“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”–Charles Bukowski
Writer’s block. The two words that no author ever wants to have to mutter aloud, nonetheless suffer from. While a myriad of writing ailments get lumped under the cognomen, “writer’s block,” it can generally be summarized as an overwhelming feeling that you are incapable of being creative or productive in your writing.
What are the causes of the infamous writer’s block? One could be timing: maybe you’re not in a good headspace for writing or you need more time to process your thoughts before getting them onto the page. Make sure to not confuse the wrong timing for procrastination. If you’ve worked a 40+hour week and just need to catch up on sleep before starting that next chapter, then that’s probably a timing issue. If you just sit in front of the computer day after day with one Microsoft Word window open and another Google Chrome window clogged with Facebook and news tabs open that you can’t help but check, that’s an issue of focus and dedication to the task at hand.
Another cause of writer’s block could be a general fear: fear that you can’t do your big idea justice, fear that your work won’t turn out well or will be ill-received or even go unread. If you fear those things, it becomes rather easy to ask the question, “What’s the point?”––falling prey to the inactivity bred by hopelessness and despair. I’d be lying if I said I don’t ask that question in many aspects of my life. Who doesn’t have days when they wake up to the alarm they set for work in the morning and contemplate just hitting snooze? Sometimes there seems to be little point in heading to work to carry out what sometimes seem like meaningless tasks for a wage that doesn’t feel as though it reflects the quality of our labor. Yet, we crawl out of bed and show up anyway. If we show up for things like a paycheck, we should show up for things that are more near and dear to us, like writing, even if we have doubts or fears associated with it.
Maybe you’re a perfectionist, and the idea that your work isn’t going to be perfect if you start it when you’re a bit tired means you don’t want to start it at all. That kind of thinking is highly unproductive for many reasons. Writing is a practice, some days you won’t perform at your highest, but it’s important to keep the creative juices flowing no matter what. If you’re worried about perfection, focus your energy on something that doesn’t need to be perfect, like a stream of conscience journal entry, blog or social media post.
If you, or someone you know and love is suffering from this horrible condition, I have a few suggestions that may help get you back in line.
- Go for a walk or a run. Get the blood flowing and clear your head. I find some of my best writing ideas have come to me mid-run.
- Brew some coffee or tea. This gives you a break from writing, a fresh boost of caffeine, and who doesn’t feel more ready to write with a mug full of some delicious hot bean or leaf juice by their side?
- Read. Read quotes, books, articles, blogs…anything. Reading is part of the writing process and if you’re struggling to find your voice, sometimes it helps to draw inspiration from others.
- Freewrite. Stream of conscience writing can clear some of those spider webs of the mind. Sometimes I surprise myself when I write with reckless abandon. Maybe you’ll even come up with a fantastic poem or epigraph for your book.
- Call a friend. Sometimes talking about writer’s block helps you get over it.
- Change your environment. Sometimes I have to go to a library or cafe to get any serious writing done. When I’m at my house I’ll randomly find myself scrubbing the toilet or baking banana bread when I was in the middle of writing. I also find that being in an environment full of other people being productive makes me feel like I also have to be productive…to “fit in.”
Overcoming writer’s block is really overcoming a mental block. Figure out what your mental block is, face it head on (with a cup of joe in hand), and get back to it. You are a writer. Get back to writing!
I’d still love to know, what are your 2021 writing goals? ♣︎