But sometimes, that blank stare goes on far longer than one writing session. Like a machine with a worn gear, your creativity grinds to a halt, and you're left feeling bereft, confused and frustrated. A writer not being able to write is like a bird with a broken wing. So, just what are you supposed to do, when you can't do what you're supposed to?
The first logical step, is to try and figure out why you're blocked. Last year, my job moved into a new building, turning a 45 minute commute into an almost two-hour one. I got almost no writing done during that time. And even when I got a new job with a better schedule, closer to home, I was, at first, unable to write more than a sentence or two (which I often deleted in disgust). I've gotten over that, and my writing is humming along just fine, thank you. But it was a scary couple of months, there.
There are other things that can get in the way of your creativity. Maybe you've lost interest in the project. It happens. You start out all excited about your short story or novel, only to reach a point where it all falls flat for you. For me, this happens when I let a project sit for too long. It becomes difficult to connect with the characters I've developed. I try to force it, but it's never satisfying, and it becomes this cycle of unrewarded effort that can sometimes lead to abandoning a project altogether.
Or maybe you've painted yourself into a corner, plot-wise. There are few things worse than getting through most of a book, only to have it completely unravel, because of something you missed, or because your story deviated from the one you had in mind. When face with revisions on that magnitude - changing the ending...or the rest of the book! - many people freeze, and do nothing.
Perhaps you're just not there, yet. The first novel I came up with, is about a young clairvoyant on the road with her mother, a former drug addict trying to give her daughter a better life. I must have started that thing three or four times, before finally, I just realized that I wasn't ready to tell that story yet. I wasn't skilled enough as a writer to get the words down, or just not ready to hear that story, which is much the same thing in my mind.
These are just a few examples of things that can send the writer careening off the beaten path into a tangle of thickets that seem almost impossible to extricate oneself from. But there may be as many reasons for this blockage as there are writers. Identifying why you're blocked in the first place will take you a long way towards the solution. The real question is, how do you deal with it?
Keep at it
In my case, it was simply a matter of time, and the strong desire to reform the habit (read: discipline) of writing, to bring it back, once I'd gotten another job. (one caveat: if you're working two jobs, have kids and a sick parent you have to take care of, well, guess what? YOU DON'T HAVE TIME! Be content with the few spare minutes when you can journal, and be ready for the time when things get better and you do have the time.)
Blindside your muse
This is where YOU get to inspire your muse, instead of the other way around. Do some writing exercises using prompts, write in a journal, rewrite scenes from your work in progress from a different POV, or using a different sense than the usual sight. Also, one of the most simple and effective ways to get your creative juices flowing, is to read a good book (or watch a good movie), especially if it fits in your genre.
Sometimes, you just can't move on with a project because the project just isn't worth it, or because you're not ready to complete it (yet), or simply because you're burned out. It happens. First, decide if the project is salvageable. If so, and you think it's worth the effort to do so, decide if you're ready to tackle that right now. It may be that you're not. And rather than let that one project keep you from doing ANY writing, it may be better to let it lie for a while, and move on to another project. Now, keep in mind that this should not become an excuse for never finishing anything. I've been guilty of that, and so I abandon a project only under extreme duress, and usually with the intention of coming back to it as soon as I can. That being said, moving on keeps you writing, and, in fact, I have found that working on multiple projects allows me to return to the original work in progress with fresh eyes and some great ideas.
Again, there may be as many cures for writer's block as there are causes, and I'd love to hear from any of you with any other insights or ideas. Hopefully, you'll never have to need a cure, but if you do, just know that others before you have been through it, and that there are ways to get around it if you can't get through it. The most important thing? KEEP WRITING!