Writer’s block! A dreaded condition where a writer wants or needs to write but can’t. It happens to all of us to one degree or another. It seems to strike almost at random, although it’s worth tracking to find any patterns patterns worth examining. Writer’s block or writer’s anxiety strikes people in varying degrees. With luck, your block will be short and easy to fix. Sometimes, however, the block can go on longer, requiring more drastic action.
Here are some symptoms and solutions for you to consider:
Fear of the blank page (or screen) can cause writer’s block
Fear of the blank page or empty screen is most likely to happen to beginning writers. As our expertise grows, we learn that simply writing something on a page is often enough to get us started. So write something, anything, and see what happens.
It helps if you can write something related to your topic. Put down you first thought, even if it’s awful. There’s a reason you’ll find over 60,000 entries if you google shitty first drafts. Let yourself do a really poor draft or beginning sentence. The goal in this moment is not to write well but to write something. Even a simple statement like I hate writing about writers block can help get you started.
Simple fatigue, hunger and or thirst can create writer’s block
Don’t overlook fatigue. If you have been working hard for days, or haven’t been sleeping well, you may just need rest. Writing can take more out of us than we realize. In my experience, there are two types of fatigue that can lead to temporary writers block. The first comes from not getting enough rest; the second has to do with not taking breaks during the writing process. Your mind and body need refreshing.
Not eating can also create writer’s block. This isn’t an excuse to over eat or eat the wrong things, but you body does need fuel to keep the creative juices going, or even to start them.
Not so incidentally, if you’re not drinking enough water, try adding a glass or two a day. Water seems to lubricate the brain as well as the rest of the body. Proper rest, eating and good hydration can completely cure writer’s block.
Remember to breathe!
Seriously, several deep breaths can sometimes open the flood gates of creativity. Sitting at the computer often means slouching. Our breaths get shallower and our minds gum up. So stand up, stretch, breathe. And when you sit back down, sit tall and remember to keep breathing deeply, from your belly.
Exercise can also be a way to break up writer’s block. Thirty minutes on a treadmill or walking outside often helps me relax my mind so new ideas or needed ideas appear. Besides, I feel so virtuous when I exercise.
Change your state
It’s amazing, but if you’re frowning and you fake a smile, you’ll feel a bit better even though it’s a fake smile. That’s a prime example of changing your state. It’s easy to do, and easy to forget to do. Long hours at the computer tend to deaden you physically and mentally, and that deadening leads straight to writers block.
Get up. Stretch. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Make a phone call. Do the dishes. Pet the cat – anything that gets you moving your body in a different way. Chances are something will clarify and you can get back to writing again. For example, I actually had to stop and do the dishes, a chore I avoid as much as I can, before I could really get a good start on this article.
It usually takes some physical action to change your state enough to get writing again. Television doesn’t do it, and in fact can make writers block worse. Going to the movies, on the other hand, might help because you have to get out of the house.
If you normally write at the computer, try writing by hand, or visa versa. If you always make your bed, don’t, or visa versa. You get the idea. Doing something differently uses different portion of the brain, and that may be enough to solve the writing problem.
Sleep on it
Sleeping on idea is a cliche because it works. Sleeping or napping lets your unconscious go to work. The surest way to tap into your unconscious is overnight, and letting the writing go for a day can often end writer’s block. An idea may come in a dream, or be there when you wake up.
A nap may work too, although, unless you sleep deeply, you probably aren’t as close to your unconscious during a nap than at night.
Work on the idea
Once in a while an idea arrives whole. With relatively little work you can sit down and dash off a short piece with ease and elegance. But more often, ideas come unformed. Ideas tend to be big, loopy things that need pruning or honing to get to their center.
My rule of thumb is if I can’t write the purpose of the work, short of long, in 10 words or less, the idea needs more work. The purpose of this article, for instance, is to: explore solutions to writer’s block. That’s five words.
Another trick for clarifying ideas is to do a simple outline. It doesn’t have to follow the outline rules you learned in school – just a list can work.
Talk about the writer’s block – even talk to it
Talking about a problem really can help, if you’ve got someone who understands. Another writer is ideal, in person, on the phone or even online. Just hearing you’re not the only one who gets stuck may be enough to unstick you.
Another trick is to talk to the block itself. You can address your block and ask it what it wants or what it’s waiting for or what it needs to know to go away. Dare to name it. Imagine what it looks like. If you’re quiet and listen internally you may be surprised at the answer you get.
Talk about the idea
Talking through the idea with someone you trust often helps break up writer’s block. In this case, it needs to be someone who mostly just listens. The sound of your own voice may help you break through to clarify the idea so you can get back to work. I’ve even had occasional success telling my cat my idea.
Breaking through writer’s block is a good reason to belong to a writing group of some sort. Chances are you’ll hear something that will help. You can also tell the group your problem and get lots of suggestions. If you don’t know of such a group, start one.
Writer’s block or anxiety can, if it goes on and on for weeks and months, be a sign of deeper problems. Working with a professional counselor may be in order. A good counselor (ask friends you admire for referrals) can be a miracle worker.
That’s ten – how do you break up your writer’s block?
Image from http://www.sxc.hu