that I’m definitely someone who needs to respond to something. I’m not the type of person who can just randomly pull ideas out of their head. My best ideas are the ones that build upon an existing idea, either by exploring an idea further or adding a twist (or several!) to it. Usually I get my best inspiration from fiction. But I haven’t come across anything really that has sparked an interest in me.

Last month I finished "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf and it did, for a little bit, light a fire in me but it was quickly extinguished. The idea I wanted to explore felt a little too close to home for me to write about. In other words, it felt a little icky to explore it. Even after several layers of abstraction, I still felt too vulnerable. I think I do eventually want to write about the topic I had in mind but I think I need to sit with it a little bit more. I think it feels too vulnerable because I haven’t processed it yet. So, there is something that I want to write about but it’s not the right time for it.

Otherwise, I don’t have anything to say, really. Funny, just as I wrote that, something came to mind. But, like my previous idea that “To the Lighthouse” sparked, it feels too early to write about this other topic. I feel like I haven’t come to a conclusion on it. But maybe I don’t need an answer to able to write about. Remember, I’m talking about fiction here, not a way too personal blog post. I think it’s okay to have unanswered questions in fiction, right?

But when I think about the fiction that I like to read, they feel very opinionated, even when it feels like there is ambiguity. For example, in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed” she pits two different economic systems against each other. It’s not super clear whether or not Le Guin prefers one over the other but she still makes great arguments for both of them. Still, by the end of the book, there is still a message: you got to try it before you knock it.

There are a lot of things that I could be trying. Maybe the way I’m working at it is the wrong way to approach writing (at least, when I’m stuck). My usual approach is to start with a core message and then craft the story around it. When I observe what other writers say, many start with the characters or the world instead. I’m not a world-builder as most of what I write is rooted firmly on realism so that throws that out of the window. That being said, I feel like I’ve always written in the same way for so long that maybe I need to switch it up.

Like, it’s been a long time since I’ve centred my building of a story around a character. To say that my stories aren’t character driven or character centred would be inaccurate. Honestly, I’m in awe of people who know their characters inside out. When I write characters, they kinda just appear to me and I don’t feel like I need to know everything about them. They’re there for a specific purpose and what I portray on the page is enough to get across the intricacies of their personality (or at least, what I feel is important to get across). Now that makes me wonder how people view my characters and if they can tell that I don’t fully flesh out my characters, hah.

Another approach that I often see as an antidote for writer’s block are writing prompts. Sometimes those work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I’m writing for a writing prompt and I still get stuck.

I also see free-writing as an often touted approach to unblocking oneself. But what I’m doing right now is a free-write and I don’t feel any closer to jumping across the chasm to writing something in the fictional realm. It results in a lot of blog posts, at the very least.

Usually I just accept that I have nothing to write. It results in months and even years of not writing anything. Maybe I’m just not meant to write? Another possibility. But I’m going to try to experiment a little bit before I give it up.