Have You Got Trouble?

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
Joseph Heller

Found this quote today. I nodded. Feels true– some days more than others. Okay, so writing doesn’t always feel like you’re being dragged through a knothole backwards. Sometimes the words flow smoothly and ideas jump onto the page, but there are times when you come upon those brick walls. Ouch! Those brick walls kind of hurt.

Last year I hit a brick wall. I was working on a new young adult novel. Things got off to a great start and I was totally into the story. Then one day I looked at what I was writing and became quite bored by it all. I couldn’t even be sure if what I’d written was complete drivel or not.

Sometimes boredom strikes me quite suddenly when I’m working on a story. It’s as if I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to keep going. Maybe I don’t know my characters well enough, maybe the plot feels stale, or maybe it’s just me being cranky and hard to get along with. Doubt starts drifting in. Is there any point in continuing? Does my writing suck? Are my characters one-dimensional? At that point I either decide to give myself a break from the story or else trudge on through.

Not every idea pans out but we can we give up too easily. You know, when the going gets tough…. And it’s likely to get tough at some point. It if doesn’t then you’re one lucky writer.

Sometimes we make it a bit too easy to back away from challenges. We don’t want to do what it takes to see our story through to the end. We abandon it, sometimes forever.

Luckily, the little break I took last year from my novel was exactly what I needed. Did I stop writing during that time? Not at all. I’ve got plenty of stories on the go, ones I like to work on in between times, and if all else fails I have some work that can use revising.

Sometimes taking a bit of a break is the right thing to do. We return to that stale piece of fiction with renewed enthusiasm.

A few months later, I returned to my WIP. I looked at what I’d previously written and decided I wanted to continue with it. I really liked my main character. I just had a lot of hard work ahead of me. Mind you, it still took some time for me to decide just how I was going to tell that story. I had to try different things to see which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Even after the story was written I couldn’t decide it the POV was just right.

Did I have trouble writing it? Oh yeah. I’m happy to say that I finally made it through to the end. Not only did I make it through to the end, I made it through with that same enthusiasm I had when I first started. Yay me!

Do you agree with Joseph Heller that every writer has trouble writing? What do you do when you’re experiencing trouble writing, do you trudge though your first draft or do you take a break?

Leave a comment


  1. I hate staring at the blank page. Oy. It’s so daunting. Sometimes I just write crap only so I can have something to edit! *laugh*

    • Hmmm. Never thought of that, Gayle. But I’d be willing to try. Agreed that blank page is a real downer that’s why I try to keep several things on the go. I can jump around if I want/need to.

  2. If I’ve already written a draft then I can ease my troubles by letting it simmer for a while. It’s the new scenes I have trouble with. Getting it on the page when I have nary a thought. It’s best for me to just read novels and get inspired than to stare at the screen endlessly.

    • I do find that reading other people’s work can be inspiring, especially if it the right kind of novel.I wish I could right a first draft straight through without revising along the way. Seems to be getting the story down first would make the rest of it a bit easier.(Dare I say easier?)

  3. There are those times that its like ” do I have any functioning brain cells?” For me its usually music that gets the old brain working.

  4. I have that same experience and going through another right now. it really helps to take a break from writing. gives you time to think about your characters and who knows, maybe something will pop into your head and that might lead you to continue. at least, I hope so for me

    • I do find that taking a break can definitely help, Lissa, and I hope that is the case with you. If I find myself too hung up I move onto something else until I’m ready to write again. Becoming frustrated over our ability to write the story only makes it worse. I always go on the assumption that in time I’ll be ready to write. Hope you move past this quickly.

  5. I think sometimes that break from the MS long enough to drain all prior thoughts about it from the writer’s mind, may be just what is needed to allow a fresh breeze of inspiration to flow, rekindling appreciation for what is already alive in the pages. Blessings to you, Laura…

    • “A fresh breeze of inspiration”— well that’s an inspiring thought, Carol Ann. Yes rekindling is exactly what needs to take place! I find your comment quite inspiring. Thanks!

  6. Came up with 3 cartoons today. That’s pretty good production.

  7. I had such a brilliant reply — then my internet crashed. I think I wrote something profound like “Probably a good thing I go brain-dead occasionally or I’d never get any housework done. Oh, and the old guy would starve. Oops, come to think of it, he’s been doing a lot of cooking lately.

    • Hey, my old guy’s been baking cookies these days. :)

      I think our brains do need a break from time to time and not simply when we’re in mid sentence..I hate it when that happens which seems to be more and more the older I get.

  8. I guess everyone hits a brick wall or “troubles” (in my case trouble is usually the lack of time). I don’t really press. If I stall out for a while – no biggie, just buy my muse a new box of cigars & crank away. (This is probably not good since my muse is a toddler named Mickey.) Right now I’m trying a totally new approach & it seems to be working. Next week – who knows?

    • I honestly think, Dave, that yours is the best attitude to have. Getting uptight when we hit a snag only makes things worse. I like to go on the assumption that everything will eventually work out on its own. That’s why7 I like to keep several things on the go. Love that pic of Mickey on your blog even with the cigar! LOL!

  9. All creative peole have trouble creating from time to time. My daughter, the potter, and I constantly compare troubles. Maybe that is what we need to do, stop and commiserate with someone. I get stuck all the time. It used to upset me but now I realize it is all part of the process. Some may ask, “Why do we do it?” I often ask it to myself. Perhaps because when we overcome the “trouble”, it feels so good!

    • Yes, I’m sure it is not just something that writers face, although sometimes I think we like to believe we’re unique in that way. Yup, the trouble times don’t always feel so good, but you’re right, Darlene. It feels pretty sweet when we overcome it.

  10. I don’t have much writing experience to draw upon, but in other areas of creating, I agree with the previous comment that a break from it helps one come back to it fresh, and with new perspective.

    • I have a feeling, Patti, that in the future you are going to gain more writing experience. Hopefully, a little nudge and you’ll be writing fiction very soon. :)

  11. I’ve been struggling with a book that I’m working on. I’ve decided to keep going through the rough draft in hopes of fixing it in revisions. Thanks for inspiring me to continue.

    • Yes, we do all have our struggles, and for some reason it sometimes surprises me when it happens. Of course, we’re not alone in this. Most everyone does have trouble writing. Good luck with the book!

  12. Yes, I write way more in my head than ever hits the screen. I am my own worst critic. This past week I gave him a name…so now I can squash him! Thanks for this post!

    • We do seem to be our own worst critic, although I’ve known people who openly admit that they love everything the write. For some reason it makes me think about those American Idol contestants who believe they can really sing and of course can’t. ;)


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