• Jacob Turk

How to Overcome Writer's Block

Writer's block is the nemesis of many wordsmiths. It brings the progress on your writing project to a grinding halt and laughs in your face as you tear the hair from your head in frustration. Want to know how to overcome it? Read ahead! 27/2/19.

Almost every author in the world has had a conversation like this at some point in their life:

Friend: Hey, so how’s your book coming along?

You: Oh, not too great.

Friend: Why is that? Too busy?

You: Nah, I just have writer’s block.

Writer’s block sucks. Not only does it stop you from developing your passion, but it stings to tell people that you’re not working on your current writing project because you’re not feeling creative. It’s a common opinion that writer’s block can strike at any time, and when it does, you’re powerless against it’s airtight snare. But that opinion is just plain false.

Writer’s block can be surmounted. Quite easily, in fact, but you need to know what causes it and how to effectively combat those causes.

What is “Writer’s Block”?

Writer’s block is a condition in which a writer experiences a creative halt; they temporarily lose the ability to produce new work.

“The best way in the world for breaking up a writer’s block is to write a lot.” -John Gardner

“Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” -Charles Bukowski

Many people who aren’t writers (and some writers, too), hold the mistaken belief that writing inspiration comes from a supernatural source. They think that it appears at random intervals, and those are the times that writing should be completed. Hence, the common, fallacious cause of writer’s block is simply “not being inspired.”

Of course, feeling uninspired is a real problem, not just for writers but for everyone. It isn’t governed, however, by luck or other superstitions. The real causes of writer’s block are much simpler and completely controllable. Once you have a handle on the following factors, you might be surprised to find your writer’s block completely disappear.

The Actual Causes of Writer’s Block

1. Self-doubt

Doubting your book or your abilities is the fastest way to not write anything. If you’re not confident in your writing skills, the marketability of your book, or other factors involved in the writing process, you’ll be in a constant subconscious state of “what’s the point?” Conquering writer’s block requires confidence in your own abilities as an author. And that’s just a start.

2. Perfectionism

Feeling the need to produce perfect writing will often paralyze you altogether. Writing the first sentence of the day will seem like an insurmountable task if you need the sentence to be exquisitely worded and perfectly balanced in length and tone. Holding yourself to perfect standards is setting a depressingly high bar; a bar which authors generally won’t even attempt to reach.

3. Distracting environment

If you’re trying to write in an environment where there are people shouting, kids running around, or your phone is going off with a text every two minutes, it’s damn hard to get meaningful work done. A select few writers can work well among chaos, but most can’t. That’s why having a quiet, serene writing environment is crucial for beating writer’s block.

4. Exhaustion

If you find yourself unable to put words on the page despite your best efforts, you may just be mentally or physically exhausted. Writing is a difficult, strenuous craft. You need to be constantly focusing and creating; activities which are only achievable with a clear, rested mind. Even if your mind is well rested, a strained body can put a halt on writing progress, too.

5. Lack of Motivation

Sometimes, writer’s block can be due to a plain old lack of motivation. Writing anything----especially a novel----is a monumental task. It can be easy to lose sight of the finish line and to forget why you’re writing or how it will benefit your life. Maintaining motivation throughout your writing process is key to overcoming writer’s block.

6. Indecision

It’s hard to write anything when you don’t know what to write. Nowadays, people call this phenomenon “FOBO,” or “Fear of Better Options.” You don’t want to spend three hours writing a scene only to realize that the scene would be better if you wrote it another, completely different way. This FOBO-fuelled indecision is an all-too-common cause of writer’s block.

The Actual Solutions to Writer’s Block

So, if writer’s block is caused by things like perfectionism, distractions, and indecision, then how can it be surmounted? What are the best strategies for attacking the causes of writer’s block to make sure it never shows its face again?

Before you sit down to write (or if you’re having trouble in the middle of a writing session), here are the best things to do:

1. Get in the right headspace

Before you start your writing session, make sure you’re in the right headspace. This will help you combat self-doubt and perfectionism.

Pump yourself up. Remind yourself of every famous writer you know, and how they started from your position at one point in their life. Tell yourself that, so long as you work harder than your competition, you will become a successful writer. I’d recommend keeping a list of short pieces of advice you can use to keep your mind in check. When you’re ready to start a writing session, read from the list to get yourself excited about your writing.

