The screen is blank; words are not appearing, both on the screen and in the mind. It has been days, weeks and months that no word has occurred to you.
You sit before your computer, your eyes glued to the screen. Hours go by, but a single sentence refuses to come to you.
This is not boredom; this is not exhaustion. This is Writer’s Block.
English novelist and the author of The End of the Affair Graham Greene, in his fifties, battled with a serious creative blockage.
Given his prolific record of novels, short stories and novels turned movies, Greene had taken up Dream Journaling after he dropped out of the school. This Dream Journaling kept him from drowning in the pool of unproductivity.
What is Writer’s Block?
The term was first coined by American Psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler in the 1940s. In a paper, in 1950, called ‘Does Writer’s Block Exist?’ Bergler argued, “A writer is a psychoanalyst, he unconsciously tries to solve his inner problems via the sublimatory medium of writing.”
Writer’s block is a condition wherein the writer experiences the lack of creativity, inability to produce work or just a dwindling desire to write.
It is often argued whether Writer’s Block really exists or it is just our brain’s wish to shut the creativity off for days or weeks. The argument is that other professionals don’t simply put off their jobs or work just because they have some block.
You would not want your doctor to inform you on the day of your surgery that he cannot operate on you because he is having a surgeon’s block (which is not even a term); an employee would not wish to (no matter how much he wants to) call his boss to let him know that he won’t be working today because of a worker’s block!
So, why do the writers have to undergo a halt on their creativity and wait for it to resolve on its own?
“In other ages and cultures, writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic points out that the concept of writer’s block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked.”
-Alice Flaherty, ‘The Midnight Disease’
Overcoming writer’s block is not much of a task but it requires hard work, commitment, and less procrastination.
Before we move on to the ways to overcome writer’s block, let us shed light on the reasons why writer’s block happens to the writers.
Reason 1: Fear
“I think the writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible.”
-Roy Blount, Jr.
New and budding writers often find their minds clouded with fear, and the fear could be of the following things:
- Fear of not knowing enough;
- Fear of not being able to write enough;
- Fear of not living up to one’s own expectations;
- Fear of being compared with the other writers.
Every now famous and best-selling writer has gone through all these fears and still does. The fear is inevitable. The fear blocks the words that may want to appear on the screen or paper. And it is OKAY! It is absolutely justified and viable that we may fear our work being rejected by the publishing company, the editors or the readers. And it is fine.
But the first step to overcome the fear is to embrace it. Accept the fear. Acceptance of something lessens its negative power over your sane mind and you work with a determined mindset.
So, Embrace the fear; accept it.
Be mindful of the skills;
Motivate yourself with what scares you, why you started and how you want to end;
Write until you succeed.
It sounds easy but it can be easy in practice if the writers move along knowing their fear.
Reason 2: Procrastination
One of the biggest causes of writer’s block the writers find in them is procrastination.
Procrastination quelling the creativity, crushing the desire to get up and write, stalling the self-motivation to produce words. Each of us experiences it, but some actually deal with it.
Now, dealing with procrastination is not easy. There will be a million reasons that will, almost, l force you to put off writing for a while or delay it. So, facing it and finding solutions to make use of it is what will do the trick.
- Accept, embrace and Work; procrastination is never going to leave you, so accept it and embrace it with open arms. Instead of losing your sleep doing nothing and just stalling your work, tell yourself that you are procrastinating and let your brain work itself around your need to get back in action.
- Set a deadline; you can and want to write a minimum of 5 pages every day. If you procrastinate, the number of pages will be 10 the next day. And you would not want the excess workload to demotivate you.
- Make a routine; a fixed routine will let you manage your procrastination by writing around the deadlines and accomplishing other important things.
Reason 3: Perfectionism
Writers struggle with the thought and wish of writing a perfect first draft. They write and then stop to edit. Amidst all the editing and rewriting before completing the first draft, the writer gets lost somewhere in the plot or the article and the writing stalls.
Wanting to perfect your work in its initial stage will stall the process of bringing out the complete work. It is a good trait that the writers want to fix the error when they spot it.
But the revising and editing while writing is going to prove a frustrating exercise and may make the writer want to quit on the project altogether.
The solution to Perfectionism is to learn to separate the two; writing and revising.
You can always come back to revising the book or article once you are done writing it. Instead of focusing on how to perfect the scene, write the scene! The ideas that are with you at the moment may not come again. So, if you waste time revising the written portions, you may not return to what you intended to write in the first place.
Now that we have discussed the major reasons due to which a writer may experience writer’s block.
