The dreaded writer’s block. One most consistent writers know all too well.
The state of the brick wall. The lack of inspiration. The frustration. The agony. The sheer pain. The waiting. Hours, days, or even weeks until you can finally write again. Hardly ever an enjoyable experience.
If you’ve been there before (or you’re there right now), you’ll understand how discouraging writer’s block can be and how hard it is to overcome at times. That being said, there is always a way out.
Where there’s a will, there is a way! So I’m here to share a few of these ways that have helped me as a growing writer. I hope they can be of use to any blocked writers out there.
I’ll refer a bit to poets and writing poetry, but I believe these tips can help all types of writers. Whether you’re a novelist, a screenwriter or a blogger, these tips and tricks will be helpful when you’re overcoming a season of writer’s block.
What is writer’s block?
The Cambridge dictionary tells us that writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it” which I believe we can all agree with.
Based on my personal experience, writer’s block is the inability to express and verbalise my ideas in writing in the way I intend. This can happen for a number of reasons, whether it is because of a lack of passion for that specific project or a lack of full inspiration. At times it may be because I’m too tired to write or because I’ve neglected writing for a while.
Sometimes I’ll have the ideas, the inspiration and everything in between - but the words aren’t flowing or blending the way I want. I put pen to paper. I write things down just to erase them and start again and again. And again. This is especially true when I’m writing some of my poetry and the techniques just aren’t there.
So yes. Writer’s block.
Top Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block
If you can relate to anything I’ve just expressed, then you too may be suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. No matter how discouraged or demotivated you feel right now, it’s important to remember that this block will pass. And you will write well again. You just need to allow yourself to feel and overcome this season.
Below are some of the things that I do whenever I feel myself experiencing writer’s block.
Root out the cause of your writer’s block
The first thing that helps is understanding why you can’t write and rooting out the specific cause of your writer’s block. This will help you to tackle the issue in the most effective way and will have you writing again before you know it.
Common things that cause writer’s block:
Lack of inspiration
Often the inspiration is already there, it’s just currently unknown to you. In the tips below, I’ve noted some things to do that can spark inspiration when it’s not there.
For me I find that people watching, long walks or drives, sitting by water, spending time socialising and talking to people always sparks a new idea or inspiration. It’s important to give yourself time... That inspiring moment will come.
Writing is not about perfection, it’s about expression. Forget being perfect and seek to express yourself! Through practice, your writing becomes more refined and your skill is enhanced. If you never write, you’ll never improve. So leave the thought of needing to be perfect before you can write. Express yourself and enjoy your craft.
Fears and doubts
At times I neglect writing because I’m doubtful about my ideas and become fearful of how others will receive my work once I finally release it. This is simply nonsense.
Often, our fears are not grounded in reality, so don’t let fears stop you from doing something that you love – which is to write. Your writing isn’t that bad. People won’t hate your work. Your next project will not fail. Now go forth and prosper!
Lack of motivation
This is just something you must push through. If you’re not feeling motivated to write, your discipline should take over. Remember why you love writing and who you enjoy doing it for. If your love for your craft doesn’t motivate you to do more of it, then I do not know what will...
Stop procrastinating... Remove the distractions
If distraction is a cause of your writer’s block then focus on setting the right atmosphere for yourself to be productive. Depending on how you work, this could be at home, in a library or a coffee shop.
Don’t just write accidentally... Set aside time that you want to devote to this gift. Be intentional with it and don’t allow your surroundings to be a cause of your writer’s block.
Think, what atmosphere do you work and create the best in? How often do you access this atmosphere? What changes can you make you create this productive atmosphere more frequently?
For me, I enjoy waking up on Saturday mornings, making myself a nice breakfast, playing some relaxing instrumentals and settling down to write. This peaceful atmosphere really helps to clear my head and I’m more able to write effectively than on evenings after work when I'm tired, hungry and have a lot of things to do.
Even if you don’t have anything to say. Even if you think it’ll be bad. Write the words just as they come out. Through this you might find the idea or articulation that you were looking for.
Try free writing or complete writing tasks that stimulate your mind when you lack inspiration.
I usually write unfinished short stories just to get my mind stimulated. I find that unrelated writing tasks often gives me inspiration for a project that I’ve been working on.
Tasks that can get your mind flowing:
· Write about your perfect day
· Write the last dream that you had
· Write about your favourite person and what makes them special
· Write a letter to your younger or older self
· Describe your home to someone who’s never been there
· Write about your goals for the future
· Write about an embarrassing moment
Read some of your old work
Whenever I can’t write a new poem, I usually read some of my previous work. So I'll sit down with Words of Faith and enjoy my work.
Now, what this does for me is it restores my faith in my abilities. It inspires me reading old poems and I encourage myself to believe that my best work is yet to come. If I can write x, y, z... then I can write greater again. It’s only a matter of time!
If you’re ever struggling with writer’s block, read some of the things you’ve written before. Enjoy your work as a reader and appreciator of literature. And let that be your motivation to write again. It will encourage you to think of new possibilities and new content that will come.
Create a routine
A lecturer once told me that a great way to overcome writer’s block is to create a writing routine to follow. This will help to instil discipline in you and also make writing more of a consistent habit. This makes it more natural and so each time you sit down to write, the words will just flow! You’ll develop your writing abilities through practice, so when you come to write for different projects, you’ll have that experience under your belt.
A tip that was shared with me was to write first thing in the morning each day for a set period of time. So for example, wake up at 9am each morning and write for 30 minutes for one month. It doesn’t have to be for a specific project, just write.
Express what’s currently on your mind and what you’re looking forward to throughout the day. This practice will develop your writing skills, making it a little easier to find the words when writer’s block attacks. It’ll help you feel productive whilst experiencing a season of writer’s block right until you come out of it.
Try different forms of expression
Engaging in different creative activities might spark the words or ideas you need to continue writing. If you’re a writer struggling to write, try to express your ideas in a different way instead. This can be through art, music, dance or film.
There are so many different creative art forms that will refresh your mind and strengthen your skill in your specific discipline.
If all else fails... Just stop writing
Yes, that’s right. Stop writing. Not forever of course. But simply pause to take away the pressure and guilt of feeling that you need to write. Writing should be freeing and enjoyable, not something you must painfully force out.
I’m down with being disciplined to get work done but if you feel yourself forcing more than you are enjoying, maybe it’s time to take a step back from your writing. This will allow you to bounce back fresh and will often rekindle your passion and love for writing.
So pause, breathe, engage in other activities for a while and don’t feel bad about it. Your writing will thank you for it later.
If you have a creative way of combating writer’s block share it in the comments below and let’s help each other on this journey!
- Faithful xoxo