Writer’s block can happen at any time. It is not a commentary on your ability to write. All kinds of artists experience blocks including musicians and performers. I am one of these and sometimes I just can’t practice. A trick I learned is to set a timer for 15 minutes. Practice for only that amount of time until you can start to increase it. It is a weird trick, but it works. Many creative people, in particular, experience writer’s block and other forms of being “stuck”. Who else is terrified sitting at a blank screen and a keyboard?
A blog on Psychology Today.com by Susan Reynolds says “Writing isn’t for sissies”. She suggests that there is a lot of “thinking” that goes into writing. We think harder than most people who are (paraphrasing here) happy to punch in and punch out of a job without investing too much of themselves. Maybe that’s true, but I can’t speak for everyone else.
Writer’s Block Scenarios
Here are a few things that have happened to me when I write and my opinion of the causes.
- Thinking really hard on a subject or about a character and trying to find a first line to start the narrative (fear of failure; perfectionism)
- Sitting down to write and having a running list of things to do playing in the background (distractions)
- Writing along and all of a sudden you forget where you are and can’t remember what you were supposed to be writing (jolted out of a flow and you can’t get back in)
- Having too many ideas (distractions)
- Worrying about the reader of your material. Are you writing something that anyone cares about? (existential crisis)
All of these are either a result of internal stress or will cause an unending loop or anxiety. So what do I do?
Claire’s Simple Solutions
I’m not a doctor or therapist, but I have had multiple careers and have worked as an artist or with artists most of my life. I am super familiar with creative blocks and I have some suggestions to offer for each of the numbers above.
- 1A: Walk away from the screen and do something else. If it isn’t going to happen then let it go and open up to other possibilities.
- 2A: Make a physical list of all the things from the tape in your head. Usually the list is a lot smaller than it seemed to be a minute ago when it was lodged in your gray matter.
- 3A: Stand up, stretch, walk around a bit, make some tea, get a snack, and return to your work after a few minutes. Your flow has already been interrupted so the best thing you can do is relieve the pressure. You also want to shut down the voice in your head that is beating you up for not getting back into the groove immediately.
- 4A: For too many ideas, bring out the pencil or iphone list app and jot them down. Organize them into categories (if this applies) and leave it until tomorrow.
- 5A: When you write a first draft, write what you feel you want or need to write. Let an editor or a reader tell you what’s wrong with what you’ve done. You can’t be your own critic and create at the same time.
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