All distractions aside, the Captain may have been on to something. Writers who experience a block feel like prisoners in front of their screens, sweating like they’re doing manual labor in the hot desert sun. But unlike the prisoners in Cool Hand Luke, you have the ability to help yourself and I’m happy to tell you there’s good news: There’s no such thing as writer’s block!
When you’re stuck in a story, it’s not because you can’t craft the perfect sentence, or your character doesn’t like you and is teasing you from the page. You’re stuck because your outline left you hanging. You’ve either strayed from your original plan (on purpose or by accident) or your original plan was too vague to keep you on track. This is most common just over half way through your manuscript when you’ve finally pushed over the crest of the hill and expect the momentum to carry you down. You slide your creative engine into neutral for a nice coast, only to discover you still have several mounds to get past and you’re not ready. So your vehicle has rolled to a full stop and you’re afraid to do anything because you might start rolling backwards instead. Kind of a long metaphor, but I bet at least half the writers out there are nodding their heads right about now.
The key to overcoming a “block” is to stop forcing yourself forward. It’s okay if you roll back a little. In fact, it’s probably a good thing because you may have missed a turn on your GPS. So go back to your outline. Take a look at what you expected versus what you have. Take out the highlighters (yes, the highlighters!) and mark your passages for conflict and resolution, track your subplot to where it stands now, follow the path of your characters. By analyzing what you have already created you’ll be in a position to push off in the right direction.
So you can’t use writer’s block as an excuse any more. Watching Cool Hand Luke, on the other hand, is perfectly legit.