Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.
It happens to every writer. It’s inevitable. Your prose has turned to mush, you don’t have a creative bone left in your body, and you want to throw in the towel.
Writer’s block. Every writer struggles with it. But what you do with it is what really matters. Before we talk about solutions, though, let’s talk about the problem.
Common causes of writer’s block
The reasons for your block may vary, but some common ones include:
- Timing: It’s simply not the right time to write. Your ideas may need to stew a little longer before writing them down.
- Fear: Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and critique. Fear is a major reason some writers never become writers.
- Perfectionism: You want everything to be just right before you ever put pen to paper or touch a keyboard. You try to get it perfect in your head and never do, so you never begin. To help you through this, we created Don’t Hit Publish. It’s a free tool that tells you if your blog post is good enough to publish and also give you tips on how to improve it.
So how do we vanquish this enemy?
It’s a tough question to answer, and I’m afraid I don’t have a great solution. I’ve personally wrestled with writer’s block on many occasions, and each victory looked different.
That’s the thing about writing: it’s an art, not a science. And you’ll have to approach it as such. There is no formulaic fix, no “7 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer Now.”
Well, except one. But you already know what it is: Start hacking away. Begin trying stuff. Sometimes, the quirkier, the better. The trick is find something that works for you.
Creative solutions to writer’s block
Here are a few ideas to help you work through your creative constipation:
- Go for a walk.
- Eliminate distractions (I use Ommwriter to focus on just writing).
- Do something to get your blood flowing. (I like running.)
- Play. (My personal preference is LEGOS.)
- Change your environment.
- Read a book.
- Listen to music (try classical or jazz to mix it up).
- Brew some coffee (my personal favorite).
- Create a routine. Many famous writers have daily routines to summon the Muse.
- Spend time with someone who makes you feel good.
- Call an old friend.
- Brainstorm ideas in bullet points.
- Read some inspiring quotes to get you started.
The possibilities are endless, but movement is critical. You need to generate momentum to get out of your funk.
Once you start heading in a direction, it’s easier to pick up speed. And before you know it, your block will be a distant memory and you’ll be doing what you once thought impossible. You’ll be writing.
How to not overcome writer’s block
And just for fun, here are some anti-solutions to this problem:
- You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel “inspired.”
- You do not overcome writer’s block by wallowing in self-pity.
- You do not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating or making excuses.
- You do not overcome writer’s block by watching TV.
- You do not overcome writer’s block by reading articles on how to overcome writer’s block. (Kinda shot myself in the foot there, huh?)
The fail-proof solution
If you’re still not satisfied, you have one last resort, an ace up your sleeve. The silver bullet solution. The fail-proof way to overcome writer’s block is one you already know. In fact, you’ve been avoiding it this whole time, because it’s precisely what you don’t want to hear.
Start somewhere, anywhere. Write a few lines. Say anything. And see what happens. Don’t think about it too much or make any fancy announcements. Just write. It doesn’t need to be eloquent or presentable; it just needs to be written..
Write for the joy of writing. Because you can’t not do it. Don’t try to say or produce anything; just get some words on paper, now. No excuses or justifications.
You can write. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Just type a few words. They don’t have to be good (all first drafts suck). It just has to be written. Then you have something to work it. You can tweak from there.
If you do this, you’ll get past the hump. I promise. The difference between professional writers and amateurs is this: Both encounter blocks, but one pushes through while the other gets paralyzed.
You can do this. Just write.
(One caveat: This technique only works if you’re truly blocked and not “empty,” which is an entirely different matter altogether.)
How do you overcome writer’s block? Share in the comments.
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Symptoms and Cures for Writer's Block
Help in overcoming writer's block and a short series of exercises to get you writing.
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2011-07-06 10:03:26
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. Often a solution can be found by speaking with your instructor (if you are in school), or a writing tutor. There are some common causes of writer's block, however, and when you are blocked, consider these causes and try the strategies that sound most promising:
You have attempted to begin a paper without doing any preliminary work such as brainstorming or outlining...
- Use invention strategies suggested by a tutor or teacher
- Write down all the primary ideas you'd like to express and then fill in each with the smaller ideas that make up each primary idea. This can easily be converted into an outline
You have chosen or been assigned a topic which bores you....
- Choose a particular aspect of the topic you are interested in (if the writing situation will allow it...i.e. if the goal of your writing can be adjusted and is not given to you specifically, or if the teacher or project coordinator will allow it)
- Talk to a tutor about how you can personalize a topic to make it more interesting
You don't want to spend time writing or don't understand the assignment...
- Resign yourself to the fact that you have to write
- Find out what is expected of you (consult a teacher, textbook, student, tutor, or project coordinator)
- Look at some of the strategies for writing anxiety listed below
You are anxious about writing the paper...
- Focus your energy by rehearsing the task in your head.
- Consciously stop the non-productive comments running through your head by replacing them with productive ones.
- If you have some "rituals" for writing success (chewing gum, listening to jazz etc.), use them.
You are so stressed out you can't seem to put a word on the page...
- Stretch! If you can't stand up, stretch as many muscle groups as possible while staying seated.
- Try tensing and releasing various muscle groups. Starting from your toes, tense up for perhaps five to ten seconds and then let go. Relax and then go on to another muscle group.
- Breathe deeply. Close your eyes; then, fill your chest cavity slowly by taking four of five short deep breaths. Hold each breath until it hurts, and then let it out slowly.
- Use a calming word or mental image to focus on while relaxing. If you choose a word, be careful not to use an imperative. Don't command yourself to "Calm down!" or "Relax!"
You're self-conscious about your writing, you may have trouble getting started. So, if you're preoccupied with the idea that you have to write about a subject and feel you probably won't express yourself well...
- Talk over the subject with a friend or tutor.
- assure yourself that the first draft doesn't have to be a work of genius, it is something to work with.
- Force yourself to write down something, however poorly worded, that approximates your thought (you can revise this later) and go on with the next idea.
- Break the task up into steps. Meet the general purpose first, and then flesh out the more specific aspects later.
- Try one of the strategies on the next page of this resource.