photo-2At a recent panel discussion involving published authors of various genres, the question was posed to us, “How do you handle writer’s block?”

Surprisingly, (or maybe not so), my fellow panelists and I had the same advice. Writer’s block is defined as the “inability to produce new work.” If you’re stuck on a scene and are unsure where to proceed, you may not be blocked. See The Writer’s Bag of Tricks posted yesterday. If, however, you’re not stuck in the middle somewhere, but are instead staring at an overwhelming blank page, read on.

4. Check Your Emotions
You have a relationship with your writing. Much like in marriage, if there’s something you’re not dealing with emotionally, it’ll take its toll in other areas of your life. Are you worried about something? Did you mean to explain an action that somebody took the wrong way? Most of the time, it’s not something major. But once you uncover it, the writing returns.

3. Take a Break
When a crisis happens in life, some writers stop writing out of respect for the crisis. My friend and fellow writer Sister Karol Jackowski said, “When I’m caring for someone in their last days, I don’t write. There are a lot of emotions happening at that time and I don’t feel the need to add my own voice by writing. When time has passed, I write again, and I find I have a lot to say.”

While some take a break and allow themselves to process a crisis without a pen in hand, others journal through hard times to find understanding. A lot of therapy happens in journaling, even if you’re not necessarily working on your creative novel. Neither way is right or wrong.  Address what’s happening in your life, and then, move on to #2.

2. Keep Showing Up
Funny to advise allowing yourself a break and then follow it with “keep showing up,” but this one’s critical. Writing can happen all the time, anywhere. But if you keep putting off the actual act of writing, you won’t have anything written. As author and publisher Tom Driscoll told me, “Unfinished books don’t sell.” It’s all right to take your writing seriously, regardless of what genre you write and even if you’re not a New York Times Best Selling author. Designate time to it, without interruption. Find your preferred space for writing, and allow yourself to focus on it. A lot of writing is allowing. If you keep showing up, the writing will meet you there.

1. Above All, Don’t Panic
Much like quicksand, the more you thrash about in panic, the further you sink into the muck of writer’s block. Relax. Breathe. Trust the writing and your process. It will return for you.

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.