It's an awful illness and it can manifest itself in several different, ugly ways. However, they all share one common symptom--writing stops or becomes excruciatingly difficult. The afflicted author may or may not moan, bang head in frustration against desk when in proximity of their computer, become sleep deprived, or act listless or uninterested in writing.
As a friend to these aspiring authors, it is your privilege (and responsibility) to help them overcome this disease ;) Even just realizing they're going through it and supporting them is helpful. I've included brief descriptions of different strains of the virus (thankfully it's not contagious) and what treatment may aid your writing friend on the path to recovery.
|The Curse of the Blank Page! Though this looks very nice.|
You're writing, writing writing...and then the story stops coming. Suddenly. Without warning. You try to write, but no ideas come. It's like you're brain dead.
This type happens to me quite frequently when I'm using the pantsing method of writing a novel. I typically step back from my computer, go for a run or a swim or a long hot shower and come back to it. If that doesn't loosen up the gears in my head enough, I let it sit for one or two days before coming back to it.
Writer's Block Type B:
You've left a story sitting for several weeks because life got busy and you come back to find the novel lifeless. You totally forgot how excited you were for the story, what the characters were about, why the villain was so compelling...and now it feels dead. Ideas have stopped coming. It's hard to write because every step is plagued by thoughts like, "This character is so flat. How could I have liked him? And he was the main driving force for the story." or "Why did I think this plot was cool? Nobody's going to like it."
And if you let those ideas sit and ferment, you'll probably leave the story in some forgotten corner.
My solution to this? Don't let the novel sit too long unsupervised (occasionally that's necessary, but you have to have some true grit to come back to a long-lost story idea; the couple time's I've done it, I've ended up overhauling the story). NaNoWriMo is great for staying motivated and preventing this.
If it's already happened and you're determined to see the story through even if you don't feel like it, you're going to have to sit down and stare at a blinking cursor for a while. Hash some words out, even if you think they're awful. The story will come back eventually and you'll remember why you liked it.
Writer's Block Type C:
The slow fade. You've been writing pretty steadily (but not with blinding speed). And each day it gets a little harder and harder until one day you just can't seem to write any more.
Like Type A, sometimes it's best to take a day off from writing. You might be burned out. If, however, this keeps happening, approach as you would approach Type B--force yourself to write, even if it's only a little. Sometimes I just need to re-read what I've written and rediscover my love for the story, re-lighting the fire I had at the start of the project.
Regardless of the form it takes, writer's block can be difficult to get over. The important thing is that you keep writing!
For more on writer's block, check out Victoria J's post here. It's excellent and humorous (and check out her other stuff, too!)
Do you struggle with writer's block? How do you cope with it?