An authors thoughts on Writer’s Block
by Brandon Barrows
Hi. I’m Brandon Barrows. Maybe we’ve met before. Maybe you’ve read my previous novel Burn Me Out, or the one before that, This Rough Old World or possibly a story of mine in various magazines and anthologies. Maybe you’ve already ordered my next novel, Strangers’ Kingdom are eagerly awaiting the chance to dive into it. If so, my sincerest thanks.
But I’m here today to talk about something else, something all three of those novels—and honestly, most of my work, has been afflicted by at some point in the past: writer’s block.
Some people don’t believe writer’s block is real. I believe those people either have never tried writing anything or are just really, really insanely lucky to have never experienced it. All three of my published novels mentioned above have suffered from it at some point or another in the writing process.
This Rough Old World took two years and more than a dozen drafts, beginning as a twenty-five-thousand-word novella and ending up as an eighty-three-thousand-word novel before it was done. In between drafts, I often went weeks or even months without touching it simply because I had no idea what came next. The same is true of Strangers’ Kingdom, but it was even longer: three years. I got stalled at around the seventy-thousand-word mark and realized I had no idea how to end the book. It sat, completely untouched, for a year and a half before I was able to beat it into submission.
It’s frustrating. It makes you doubt yourself, your ability, the worthiness of this pursuit. You wonder, could I be doing something better with my time? But I never quit. Even when I wasn’t working on this books, I was working on something else, because I just had to. Not writing is pretty unthinkable and to be perfectly honest, the times when I can’t write hurt. It’s a kind of ache that’s almost physical, knowing you should be producing but not being able to. And eventually, you just find a way to get going again because there’s no other choice.
A lot of people say they think they have a novel in them, or they want to write a book someday, and just never get around to it. A lot use writer’s block as an excuse. That’s okay, if you’re okay with it. Absolutely no judgment.
But that’s what separates writers from regular folks: no matter how hard it is, no matter how much it hurts, you keep going, because you have to. To do anything else is unthinkable.
That’s what it was like writing Strangers’ Kingdom. I knew how the story started, but had no idea how it ended and it took me a lot of brain-wracking and soul-searching and just plain forcing myself to get it done. But I did it. And when it was done, I felt great, even though I knew there were parts I would need to rewrite. But that’s part of the process, too. The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. The guts of writing comes later, in the revising and the editing stage. It doesn’t really matter what goes into that first draft, so long as there is a first draft. That’s what I kept telling myself and that’s how I learned to break through the writer’s block.
Writer’s block still happens, of course, but learning how to deal with it is something you just have to do if you want to write. And once you do, trust me, you’ll feel great.