Just for the irony of it, I really wanted to leave this page completely blank.
I’m certain such a jape would garner not only smiles and laughter from such a canny witticism but more predominantly a solidarity from writers the world over. However, that wouldn’t be much use to those of you hoping for an explanation into this stumbling block and a few clues into how to beat it. So here we go. Let’s hope they get you over your hump and back to business.
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block is the horrifying moment where everything, absolutely everything, dries up. Your ideas, your creativity, your drive and your will to sit down and write a single word you can be proud of has taken leave from your brain and it feels like it isn’t coming back in any kind of a hurry.
Why has it so suddenly and cruelly hijacked your usual process?
Your brain might be busy processing something else. You may have all sorts of ideas but at this moment in time there isn’t a single one of them that seems good enough to be worth starting on or you might simply be tempted by all the other things that you could be doing instead if your heart just isn’t in it.
They’re all valid reasons and there’s plenty more to boot. Most of the time we’re scared to write in case it’s not going to be good enough for those we’re writing for and worse still, not good enough for ourselves. We want everything we write to be the best it can be and if we don’t have that confidence in our work then there’s a good chance it probably won’t be. So tell yourself, you’ve done it before and you can do it again. Convince yourself. It’s in there, and you can eek it out, it’s just going to take a little effort on your behalf.
Sometimes you just can’t force it
Rubbish. Sit at the screen and force it. Do it. That is without doubt the very first thing you should try.
Write. Just write.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’, well, writing, or attacking any creative outlet, is pretty similar. So many times all you really need is a kick-start. So write. What comes out might not be the brilliance you’re hoping for but maybe, just maybe, it will be the first step into a re-write, an edit or a fine tune into something that has the makings of such
brilliance. Fake it until you make it. That’s my best advice to you. Try. Force yourself, and then if that doesn’t work, move down the list and come back to it again when you’ve given yourself the break, the recharge, or whatever else you can try to re-gather and regroup your thoughts. Then try again. But do try. Try.
So what else should we do?
We should examine what we think our problem is and if we can, fix it. Generally we think we’ve got nothing to write about, we have no good ideas, and perhaps we don’t have any ideas so start with that. How should we go about digging some up? How do we get that ideas pool topped back up so we can swim about in it again?
Sit back and think
Where do your ideas usually come from? If they’re part of your thinking process then think. If they come from inspiration, then go read other material that would normally inspire. If they come by accident from conversation then pick up the phone and talk to someone who can help you juggle things up a bit. Brainstorming is good. Not only will you have an opportunity to create some good ideas out of practically nowhere but also the psychology of spending time with friends will feed the healthy chemicals in your brain it needs to better enjoy the challenge you’re really facing.
Go find your answers
If your thought processes require solidarity or space then get out of the office. Go for a walk or a run. Go sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Any one of the people you notice in passing might be the trigger for what you’re missing. Stories are all about people’s actions and reactions after all, why not get some first hand experience of how they behave outside of your mind?
Reboot your system
Not your computer, your head. For half an hour, ten minutes or half a day, go turn off and do something completely unrelated. Tell yourself that a break is all you need. When you do go back to the job hopefully your brain will have believed you and subconsciously prepared a host of new ideas for when it knows you’re going to start again, with a newly added vengeance to get the job done.
Instant access inspiration is a great place I find. Listen to some music but put your headphones on and really listen. If it’s passionate and has a point, or a story, there could be something in there you can glean for yourself. It often takes just one line to get you moving and once that big old ball is rolling
there’s often no stopping it. As we learned earlier, sometimes it’s just about getting started and if one line from one song, or one poem, or one meme even, then that’s worth its weight in gold for you.
Not out of panic if there’s a deadline looming — but from exercise. One of the ways we can help our brain to perform at its best is to stimulate our body. Get your blood flowing to all corners of your body and soul and it could well be enough to fire up those dormant neurones and drive them into action.
Be positive — avoid the negative trap
The worst thing you can do is to become maudlin and think negative thoughts.
Don’t wallow in your failure so far.
Don’t make excuses; you’re better than that for sure.
And don’t give up.
All of these things will just reaffirm your brain’s current pathway that it’s useless and has already failed. So take a time-out but as soon as you can get back on that horse. Go back to where we started, tell yourself you’ve got this, pick up your pen or boot up your computer and write.
Start somewhere new, somewhere you’ve already been. Start anywhere. Write anything. Write a bad idea if you have nothing else. You can delete it if it really was that terrible; but then decide why it was so terrible and write a better one. It’s only a draft after all; it doesn’t need to be genius. The genius might be hidden somewhere in between the lines you haven’t written yet SO WRITE.
If you do, I’ll bet my shirt you’ll get a lot further than if you didn’t. More than likely it will be the stepping-stone you needed to get off the rollercoaster and back on track.
So do we understand each other? Do you know what to do now?
Well what are you waiting for?