There is a fabulous book on busting through blocks: Conceptual Blockbusting by James L. Adams. Although this book is mostly geared toward corporate creatives, a lot of the information is relevant to any kind of artist, including writers. Today I'll highlight a few of the blocks that are most relevant to writers and discuss how we can break through them.
Fear of Taking Risks: Many writers like to write "safe." I've seen a lot of this in writing classes and academic environments, where writers produce work that they're lukewarm about but that will get a "safe" response. I'll admit, I was a risk-averse offender from time to time and I almost took the easy way out when I was getting ready to write my thesis. Then I thought, what the heck? I'll write what I like and so what if it's terrible. This meant resurrecting a novel that I thought had gone to it's final resting place. In the end, that piece turned out to be one of the best things I've written to date. Try this: If you feel your writing stagnating, ask yourself what risks you can take. Add a character. Kill a character. Change POV. Change the hero into a villain or the villain into a hero.
"First you jump off the cliff and you build wings on the way down."
No Appetite for Chaos: Similarly to being risk-averse, many writers are afraid of chaos. You live and die by your outline. You have to edit as soon as you get your critique papers because heaven forbid your draft remain "rough." But chaos sometimes goes beyond the surface of the writing. For instance, I have a hard time writing anything that deals with tough emotions because I like to keep my writing life neat and clean and free of messy feelings. Of course, the minute I allow myself to delve into my characters' emotions is when I finally make progress. Try this: Is there an area of your life where you impose orderliness? Can you give yourself permission to make a mess? Let yourself play and see what happens.
"No one welcomes chaos, but why crave stability and predictability?"
Inability to Incubate: Another problem that many writers run into is failure to incubate an idea. Not all ideas or projects are conceived ready for the page. Sometimes an idea needs to simmer for a while and if a writer tries to force it into being, the idea ill balk and exact its revenge. Sometimes we have to give our ideas room to breathe and grow. Try this: Is there an idea that you've been forcing into action? If so, let it incubate for a while. If you feel nervous about letting the idea sit, do some productive procrastination and do some research or character sketches for your story.
"He that can have patience can have what he will."
Lack of Flexible Thinking: Sometimes writers get locked into a perspective of their story and they bypass a series of much better options. For instance, when I first started working on my current WIP, I had the view of the antagonist as being a prototypical "mean girl" at school. My protagonist would have to juggle conflicts at home with her desire to fit into the school world dominated by said mean girl. I was so stuck on this idea that even though I kept hitting the wall, I still saw this antagonist in this stereotypical way. Then my adviser suggested I bring the antagonist into the protagonist's world instead of vice versa. The result was a pile of pages written in the antagonist's POV (which were cut from the current draft but were still invaluable in developing the current story.) Try this: If you're finding yourself stuck in a certain mindset, ask yourself: what's the most drastic change you can make? Now make it.
"Si quelqu'un veut un mouton, c'est la preuve qu'il en existe un."
(If somebody wants a sheep, that is a proof that one exists.)
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Conceptual Blockbusting contains many more blocks with exercises to test your thinking and detailed explanations of how to turn these blocks on their heads. In the end, it all comes down to one thing: if you keep moving, maybe these blocks won't catch you.
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."
Henry David Thoreau