Writer’s Block

Recently I started sending chapters of my novel to a group of people I call my Guinea Pigs. In actuality, these are just my closest friends – the people I trust the most and feel most comfortable sharing my work with at this stage. However, it’s not easy, and for me, this editing seems to have brought on what many people refer to as writer’s block.
But before I get into that, let’s see where I’m at with this novel of mine. I did, miraculously, manage to complete Camp NaNoWriMo this past July (see my stats here), but in doing so I did not get anywhere near finishing the first draft of my sequel. I got so stuck with it that I decided it would be both easier and more beneficial for my writing if I were to instead write the second draft of my first draft (also my laptop spent six days out of my reach having a virus removed, so by the time I got it back, I had to write FAST, which I really couldn’t do with the amount of inspiration I was getting for the sequel). So, at the end of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I had a complete mess of a beginning of a sequel, and the first four chapters of the second draft of the first book.
Since then, I have edited the prologue plus one of those first four chapters and sent both off to my Guinea Pigs. After editing Chapter One about a week ago, however, I got writer’s block.
I say that like it struck me like lightning and I had to spend the week in bed with flu-like symptoms because of it. Of course, that is not the case. Writer’s block is not a disease; it affects different writers in different ways and for different reasons, and it won’t even be the same for each writer every time they get it. See this tumblr post for more on this.
In the past, I’ve had writer’s block from simply being uninspired. This time, though, it was decidedly anxiety-induced.
After sending Chapter One out to my Guinea Pigs, I started editing Chapter Two, but I couldn’t finish for the feeling of impending doom lying heavy on my shoulders. It suddenly struck me just how long a project this was, and how serious it was getting: I was writing draft two, and sending it out for other people to read! It is very rare for me to ever have finished a writing project, and I’ve certainly never gone back and completely rewritten one before, so this is the closest I’ve ever been to having a manuscript that is ready to send out to agents. This thought brought on even more fear: if I can’t deal with having my closest friends reading my writing, how will I ever be able to cope with getting anything published? What if I can’t achieve my lifelong dream?
It didn’t really help that I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and was worrying over whether any of this was worth my time anyway if it would never be perfect. Just thinking of continuing writing makes me want to hide from the world and all my responsibilities.
I decided the best way to overcome this was to take a break for a few days, and not force myself to write when I felt unable to do so. I’ve ended up consciously taking over a week off from writing my novel (I say “consciously” because often I just won’t find time to write for this length of time or longer). On one hand, I could say that it has worked: when I do think about it (no use thinking about something that makes you feel like crap, right?), I feel a little better about it, and I have started writing again. On the other hand, what I have been writing is not my novel, and even if it was, this would definitely not be a permanent solution. The anxiety only comes back and then I’d have to take another break lasting a week or two. It could take years to get this novel done in this way, never mind its sequels.

Another potential solution is outlined in this tumblr post. I don’t think the problem described by the anonymous user who sent in the question is quite the same as mine, but it’s similar enough that it’s worth a try. The advice suggests asking yourself a few questions about your writing whose answers are meant to encourage you and rekindle a bit of self-belief. I think my answers to these questions are certainly something I need to remember whenever I feel discouraged about my writing: yes, I enjoy writing, therefore no, I do not think it’s a waste of time. That reminder that I’m writing this more for my own pleasure than for a future career might be just what I need to get me out of my writer’s block.

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