Overcome Writer's Block

If you have ever been afflicted with writer's block, you know it is no laughing matter because it can impede your writing for days, weeks, or even months. And while it is tempting to ignore the problem and hope that it goes away, writer's block is one of those pests that requires active extermination. Consider what causes this issue, as well as what you can do to avoid it.

Writer’s block is the state of being unable to proceed with writing, and/or the inability to start writing something new. Some believe it is a genuine disorder, while others believe it is “all in the mind.” Whichever camp you fall into, we can all agree writer's block is a painful condition that can difficult to overcome.

What causes writer's block, you may ask? Well, in the 1970s, clinical psychologists Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios decided to find out. After following a group of “blocked writers” for several months, they concluded that there are four causes of writer's block:

  1. Harsh self-criticism

  2. Comparison to other writers

  3. No external motivation, like attention and praise

  4. No internal motivation, like the desire to tell your story

In other words, writer's block stems from various feelings of discontent with the creative act of writing. But these feelings are not irreversible because writers begin with a sense of purpose and excitement; beating writer's block is about getting those feelings back. here are some tips that may help.



1 Develop a writing routine

It has been said that “creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.” This might seem counterintuitive to some. Is creativity not something that naturally ebbs and flows, not something you can schedule?

But the truth is, if you only write when you “feel creative,” you are bound to get stuck in a case of writer's block. The only way to push through is by disciplining yourself to write on a regular schedule. It might be every day, every other day, or just on weekends — but whatever it is, you should stick to it.

2. Use "imperfect" words

A writer can spend hours looking for the perfect word or phrase to illustrate a concept. You can avoid this block-engendering endeavour by putting, “In other words…” and simply writing what you are thinking, whether it’s eloquent or not. You can then come back and refine it later by doing a CTRL+F search for “in other words.”

3. Do non-writing activities

Go to an exhibition, to the cinema, to a play, a gig, eat a delicious meal or immerse yourself in great other things and get your synapses crackling in a different way. Snippets of conversations, sounds, colours, sensations will creep into the space that once felt empty. Perhaps you can return to your own desk with a new spark of intention.



4. Freewrite through it

Freewriting involves writing for a pre-set amount of time without pause and without regard for grammar, spelling, or topic. You just write.

What you jot down may be completely irrelevant to your current project, but that really does not matter. The goal of freewriting is to write without second-guessing yourself so you are free from doubt, apathy, or self-consciousness, all of which contribute to writer's block.

5. Relax on your first draft

Many writers suffer from perfectionism, which is especially debilitating during a first draft.

Blocks often occur because writers put a lot of pressure on themselves to sound ‘right’ the first time. A good way to loosen up and have fun again in a draft is to give yourself permission to write imperfectly.

Remember that “perfect is the enemy of good,” so don't agonize about getting it exactly right. You can always go back and edit, maybe even get a second pair of eyes on the manuscript. However, for this first time around, just put the words on the page. That will be enough.

6. Do not start at the beginning

By far the most intimidating part of writing is the start, when you have a whole empty book to fill with coherent words.So, instead of starting with the chronological beginning of whatever it is you are trying to write, dive into middle, or wherever you feel confident to write. You will feel less pressure to get everything “right” straight away because you are already at the halfway point and by the time you return to the beginning, you will be suitably warmed up!



7. Take a shower or have a bath

This is not a personal hygiene suggestion. Have you ever noticed that the best ideas tend to arrive while in the shower, the bath or doing other mindless tasks?

There is actually a scientific reason for this because research shows that when you are doing something monotonous like showering, walking, or cleaning, your brain goes on autopilot, leaving your unconscious free to wander without logic-driven restrictions.

8. Balance your inner critic

Ah, the inner critic!

Always there to bring your writing to a screeching halt with a big dose of self-doubt. Stephen King and Maraget both struggled with it. You would be hard-pressed to find a writer who has not been blocked by their inner critic.

What successful writers have in common is the ability to hear their inner critic, respectfully acknowledge its points, and move forward. You do not need to ignore that critical voice but neither should you cower before it. You need to establish a respectful, balanced relationship, so you can address what is necessary and skip over what is insecure and irrelevant.

9. Switch up your tool

As you may already know, a change of scenery can really help with writer's block. However, that scenery does not have to be your physical location. If you change up your writing tool, it can be just as big a help.

If you’ve been typing on your word processor of choice, try switching to pen and paper. Or if you are sick of Google Docs, consider using specialized novel writing software. The smallest shift can make a huge difference to your productivity.

10. Change your POV

When blocked, try to see your story from another perspective. this may help you move beyond the block. Consider how a minor character might narrate the scene if they were witnessing it because temporarily changing your perspective can give ‘new eyes’ and help you more clearly see the areas you could improve in the scene, and how to proceed from there.

This is such a big problem for authors, I plan to revisit it soon to discuss other ways of overcoming writer's block.

Val Penny

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