Let’s talk about some ways to bust through writer’s block!
No, seriously. I’m all ears.
I’ve had more than one request for covering the topic of dealing with writer’s block – but I’m afraid that it’s pretty much the blind reading the blind. Writer’s block is one of those mysteries I have yet to develop a solution for. I’ve read countless articles, blog posts, books, etc. about how to overcome it, but I really haven’t found a solution that works for me, every time. Here are a few of the things I have seen suggested, so feel free to give them a try.
- Exercise before you sit down to write
- Write while standing (put your notepaper or computer on a high counter)
- Write while sitting on an exercise ball instead of on a chair
- Brainstorm while exercising (this one works for me most frequently, when the exercise is walking)
- Think about something else for a while; clean house, watch a TV show, etc. before going back to your writing
- Work on a different writing project temporarily
- Try meditating or deep breathing exercises to relax and clear your mind
- Do a warm-up writing exercise
- Listen to music that motivates or inspires you
- Find a friend who can be a sounding board for ideas
I have personally had success with these in varying degrees. But a lot of times, writer’s block feels like a antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, where each type of ‘treatment’ works partially, but then results in a vengeful relapse. Most frequently, I have success with walking around while brainstorming, trying to act out how scenes will go. Then, I have all of these great ideas…
…which somehow don’t make it through the keyboard. Sometimes, I just sit and stare at the monitor.
Most of the time, I have project-specific writer’s block. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this might be the more common problem. There are some people who are of the opinion that if you have a long period of blockage on a specific project, then you need to dump it and move on to another, in the same way that you would dump a bad relationship. However, I think this is a bad policy. It leads to a cycle of starting things and never finishing them, which has honestly been a problem for me my whole life.
My problem is that I tend to give up at the first sign of mental resistance, when perseverance would probably make a difference (in the same way it does with housework or chores). This is especially crippling when I have true writer’s block – where I really can’t seem to write anything. But for when it’s just a specific project, I tend to work on frivolous side projects in an effort to break through the writer’s block on the main project. Sometimes, it works.
Usually, it doesn’t.
What this says to me is that perseverance is really the only way to actually get through writer’s block. There is one solution that tends to work, but it requires pushing past that resistance: fake it ‘til you make it. It seems disingenuous. You’re not writing from your soul! But let’s face it, if the soul isn’t writing when you need to be, then you need to take action. You can’t edit a blank page, etc. etc.
All of this great advice won’t do anything for you unless you’re willing to try to crash through the brick wall yourself. So that’s that. Can’t write? Write anyway! It seems to overlook the main problem, which is that you can’t write.
This is the real question. Why can’t you write? You’re capable of it, so what’s the issue? A lot of times, it goes deeper than that simple feeling of helplessness you have when you look at your computer screen. This is where we get to talk about fancy psychological stuff. Victoria Lynn Schmidt, author of the book “Book in a Month,” suggests that the reason we have writer’s block is because we actually are resisting the writing. It’s not that the writing eludes us – it’s that we are subconsciously holding it back.
If you have a project that you really hate, it’s obvious where the resistance is coming from. But what if it’s a project that you’re really passionate about? What then?
Well, what happens when you’ve finished writing something? You have to edit it. You have to critique it. You have to be mean to it. You’re going on a quest to find all of the flaws in the work you’ve done. And, chances are, you’re going to have other people help you in this process, which is even worse.
In other words, when you finish a writing project, you are rewarded for your labor with even more grueling labor, and it can be really depressing. Subconsciously, you think, “If I never finish this project, I’ll never have to criticize it.” This is really unproductive thinking. Criticizing it can’t be any worse than sitting there feeling miserable about the fact that you can’t write.
Schmidt suggests that if you find the true core of your writing anxieties, acknowledge and address that fear, then you will be able to break past the writer’s block. Once you’ve done that, then all of the tricks that I listed above should be able to help you.
But, it’s not a one-and-done process. You have to keep working on it, or it comes back.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that writer’s block doesn’t have any one single cure. It’s a constant process. It doesn’t matter what method you use – the point is that you keep trying anyway. Don’t resign yourself to it.
I hope that this has helped some. Like I said, I’m all ears for methods of breaking through the block.
Maybe someday we’ll find the cure.
Have you tried any of the methods I listed above? How did they work out for you? Do you have a favorite writer’s-block-busting technique? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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