Also, remind yourself never to aim for perfection, at least in the first draft. Writing anything is better than nothing at all. Read that last sentence again; no, three times. It’s a powerful truth.

The first draft of every book is utter garbage compared to the final product----Stephen King’s It and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone included. Even for those books, the initial writing was sloppy and rushed. They still arrived as some of the best pieces of modern writing, however, because the authors fervently edited the sloppy writing afterward. That’s what the numerous editing phases are for. Don’t worry about perfection now, worry about it later.

2. Remove all possible distractions

Turn the phone off or, at least, put it on silent. Don’t work near the TV or your video game system or anything you’re likely to start doing instead of writing. Find a quiet place where there won’t be any loud noises to interrupt your focused creativity. If you live with other people, tell them when you’re going to write and ask them not to bother you in that time.

Allotting a chunk of time for writing is useless if you’re going to be distracted the whole time. Often, fifteen minutes of uninterrupted, nonstop writing is more productive than an hour of trying to write around your screaming children with your phone buzzing like mad.

Before you write, remove as many distractions as possible. You’d be surprised how many cases of “writer’s block” are secretly caused by being too distracted.

3. Rest your brain/body

This solution is to combat exhaustion. If you’re mentally drained or physically fatigued, then rest. Take a nap, have a bath, or go to bed for the night. It’s always best to write when you’re feeling alert and fresh.

Of course, make sure not to take this idea too far----don’t only write during your finest hour of the day, or else you’ll never get anything done in the long term. Sometimes you’ll need to push yourself to write when you’re not feeling the best. But if you’re absolutely pooped, then take a break.

Also make sure not to use the break as an excuse to watch seven hours of Netflix in a row. Sure, take a rest if you’re tired, but it doesn’t have to be a long one. Often, a warm bath and a tea can do wonders to cure a creativity dry-spell.

4. Read

If you’re suffering from writer’s block, then read! Reading someone else’s writing will often make you excited about your own (assuming you already have a handle on the self-doubt and perfectionism problems). Sports does the same thing for its fans: watching hockey makes people want to play it. Seeing a successful entrepreneur makes people want to become one. So, naturally, reading words makes people want to write them.

Reading good, descriptive writing can give you the spur of creative motivation that you need to have a kick-ass writing session of your own.

5. Freewrite

A freewrite is where you write about whatever you want, continuously for a set duration, without worrying about spelling, grammar, or style conventions. It’s a handy tool to fix perfectionism, self-doubt, and a lack of motivation.

If you can’t bring yourself to write anything for your current project, then write something that isn’t for your current project. Work on something less important and more fun----at the most basic form, do a freewrite! It doesn’t have to be for long, either; perhaps just five minutes. You’ll often find that doing a freewrite will dissipate any fears about your own writing and will make any subsequent writing much easier and smoother.

6. Create an outline

This tip is used to combat indecision.

Some writers are plotters and others are pantsers. That is, some create outlines for their novels and stories, and others minimally plan and instead prefer to see where their writing takes them. As mentioned, FOBO can easily cause writer’s block, and it’s a cause that affects pantsers way more often.

If you’re having trouble deciding what to write for a specific chapter of your novel, outline it. Even if you’re a pantser; create an outline just for the one troubling chapter. If you’ve already made an outline and you’re still struggling, make your outline more specific. Limit the number of decisions you need to make when you’re writing by making all of them in the plotting phase. Separating the decisions from the writing can help streamline the entire process and will banish the sort of writer’s block caused by indecision.

There, now you know how to deal with writer’s block. Six potential causes and six potential solutions.

If you want to take the reins on your own writer’s block, the first thing to do is identify which factors are causing it. Figure out why you’re in a creative slump then choose the appropriate solution to fix it.

A world where many words are written every day would be a fantastic one. No writer, young or old, experienced or not, should have to suffer the dreaded effects of writer’s block. The sense of accomplishment you get from a successful writing session is exhilarating----all writers should be able to experience that every day.

So, what are you waiting for? Go show your writer’s block who’s boss!

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