What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

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Apollo
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What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:58 am

I don't know if it is writers block, but two weeks ago the words just stopped flowing. When I am in the zone it flows like water. Now, no matter what I try to write, it doesn't come to me. The words are forced and hollow, without voice.

Has this ever happened to you? What have you done to overcome the issue?

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nreavis
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby nreavis » Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:10 pm

Usually I just move onto another project, or do something else entirely. This doesn't happen very often for me, but when it does, it means I'm overworked, and I need to let my brain rest. A lot of times I'll read a book to pass the time until I feel like writing again.
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:19 pm

If it's happening on one project, usually that means I made a mistake in my draft and need to go back and figure out what it is so I can fix it. Sometimes a bit of research on something related to the story can help.

If it's happening no matter what I write, that means I'm either overstressed or my well is empty. The solution for both of those problems--for me, not necessarily for everyone--is to take a break for a few days and do things that I enjoy and/or help me relax and have nothing to do with writing. (Reading is still good, because I'm not the one doing the writing--I'm learning or enjoying a story, which is a very different experience.)
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Apollo
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:56 am

nreavis wrote:Usually I just move onto another project, or do something else entirely. This doesn't happen very often for me, but when it does, it means I'm overworked, and I need to let my brain rest. A lot of times I'll read a book to pass the time until I feel like writing again.


This is the first time it has happened to me. The next closest was when I struggled to get into editing, but I got through that part and it felt different than this situation. Perhaps I need to let myself recharge and stop trying to force it out.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:02 pm

disgruntledpeony wrote:If it's happening on one project, usually that means I made a mistake in my draft and need to go back and figure out what it is so I can fix it. Sometimes a bit of research on something related to the story can help.

If it's happening no matter what I write, that means I'm either overstressed or my well is empty. The solution for both of those problems--for me, not necessarily for everyone--is to take a break for a few days and do things that I enjoy and/or help me relax and have nothing to do with writing. (Reading is still good, because I'm not the one doing the writing--I'm learning or enjoying a story, which is a very different experience.)


My last chapter might be the issue. I might have gone down the wrong path or wrote myself into a difficult position. Could be stress too, I certain have that in my life. Writing was one of the ways I used to deal with it, as it gave me something to focus on and direct my energy. I'll try doing a bit of everything to get back to normal.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Reuben » Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:51 pm

Hi Apollo, and welcome! wotf007

Personally, when I get into a rut, I make myself sit down, imagine I'm the character, and basically get myself into the zone. I'm not sure if this would address your problem, however, as it's hard to tell by what exactly you mean by the words not flowing. (I might not have hit that stage yet, as it seems like you've written more than me:)

Here's some more advice I've found to be useful:

-Pretend what you're writing doesn't matter at all. (Of course, it does, and you can't really fool yourself, but you tell yourself that you aren't writing for anyone else, just yourself, because you want to write and finish this story.)

-Remind yourself that writing doesn't have to be perfect, just satisfactory. You can reinforce this by reading a passage from a book (preferably one that you like), but not a long passage, just a sentence or two; then build on to more. I find that I realize that, Hey,I could write this, there isn't anything magical about this sentence. Somehow, we could love a book, even if, examining each sentence by itself, we see that all it is is words on a page. The story matters, not the writing. (I'm currently reading the fourth book of Alvin Maker. Orson Scott Card may be known for his prose--he's certainly won several awards--yet take any sentence in it, written in a style that don't know their english too good, and I realize that it's the way he tells the story that's magical, not individual words.)

-Lastly, and again I'm not sure if this helps you with your current problem, but it may help to skip to a more interesting part if the story. The story that I recently got a "didn't quite win me over" from F&SF (whose value I admittedly still am unsure of,) was the story I write from the WotF workshop. So it was basically a hodgepodge of points. First I got a random idea from OSC's A Thousand Ideas in an Hour. Then I wrote a random piece of description from the story from Tim Powers (which turned out to be the opening). Lastly, I wrote a heated bit of dialogue, that was sort of the climax.

The rest of the story wasn't too hard for me to write, because I was just filling in the holes. So you may want to try that, skip the part you're up to, and try again at an exiting part.

Best of luck!
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Dustin Adams » Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:27 pm

I would say I'm still in this mode. I haven't hit a flow state in years. My current process is to write by hand first, then transcribe. I didn't think it was possible for me to write slower, but I found a way. wotf005
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:14 am

Dustin Adams wrote:I would say I'm still in this mode. I haven't hit a flow state in years. My current process is to write by hand first, then transcribe. I didn't think it was possible for me to write slower, but I found a way. wotf005


Years? I came in looking for advice, but yours is way worse. I now want to help you! Have you just not hit a flow state while writing or with everything? There are ways to get into a flow state outside of writing that might help bring it back while writing.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:06 am

Interestingly, I recently quantified one of the major aspects of my job as this: Refocusing after interruptions.
I need intense focus for short periods of time, like 2-3 minutes, and every once in a while I'll hit a flow state of like ten minutes max. So I can say I still do get them from time to time. A few a week, but they are short lived. I recognize them when they're over because the interruption is disappointing instead of standard.

I believe these short time frames have damaged my ability to write. I've become so conditioned to expect an interruption I invent them. "Crap, I forgot to catch a Pokemon today, I must do that right now." (Trainer code: 7411 9227 0999) I'm hoping that someday when I get back to novels I can write longer and more freely. I'm very much hoping to NaNo this year, so this is an important thing to consider when getting geared up.
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:52 am

Dustin Adams wrote:Interestingly, I recently quantified one of the major aspects of my job as this: Refocusing after interruptions.
I need intense focus for short periods of time, like 2-3 minutes, and every once in a while I'll hit a flow state of like ten minutes max. So I can say I still do get them from time to time. A few a week, but they are short lived. I recognize them when they're over because the interruption is disappointing instead of standard.

