Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have an idea for an amazing new article/story/blog post, so you flip open your laptop, load up WordPress, and…nothing happens. You’re at a total loss for words. The idea’s there, but somewhere between your brain and your fingers is a broken link; a faulty synapse firing off into nothing. What happened, and what do you do about it?
What is Writer’s Block?
You’ve probably heard of writer’s block at some point. Maybe you’ve experienced it. Put simply, it’s what happens when a creator loses their ability to create. Nothing is physically preventing the creator from creating, they just no longer have the motivation or inspiration to do so.
Despite its name, writer’s block isn’t just an affliction of writers. It affects all creatives, from painters to poets to musician. It’s especially drawn to creators who treat their work as a commodity instead of a passion, who feel pressured to produce, who suffer from low self-esteem, or who face problems outside of their creative bubble. Writer’s block can be spurred on by a totally unrelated life event, or arise naturally due to changing interests and motivations.
Like the common cold, writer’s block is a temporary affliction. Creatives get blocked sometimes. It does not mean you should give up on your creative endeavors. It can be incredibly frustrating and feel debilitating, but it’s something you can overcome.
What Can I Do About Writer’s Block?
Blocks are very personal experiences. No one solution works for everyone. But here are some things you can try based on my own personal experiences:
Just Get It Out
Blocks often emerge from our desire to convey a specific message or idea, but not having the means to do so. If I’m trying to send a message through my writing and the right words aren’t coming to mind, writing anything suddenly feels impossible.
One of the most effective approaches to escaping a block is by writing your way through it. Instead of waiting for the perfect words, write down the first thing that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, related to the topic at hand, or even coherent. Just practice getting words onto paper, and leave the wordsmithing until the block dissipates.
If you’re really struggling, experiment a little. Write in a made-up language. Write out every swear word that comes to mind. Change your font to Wingdings. Cross boundaries you’ve never considered crossing before. Give your mind a chance to wander and do what it does best: imagine. When you stop focusing on a problem, chances are the solution will arise naturally.
Remember, this is just a draft. You can always go back and edit later when you feel more in tune with your creativity. Right now, the most important thing is to break through your block. If you feel like you need to stay focused on your topic, consider techniques like mind mapping, which let you explore your mind space while still keeping your main goal front and center.
Walk Away From the Problem
A bit of exercise and fresh air does wonders for a blocked mind.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the desk for a bit. The more fixated you become on a problem, the harder it is to overcome. Do something different; switching up your environment can really stimulate your mind. But be careful not to wander into something that’ll distract you. This isn’t an excuse to go binge a season of your favorite Netflix series.
Short, engaging bursts of activity are key here. A walk or stretch or meditation is just enough to reinvigorate you without completely pulling you away from your original task.
Phone a Friend
We can’t do everything on our own, and that includes creative activities. Yes, even writing involves other people to some degree.
Sharing your creativity with your friends holds you accountable, but in a good way. You’re not obligated to deliver a finished product to them, and they can provide valuable, honest feedback. It’s best to have a friend who shares your passion for creativity, even if they work in a different medium. They know what it’s like to be blocked, and they might be able to give you the push you need to break through.
Work It Out
Think of writer’s block as being a physical barrier for your creative energy: a dam. The energy is there, but it isn’t reaching your hands. Instead it’s just pooling, flooding your mind with pressure and anxiety.
Trying to tear down a dam is difficult, but you can always create a spillway: another channel for water to flow through. Reshape your creative energy into a different kind of energy, then express it however you see fit.
For me, this takes the form of full-body motion: running, walking, yoga, etc. For you, it might just be standing up for a bit, stretching your arms, pacing around the room, etc. The goal is to simply give your pent up energy another outlet. It doesn’t really matter what that outlet is, as long as it take a little effort. Have some fun with it too: hammer on your keyboard for a bit, or hold and strum it like a guitar. If you’re a painter, throw your brush against your canvas. If you’re a musician, play as loud and hard as you can (just warn your neighbors first). Only return to your task when you feel relaxed enough to do so without getting angry or frustrated. It may take longer than you think, but that’s fine. Give it some time.
How Do You Break Your Blocks?
If you have any suggestions or experiences working through writer’s block, let us know by leaving a comment!