Is writer's block a real thing? Yes and no.
Let's talk writing fatigue and procrastination, baby.
Writer’s block. Ugh. The bane of my existence. And, let’s be honest, my favorite excuse for when I don’t feel like writing because I’m spiraling with self-doubt over a rejection.
I know you don’t like having to sit your ass down in front of your computer and stare at a blank page, twiddling your fingers as you wonder why the words just won’t come out. That’s when it’s writer’s block—and I’m about to share why you’re experiencing it, from a certified life coach’s POV, in just a second.
I also know that on some days, you don’t like having to sit your ass down and write, period. That’s when it’s not writer’s block—it’s procrastination and fear. I’ll get to that shortly, but first, let’s get into the causes of writer’s block.
1. You’re not passionate about your idea
I struggle with this ALL the time, and it’s probably why I have at least 4 unfinished, half-written manuscripts gathering metaphorical dust on my laptop.
Maybe you started your manuscript with full force, excited about a new book idea fermenting in your head. But four chapters—or four pages—in, you realize this idea isn’t that fun anymore. It’s too complex to pull off. It’s too simple to stand out. Or it’s just not you.
If you feel like your writer’s block is because of lack of passion, I suggest you do one of two things:
Try to re-ignite that passion and push through, especially if you’re on deadline. You can do this by writing fanfiction for your own book, AKA random scenes of your characters doing absolutely nothing to drive the plot forward. This often helps me fall back in love with my characters, and thus the story.
See which other book idea lights you up more, if you don’t have a deadline, and start working on that instead. You can always return to this idea later.
2. You didn’t outline well enough, so your plot is too vague
Pantsers, don’t @ me! I’m mostly a pantser myself, and I cannot relate to this problem at all. This cause of writer’s block happens mostly to plotters—and it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.
You may have drafted a 10-page outline or written a 40,000-word zero draft, but you can’t seem to actually get started on the first real draft. That’s because your outline isn’t tight enough for your brain to process the story scene-by-scene, which is how a lot of plotters need their writing to go.
Go back to your outline or zero draft and identify areas that are weak, unclear, or confusing. Revise, rewrite, edit until you find yourself excited to write on.
3. You outlined way too much, and now you feel suffocated and restricted
If you’re a pantser, but you’re forcing yourself to become a plotter because (unfortunately) traditional publishing requires some level of outlining and plotting as your career progresses, this could be why you don’t feel like you can write your book anymore.
We pantsers don’t like restrictive outlines. We like our main character to take the lead on a first draft, guide us on their journey, and throw plot twists into their own path. If that’s how your brain works—because mine definitely does—then put your outline aside for a few days and just write. Even if it’s random fanfiction-y scenes like I suggested earlier. You’d be surprised at how well the words flow when you’re not limiting yourself to what the outline tells you to do.
Or you can just become a plantser like me, my friend, and experience the best of both worlds (lol).
4. You’re burning out or dealing with too much stress
Hey, I had to say it. Most authors don’t write full-time because publishing doesn’t pay that much, contrary to what the average person believes. You probably have another job, or two, on the side, like me!
Sometimes, life happens. Whether it’s career-related, or something to do with family, friendships, relationships, or anything else, it’s going to trickle down to your writing. Your body will beg you for a break, and if you ignore the warning signals, your brain will shut down whatever it can hit the brakes on first—and that might just be your writing.
If you’re struggling with burnout, you’re not alone, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Take this newsletter as your permission slip to let go and breathe. If you have representation or a book deal, tell your agent/editor that you need a deadline extension. If you don’t have a strict timeline, log off your laptop and focus on your priorities. The publishing industry isn’t going anywhere, I promise. (No matter what the DOJ vs. Penguin Random House debacle might lead you to believe)
Now, I did mention that sometimes, writer’s block IS all in your head—manifesting outward because of procrastination and fear. Let’s talk about that.
You’re procrastinating your writing because you’re afraid it’s going to suck.
Read that again. Kinda feels relatable, doesn’t it? The brain works in funny ways. Sometimes, it uses self-sabotage as self-protection. It thinks to itself, “If I write, and it’s not good, and I get only rejections, and this book never sees the light of day, I’ll be heartbroken. BUT if I don’t write at all, those rejections will be delayed. Future me can handle that heartbreak, but I can’t. So I just won’t write at all.”
I first learned about how self-sabotage is basically just self-protection when I was getting my life coaching certification, and it opened my eyes to how true this is for writers. Our work is tied to our identity. I don’t know if that’s healthy, but it’s often our reality, and until we learn that rejection of our writing does not mean rejection of ourselves, publishing is going to be a sucky journey. I’m still figuring this out. Maybe you are, too. And that’s okay. We’ll get better at this. Bit by bit. ✨
In case you didn’t know, I have spots open for my editorial services in September. Whether you need a manuscript critique or query package critique before you start querying literary agents, or you want a polished and error-free edited manuscript so you can go ahead and self-publish, you’ll want to click here and read all about working with me.
I hope you enjoyed reading my second newsletter. Share this post with your author besties so they can understand their writer’s block better, too.
Feel free to hit ‘reply’ and tell me what’s causing your writer’s block. I’ll see you next Friday—and good luck with your writing!
Love hard & dream big,
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