So – what is writer’s block? It’s that dreaded blank page on your computer staring accusingly at you for not having putting words on it.
Writer’s block can be caused by:
So, what can we do about it? Here are a few suggestions:
A lot of people think that they can’t write. They want to, but they’re convinced that they don’t have the skills or talent. Ironically writing isn’t really about talent – it’s about persistence. Successful people in almost all areas of life have one thing in common – they have stamina. Successful writers are no different.
If you can string a coherent sentence together then you are a competent writer. If you practice a lot, then you can be a good writer. Don’t take my word for it – its Stephen King’s opinion.
So, if it’s not about talent and it is about hard work then unless you’re not up for the graft there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid about writing. Fear should not be stopping you getting those words done.
The desire to write a ‘good’ book is enough to dry up any writer’s creative flow. The truth is that very few people want to read a ‘good’ book – most of us want to read a good story. I’ve known quite a few storytellers whose words would jump off the page and transport you to a different time and place. Then just as you were blissfully travelling through this unfamiliar world, you’d get thrust out by the writer starting to write a ‘good’ book.
Not only is perfect the enemy of the good, you can spend your entire life writing the same chapters of your book, and I know people who are currently doing just that. They write, rewrite, edit and edit some more.
There’s no such thing as perfect and frankly it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any professionally published books without typos or other mistakes. So, no matter how many times your rewrite and obsessively edit – you will miss something. Make it good, damn good and then move on.
More than that perfect is not interesting. Perfect literary genius may be for the likes of the terribly well-read but if you want real people to read your writing then make it good, make it interesting – tell them a good story.
If you are looking for perfection – give it up now – it’s not only not going to happen – it’s not a desirable outcome for a writer. If you consciously give up the desire for your writing to be perfect this will no longer prove a block.
Writing is one of the roles in life where our imperfections and flaws are beneficial to telling stories. The more experiences and life we have lived the more stories we have to tell.
Moving from right brain to left.
We spend most of our lives in our left brain. That’s our logical, rational side and we use it for work, school, even paying our bills, doing our shopping. We are well practiced at getting into that logical space.
We are much less practiced at getting into and staying in our right brain where our creativity comes from. Creative pursuits are often pushed aside in our efforts to get through study and school.
For most people getting out of the left brain into the right is difficult. Staying there and letting the creativity flow is even harder. This is one of the most common causes of writer’s block. Once you get into your writing don’t stop to edit, research or proofread – these are all left-brain activities. Stay in the right side of your brain and if you have an idea jot it down and leave it until you’ve finished writing.
Do not edit while you’re writing. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this will make to your writer’s block.
Not many of us perform as well as we can in anything if we’re exhausted. Rather than pushing your brain and your body – stop and take a break. Get some sleep and come back to it.
Not reading enough
At the risk of sounding like a Stephen King super fan – he says ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’
He’s right – every profession has its required skills and practice. Reading is as important as practicing your writing. It is the primary research for a writer. We learn about different styles, character development and reveals, pace, the arc of a story, points of view, showing and not telling – from reading as much as we can. It’s not an elective option – it’s a must do!
More than that – we are all stimulated by other people’s work – in the same way music, art and people watching get our creative juices flowing.
If I’m struggling to get those words flowing, I will stop and read a book. A good book and even a bad book will have me desperate to get back to my own writing.
Our heads these days are noisy, full of everything we are expected to store in those overworked cells. It can be particularly difficult to get into the creative side of our brain if we have a lot on our mind, or something is worrying or annoying us.
There is a sure-fire way to clear this out so that we can move on with our writing. Take a piece of paper and a pen and handwrite for 10-15 minutes. Don’t take your pen off the page – just write – whatever comes to mind. It is only for you to read so let yourself be free to say anything you think or feel, even bad language! You can say ‘Nicole told me to do this stupid thing, blah, blah, blah …’ if you want but do not take that pen from the paper. This stream of consciousness writing is powerful for clearing our minds.
Anything you’re worried about or that’s irritating you can be spilled on those pages. Once you’ve done it – you can keep it or not, but it will clear the space for you to get back into your writing.
I use this as a daily journaling process and find it incredibly helpful. Anything that clears our minds of the constant noise is positive. It can clarify why something has managed to get under your skin. Often part of a story will come out of this type of writing. Make sure that the results of this journaling are for your eyes only or you will subconsciously censor yourself and that will reduce the effectiveness of the process.
Most of us have experienced those nights where despite our best efforts we can’t sleep. Inevitably it’s the night before a day where we must be at our best. What we know is that the worst option is to lie in bed and get stressed about not being able to sleep. The stress makes it much less likely that we will get to sleep causing a negative cycle. The best advice is usually to get up and do something else and then try again later.
Writing isn’t different – if you’re starting to stress about not being able to write then it will be the same. Disconnect from it, leave it for a while, have a cuppa and read for a while. Then try again later.
For all of this – the very best way to prevent writer’s block is to get yourself into the habit of regular writing. Eventually you will it just as natural to be in the right side of your brain as it is your left. There is no replacement for writing every day.
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