Blocked but Not Forgotten by Barbara Ann Derksen

Barbara Ann Derksen

Andrea Wilton, the female protagonist in my current mystery series, scurries through the gray matter in my brain with partner Brian Strait. They seek people who, for the moment, are lost but I know that they are only lost for the length of time it takes Andrea and Brian to discover their whereabouts. That’s what keeps me writing. I need to know how the story ends.

I seek to uncover the plot devised by the antagonists but once in a while, as the plot thickens, my characters are stymied. They are at a loss to explain what has happened to the person they seek and the antagonists seem to have the upper hand. This is the point when, if I am watching a movie or reading a book, I want to throw something. I know the answer is just around the corner but I just can’t seem to grasp it. I am blocked.

Ever felt like that? Have you ever needed to complete a certain number of words before you’ll allow yourself to stop for the day and yet…nothing. You’ve lost your train of thought. You’ve reached a brick wall in the article or chapter and there’s no ladder nearby to help you scale the wall. Maybe a quick walk around the block helps so you add some exercise to your otherwise sedentary way of life.

But for whatever reason, nothing helps. When that happens, because I write other genres, I go to my current children’s story. I refresh my inner visuals, and write my puppies into or out of another pickle. If you’ve ever watched new born puppies, their curiosity can lead them astray…especially in my stories. It’s almost like writing mystery but shorter, simpler, and doable.

Writer’s block, according to Wikipedia is a condition in which an author loses the ability to produce new word. Wikipedia says it can be trivial, and for the most part, that is what I have experienced. So I am no expert. But some writers are blocked for years. Some leave the profession because of it. And there are some very famous writers who have been afflicted…like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Charles M. Schultz.

A block can manifest itself as a writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable when, in fact, it is the exact opposite. Research proves that most writers will, at one time or another, experience writer’s block. The Purdue Online Writing Lab adds, “Because writers have various ways of writing, a variety of things can cause a writer to experience anxiety, and sometimes this anxiety leads to writer’s block.”

Sometimes a writer just runs out of inspiration. Since I am a character-led fiction writer, if my characters don’t lead, I can’t follow…or write. Maybe I could develop an inner strength and lead my characters this time. But where’s the fun in the discovery.

Maybe there’s been a death in the family…or a birth. Maybe, I‘m blocked because I’m distracted. Maybe there’s just something that needs to get done before I can relax enough to sit at my computer and function as I need to. If the project I’m working on is a little out of my area of expertise, maybe I need to reassess the project.

When I sit to write, I do spend some time thinking about the people who read my work and the people whom I hope to attract. Sometimes spending too much time on audience awareness can paralyze us. I have found that I am less intimidated by my younger audience than I am by the adults who traipse through my words, sometimes seeming to seek, kill, and destroy.

Whatever the reason, a writer’s block can be debilitating but it can also help us take a moment to read some notes we took at a recent writer’s conference. It can be a time to read another author’s work just for the pleasure of it. Maybe a bubble bath amidst candles and soft music will open the pores of our gray matter, allowing characters to trek forward and discover. Oops, here they come.

A writer’s block can be short-lived and, if we don’t allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, it will pass. Andrea rounded the corner. She collapsed into the security found in the arms of her partner and soon-to-be husband, Brian. Oh, delicious. Now, what happens next?


Barbara Ann Derksen has 11 books to her credit and two more in the process. She  is a member of The Word Guild, Manitoba Writer’s Guild, The Writer’s Collective, and Christian Motorcyclists Association, USA. You can learn more about her at her website, Goodreads, and her Amazon author page. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on twitter.


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9 thoughts on “Blocked but Not Forgotten by Barbara Ann Derksen

  1. This post rings true for 'this lil black duck'. I'm nearing a completed novel and conducting a major edit. I had to make a pit stop to research a chapter where my main characters visit a foreign country. But now I'm having difficulty going back to the story. I truly wish writer's block could be cured by clutching rosary beads and repeating a few "hail Mary's". Just imagine how many more books there might be in the world if nobody was paralyzed by this condition…

  2. "Since I am a character-led fiction writer, if my characters don’t lead, I can’t follow…or write." This is certainly true for me. I love seeing posts like this. It helps me feel more 'normal'- and optimistic.

  3. I've tried writing straight through a block with not such great results: my characters start making bad decisions, the action gets all loopy (and not in a good way)and my brain gets more and more fatigued.

    My WIP has such a strong protagonist, she actually wrote me a note telling me off for making her do and say such dumb things. She gave me a list of reasons why she thought the story was going south and suggested that I go read or bake a cake – anything less dangerous to her well-being until I was ready to come back refreshed. She was right!

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