Days, weeks, even years into a project and suddenly your creativity turns to mush. No matter how hard you push the right words just won’t come.
It happens to the best of writers.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines writer’s block as: “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.”
For those caught in its literary death-grip, this inhibition can feel like never-ending torture. And while it is easy to believe that writer’s block is an unavoidable part of the writing process, recognizing and addressing causes of writer’s block when it occurs is critical to keeping your project on track and your head from exploding.
Causes of writer’s block include:
- Lack of Passion: Writing is an immersive project that can take months, even years of mental dedication to the point overload or boredom sets in.
- Lost Your Way: The story has veered off path, and you are unsure how to get it back on track.
- Self-Doubt: Sylvia Plath said, “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Fear of putting ourselves and our ideas before the world, as well as fear of failure, cripples the writing process.
- Perfectionism: The expectation that everything must be perfect.
- Burn Out: This occurs when you have reached your mental limit and is not so much writer’s block as exhaustion.
- Distraction: Stresses and strains of daily life often work against our writing schedule.
Tips for overcoming writer’s block:
- Implement a writing schedule and stick to it. Your body will get accustomed to writing at a set time.
- Get moving: walk, bike, hike, swim – do whatever it takes to get your blood flowing
- Brainstorm ideas out loud or on paper.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Understand writer’s block is temporary.
- Think of writing as a job, not art.
- Take a break between projects to refresh and reset the mind.
- Evaluate and address the root causes of your writer’s block. Talk to friends, seek advice or counsel, as needed.
- Work on multiple projects simultaneously to keep from burning out on one project.
- Use writing exercises to get the juices flowing.
- Re-organize writing space to remove distractions and make the environment more conducive to creativity.
- Review writing goals by reminding yourself why you write in the first place.
- Play, read a book, cook, listen to music – anything to give your mind a break from the project at hand.
- Add freestyle writing to your writing schedule each day.
There may be times when you need to put your project on hold. In these instances, it is best to keep your writing brain primed by:
- Reading similar works simultaneously.
- Reading books related to your subject.
- Documenting project ideas in a notepad or journal.
- Writing small vignettes or sketches related to the book.
- Meditating on writing and completing the book.
Ultimately, patience and understanding towards yourself and the writing process are critical to riding out writer’s block. Freeing yourself of worry and doubt, and keeping your writing brain primed with the activities listed above is essential to getting creative juices flowing once more.