The Dummies Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Block
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What is Writer’s Block?
The Brewster’s dictionary defines writer’s block as – “A periodic lack of inspiration that can descend on the most experienced of writers and that results in an almost pathological inability to put pen to paper.”
As a child, I used to wonder how it was possible for anyone to have writer’s block. Would the thoughts in a person’s head just disappear? I was quite convinced, as only a child could be, that I could never experience writer’s block.
I was magical.
I was invincible.
I was a special creation and God had given me this brilliant gift. How then could I be bereft of creative thoughts one day, all of a sudden? When one day, all of a sudden, arrived in 2003, I couldn’t believe it.
I would sit and stare at a sheet of paper for hours and nothing came out. My head was empty. It was excruciating. Unfortunately, this was not the last time I would experience writer’s block in my career. My last case of writer’s block occurred sometime between 2013 and 2014. Between a soul sucking job and an unfavorable relationship, my creative brain was DOA.
7 Causes of Writer’s Block
There are a wide variety of things that can cause writer’s block depending on the circumstances but the most common reasons for writer’s block include:
- Traumatic life episodes such as loss or illness, end of an important relationship or financial failure can trigger writer’s block. When my parents died, I didn’t write a word for months.
- Fear of failure, rejection and thinking you’re not good enough can cause writer’s block. Look, if you want to write, write. Some people will like it, some people will hate it, some people will light blow torches to come find you for assaulting them with your words. That’s writing. Deal with it.
- Trying to be perfect can cause writer’s block. I’ve gone through periods where I became so completely obsessed with writing the perfect artist’s statement and work sample, my brain just stopped working.
- A particularly brutal review of your work can lead to a loss of inspiration.
- Pressure to follow up a previously awesome piece of writing with something just as awesome or even more awesome.
- Writing is hard work. Seriously. It involves a lot of hard core thinking, planning and strategising. Sometimes, your muse gets tired and just doesn’t want to play with you anymore.
- There are too many distractions in your life, taking up thinking space in your head and blocking your creative juices – watching too much TV and over attachment to devices like your smartphone are just two of the culprits in this case.
In her 2004 book, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, Alice W. Flaherty, delved into this subject from a neurological POV.
Whatever the reason might be for your writer’s block, understand that it isn’t unique to you. Don’t throw a pity party and don’t think the universe is out to get you. There are many notable great writers throughout history who have experienced writer’s block. Some of them include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Mitchell, Graham Greene and Charles M. Schulz.If you have writer’s block, you are not a failed writer; you’re just a writer interrupted.Click To Tweet
11 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block and Get Back to Your Creative Zone
While there is no fix it all remedy for every situation, there are some simple things you can start doing until you find the remedy that works best for you. If you have writer’s block, you are not a failed writer; you’re just a writer interrupted.
Some of the solutions are short term and some of them are long term. I have tried a few of them myself with good results:
- Ensure you actually have writer’s block and not just looking for an excuse not to write.
- What could be the cause of the block? Whatever it is, step very far away from it. If you can’t pin point exactly what might be the cause, step away from anything related to the craft – books, magazines, manuscripts, etc until further notice.
- Pick up an unrelated hobby – something outside your usual pursuits. Do you know how I overcame writer’s block after the loss of my parents? I picked up tango. Alternative creative projects include painting, sewing, building something, Yoga, etc.
- Go on a holiday to somewhere exotic. For me, a good beach bum vacation is a trigger for tons of ideas. If you can’t afford to travel somewhere exotic, consider just going to the beach and taking long walks on it every day in combination with something else on this list.
- Engage meditation. Meditation is fantastic for clearing your mind and promoting internal unison. Listen to meditation music before you go to bed and even while you sleep. You can find hundreds of these for free on YouTube.
- At this stage, you can try reading a book unrelated to your usual genres. If you like reading thrillers and suspense, try a chick lit novel instead. If you prefer chick lit, try reading historical fiction. Pick something completely opposite to what you would normally read. This may jump-start your brain.
- Write nonsense. Literally. Write about anything that you saw or experienced that day. For example, I went out today and I saw a guy with 5 chickens sitting on his head and a rope tied to his leg trying to cross the road with a goat.
- If the block is related to technological distractions, eliminate these distractions or reduce them significantly if you can’t eliminate them. When I’m at home, I barely look at my phone and I don’t watch TV. Read Why You Need to Turn Off Your TV. Seriously.
- If you live a far too sedentary life, it’s time to shake things up a bit with activities that get the blood pumping to your brain. Activities like running, bicycling and working out. I’m a big fan of Beachbody Programs.
- Change writing locations. Where do you usually write? Choose a different location to write at. I write at my home office. It’s quiet and serene and I love it but sometimes my muse isn’t feeling so much silence. In those cases, I change locations to a coffee shop nearby or the local library. I’ve even written on the beach before.
- Try visiting a book store. I don’t know about you but the smell of new books and the sight of rows and rows of books starts a creative fire deep within me.
As I’ve said previously, writing is hard work. If you’re suffering from a block, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try one or more of the suggestions above, experiment and find what works for you. If some of the greatest writers in the world could come back from writer’s block to produce amazing literary pieces, so can you.