I believe these short time frames have damaged my ability to write. I've become so conditioned to expect an interruption I invent them. "Crap, I forgot to catch a Pokemon today, I must do that right now." (Trainer code: 7411 9227 0999) I'm hoping that someday when I get back to novels I can write longer and more freely. I'm very much hoping to NaNo this year, so this is an important thing to consider when getting geared up.


Well, the good news is you still experience flow states, even if it is short lived.

How often do you exercise? People who play sports or exercise, routinely enter a flow state for long periods of times. I find the more intense the exercise, the greater the flow. Running triggers it more than biking, for me.

Outside of exercise, meditation can bring you to a flow state. I absolutely suck at it, but I know people report entering it during meditation. Although, I think fishing brought me into a meditative state.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:02 pm

Meditation terrifies me.

I do P90X, but not in disk order.
I run but not as many miles as I used to. I once entered homeostasis while running. Once. Was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Lasted like 5 minutes. Came close another time, but not quite. Was more like a flow state. Had a back and forth marked and had it timed so perfectly I didn't need to look at my watch to know my times.

That said, at almost 50 I find pain is a more frequent passenger than flow. Probably because I sit for like 11-14 hours a day, then get up and go berserk, then sit again...
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:17 pm

Dustin Adams wrote:Meditation terrifies me.

I do P90X, but not in disk order.
I run but not as many miles as I used to. I once entered homeostasis while running. Once. Was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Lasted like 5 minutes. Came close another time, but not quite. Was more like a flow state. Had a back and forth marked and had it timed so perfectly I didn't need to look at my watch to know my times.

That said, at almost 50 I find pain is a more frequent passenger than flow. Probably because I sit for like 11-14 hours a day, then get up and go berserk, then sit again...


Afraid to be stuck with your own thoughts in meditation? I know I am. So it's not a judgement.

Those moments of pure clarity are what I chased for ages. Skiing really brought that feeling for me.

Stress or sleep issues could be limiting your creative energy. But since you work out and run, then I do not have many suggestions left. The one I could suggest is switching a few of your runs to biking. It is very low impact, so pain is far less of an issue-depending on where your pain is located.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:34 pm

No worries. I appreciate the conversation.

Something I tell people when the topic of exercise comes up, I tell them it's 90% mental. I wait for the queer look, then I elaborate: 90% of exercise is deciding to exercise. Where your mind goes your body will follow. That's usually when they bid me a good day. But seriously, it's about deciding. I fear I haven't decided to focus on writing at this time. I'm distracted by *#^)& politics, mostly. It's incredibly creatively draining. Maybe because it's real life, which I've always found draining, or maybe because it's so depressing. It's like any addiction, I suppose. I try to break away and then I'm like, "Look, a dumpster fire." and find it difficult to ignore, squirrel myself away and write creatively.
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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby Apollo » Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:39 pm

Dustin Adams wrote:No worries. I appreciate the conversation.

Something I tell people when the topic of exercise comes up, I tell them it's 90% mental. I wait for the queer look, then I elaborate: 90% of exercise is deciding to exercise. Where your mind goes your body will follow. That's usually when they bid me a good day. But seriously, it's about deciding. I fear I haven't decided to focus on writing at this time. I'm distracted by *#^)& politics, mostly. It's incredibly creatively draining. Maybe because it's real life, which I've always found draining, or maybe because it's so depressing. It's like any addiction, I suppose. I try to break away and then I'm like, "Look, a dumpster fire." and find it difficult to ignore, squirrel myself away and write creatively.


You know, you might actually enjoy meditation, your outlook is remarkably similar to the purpose.

If it helps, by every single metric you can use, we are living in the best and most peaceful time in human history. Media makes it look bad, but honestly, we have it so overwhelmingly good right now. So good, in fact, we started making up problems.

I believe there have been studies on the subject, and it is indeed an addiction, made worse by social media's addictive design. It's a pure dopamine drip. People experience literal withdrawal symptoms if you take their phone away. It's a real problem.

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Re: What have you done when the words no longer flowed onto the page?

Postby aedlrjqaewoif » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:48 pm

Apollo wrote:I don't know if it is writers block, but two weeks ago the words just stopped flowing. When I am in the zone it flows like water. Now, no matter what I try to write, it doesn't come to me. The words are forced and hollow, without voice.

Has this ever happened to you? What have you done to overcome the issue?

Establishing a set writing time put me on track, but reminding myself that writing is fun has largely helped me avoid this. However, it took a while to get to this point. I always keep my primary writing schedule even if I don't feel like I'm in the zone. The absolute last thing I want to do is give the subconscious "do as little as possible / make life as easy as possible" part of my brain a sliver of an opening to break my habit.

However, for when habit and fun don't spark me:
My number one trick is to take a tertiary character who captured my imagination and wanted more time, and give them their own short story. Most of the time the story dovetails off of the piece the character is from or is happening around the same time. Other times it's an origin story, a story about how they met / came to the main character(s) attention, or just another aspect of their life after climax and resolution of the original the original piece.

When that doesn't work, there are a couple of long form projects that I have open to add words to when the words aren't flowing well. They center around topics I'm interested and wouldn't normally write fiction about. These are purely for me. They'll get put up indie, but that's not a consideration when I'm writing.

I find that doing these projects help me drop into the zone on stuff I want to send to markets. However, remembering that you write to have fun and explore in your imagination helps to slip many of the usual issues that arise from unknown stressers.

"There's a pandemic going on? Well, let me escape into my own private world."

Hope this helps,
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