Writers block – for many writers, it’s a real problem. You sit down to your laptop, journal, or the like, put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper AND?
An hour later you’ve still got a whole lot of nothing.
Maybe you’ve scrolled through Facebook a few times, checked your email a few more than that (to feel productive?). And maybe got lost in another episode of Law and Order (or whatever your equivalent TV binge addiction is).
Regardless, you’re still staring at the same blank page. Still trying to figure out where or how to get started writing. Sometimes, all the ideas are there – but nothing feels good enough to do your ideas justice.
If you’re feeling like this lately, know that you’re not alone. All writers suffer from writer’s block at some point or another – but the good news is you don’t have to let it win. Don’t let your writing sit on the backburner for too long.
Sometimes the only thing you can reasonably do is take a break, but that’s not always the best solution. Especially if you’re someone who tends to procrastinate (which, let’s face it, many of us writers are) because there will always be something you can do instead.
Defeating Writers Block Means Understanding the Cause
The first thing you need to do when you’re dealing with a serious case of writer’s block is sit back and reflect – what could be causing this mental block?
It could be that you’ve been working on the same project for days, weeks or months on end and it’s just starting to feel monotonous. Or perhaps you took on a project that you thought you were interested in, but later realized the subject matter wasn’t quite what you expected.
Maybe you ran into a problem researching – and now you’re stuck on whether to take a new perspective on your topic. These and more are some of the common reasons that writers run into a case of writer’s block.
Another one of the major causes of writer’s block is imposter syndrome. This is a very real problem for writers at every stage of their careers. Fear itself is a related and equally difficult problem that often causes you to second guess yourself as you’re writing, keeping your pages blank.
On the other hand, the cause could be something completely external to your writing that just seems to be getting in the way of unleashing that creativity.
In the pandemic and quarantine world we’re currently living in, that could mean having your children home and having to help with distance learning. Or it could be having others in your family working from home who used to go to an office every day. It could also mean preparing for a big move, a life change like a marriage or a baby, or the loss of a loved one.
Regardless, all these situations – internally related to your writing or an external cause outside your control – are likely to impact your creativity. It’s no shock that any of these scenarios and more would lead to writer’s block. So, what do you do about it?
For Serious Burnout Take a True Break and Plan Your Comeback
Here’s the thing – if you’ve been going at it, cranking out thousands of words every day for weeks with little down time, it’s probably just time for a break. If you can’t focus because you’re too worried about things happening in your life, if it’s possible, take care of those things first.
If you’ve ever heard the saying you can’t pour from an empty glass, the same principle applies here. You can’t expect to be able to keep churning out content when you’ve been going nonstop, or major life events get in the way.
So, instead of trying to pour from a near empty glass you should take some time to fill yourself back up. This could mean taking a day – or even a few days or longer depending on your situation – away from your writing.
Ideally, you’ll spend this time pursuing other interests and things you enjoy. For example, going for a walk on the beach or hiking in the woods, an afternoon movie and dinner with family or friends are all good examples.
However, if a major life event is the reason you can’t focus on your work, you may find yourself taking a longer break. Remember that it’s okay to take the time you need in these situations.
You might find that you suddenly start thinking your way back to your writing naturally – especially when enjoying other creating past times like knitting, crafts, drawing or painting. When this happens, try jotting down your ideas as a note for later – or even sit down to free write and see what comes of it.
You might surprise yourself with how much even as little as a few hours away from your desk can make a difference. But if you’re truly burnt out or being tackled by life then don’t feel bad about taking some time away from your writing to take care of yourself. In the end, you’re writing will be better for it.
For Everyday Writers Block Take These Steps to Get Back on Track
Now, the truth is, most of the time, what we believe is writer’s block is something much simpler than it seems.
A lot of the time, it comes down to something like imposter syndrome or a subject that just isn’t peaking interest, or the stress of a looming deadline has you frozen like a deer in headlights.
In these cases, here are a few things you might try to get yourself back on track:
Allow Yourself a Short Break
But not for long. Sometimes, a little fresh air is all you need to get your creativity flowing again. Taking a walk or working in a garden are great ways to get away outdoors for a bit. Maybe watch one episode of your favorite show or play a video game you enjoy.
No matter what you do, in this situation, allow yourself a specific amount of time – 30 minutes, 2 hours, it doesn’t matter, if you stick to it. When that time is up, when the episode is over, when you beat that next level or boss in your game, return to your writing hopefully feeling ready to take it on.
Free Write to Push Through the Block
Especially when you’re on a tight deadline. Sometimes, the best thing – or the only thing – you can do is simply push through your writer’s block. It’s often better to send off something you’re not entirely happy with rather than nothing at all.
The best way to do this is often to free write and remember that it’s only a rough draft and nothing you write needs to be kept. In fact, you could scrap the whole thing and start over if you wanted. The important part is that you got past that initial block and put words to your page – any progress is better than no progress.
Work on Something Else
Then come back to the source of your block. Often, as writers, we find ourselves blocked on one specific thing when you’ve got dozens of projects happening simultaneously. Sometimes, the answer is as simple as working on something else for a little while and coming back to the trouble spot later.
It’s the same concept as not letting yourself get stuck on a single question on a test in school. If you don’t know the answer, move on to the next question and come back to that one later. When you’re feeling stuck, try writing something else for a bit – you might find it easier to work on when you come back to it later.
Remind Yourself That You’re A Great Writer
That’s why people read your work, that’s why clients hire you. When fear and imposter syndrome start to set in and you start to feel like you’re not good enough, or not qualified to write about something, change your mindset before it can cause you more problems.
Some of the biggest reasons that writers fail to follow through on publishing or procrastinate is fear or perfectionism resulting in imposter syndrome. Keep positive, look at your own by-line, look at the number of views your blog post got, the number of social shares. And remember that you’re a skilled writer who knows what they’re doing. No matter what, remember that writer’s block isn’t a permanent condition – it can be cured! The first step is understanding what you’re dealing with. Is this a case of regular writer’s block – or are you truly burnt out? After you figure that out, using one or more of these techniques you are sure to come back to your writing refreshed and ready to take on whatever has you feeling stuck.