11 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
1. Writing Schedule: Framing a schedule and sticking to it has always proven to be the most effective method of getting into the habit of writing. Most new writers wait for the inspiration of ideas to hit their minds so that their words appear spontaneously. But famous and widely known authors did not become successful by writing only when the ideas kicked in.
They became the best and famous because they followed a schedule. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zones to create masterpieces. So, layout a time table, add the writing schedule in it and start writing. It may be every day, alternate days, weekly or even fortnightly. But stick to it.
2. Free Writing or Sprint Writing: It is one of the most constructive writing exercises to overcome writer’s block. Freewriting or writing sprint means that you write, regardless of the topic. You set a timer on your phone or watch and start writing anything that comes to your mind.
When your mind is not under any stress or pressure of creating something worth reading, it produces your most authentic, unfiltered and distinctive work of art. Also, it puts your mind in action to write more.
3. Do not worry about the facts (as yet): When you write, focus on the writing. The facts can come later. Or, when you write, write about the things that you have knowledge about. Once words start flowing, you make a note of which topics to research, which facts are relevant to your project, which information will help expedite working on the project. Instead of worrying about which facts to include and not write, write to understand which facts are needed.
4. Take a break, nap, bathe: If you have been pushing yourself too hard on a project and it has managed to kill your creative nerves, just put it off for a little while, go for a walk, or take a nap or bath. Go out, surround yourself with nature and the people you like to hang out with. Give yourself a little break from the frustrating process of writing. Get fresh air and come back to your writing desk once you have a clearer mind.
5. Ask your inner critic to take a chill pill: Every famous writer, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Charles Bukowski, Jerry Jenkins have gone through intense criticism from themselves. And like those famous authors, every writer undergoes the same experience of harsh criticism by oneself. But the one thing that makes them successful is not cowering before the criticism, respecting it and then moving on with what is more important.
Self-criticising often takes the form of insecurity which blocks away from the writing spirit and creativity. It becomes imperative for writers to address only what is relevant and educative. So, ask your inner fault finder to sit back and relax, and move on with the writing.
6. Start writing for yourself: As writers, we find ourselves fighting for the story, words or plot which may be liked by readers. It can be an exhausting experiment because writing for someone else limits your horizons, research and writing itself.
To overcome writer’s block, start writing for yourself; things you think passionately about, the stories you would love to read someday, the stories that best define you. This exercise helps you lay off the analytical task for a while and work entirely on ingenious writing, which eventually helps in overcoming creativity block.
7. Cut ties with the internet: Switch off your mobile phone, turn off the wi-fi, and forget about the notifications congestion. Apps like Freedom, Cold Turkey, Focus@Will work wonders in transforming your computer into a typewriter; it asks for the input like the number of pages or time you would like to write for. Until you accomplish the set goal, the internet will stay blocked and your writing will be distraction-free.
8. Outline works like a miracle: Mapping out the story first helps you jot down the ideas which you have brainstormed to write a story. An outline will prevent future blocks and help the words find their flow.
In the words of the author Tom Evans, “What happens [when you start outlining] is that the information that you need to write that the following chapter has an uncanny way of just showing up. There are a few reasons for that, but basically your brain tunes in to what you need to write… and the chapter just flows.”
So, layout an outline and let the story unfold on its own.
9. Characters are important: While undergoing a writer’s block, a writer may feel completely blank about what to write next. And to overcome this, he can start working on the characters, because mostly, the primary element of a story is the characters. There are a lot of ways with which you can build your characters:
These attempts will help you form and continue the story in accordance with the characters. How the story turns out will depend upon how the characters turn out, how they mingle together and how their backstories come together. This will prove to be a constructive way for the writer to overcome writer’s block.
10. Let words make their way to your mind:
Meditate, Concentrate on your breathing, take a walk, water the plants, clean your room. These small activities will help you deviate your mind from a stressful writer’s block to a de-stressing life. It will contribute to overcoming writer’s block by shifting your attention towards other fulfilling things.
11. Writing PromptsThere are more than 100 writing prompts generators tools are available on the internet. In case of conflict, writer’s block and lack of imagination, go to Google, type away ‘writing prompts generator’, it will redirect you to plenty of websites that offer free tools on how to keep your bundle of talent and imagination from rusting away.
A writer’s block is excruciating for a writer, therefore, overcoming writer’s block requires efforts and willpower to stay with the story, be persistent and work against the thought of inspiration to find you. Be determined and work along with the writing schedule. Writing is a continuous practice, it requires continuous effort and there is no secret ingredient to kick-start your writing.
So, do not let the writer’s block stop you from creating masterpieces; good luck and keep writing.