Many writers have experienced writer’s block at some point. Whether it’s not being able to come up with an idea or having a ton of ideas but not being able to commit to any of them. Getting stuck on a specific part of an outline or chapter, hitting a dead end and not knowing where your story took a wrong turn, not being able to find the right words, or having your inner critic shoot you down.
Many think that writer’s block can be overcome through sheer willpower. We want it to go away enough, then it will. However, sheer willpower doesn’t work all the time because there is usually something internal going on that we may be missing.
This internal conflict may be fear. We may have a voice in our head that says we’re not good enough, that we’re never going to get published, that everyone will think our writing is rubbish, or it could be the opposite.
Veronica Roth has dealt with anxiety issues due to caring a lot about what other people think. When she got famous, her anxiety spiked because she was in the public’s eye, and every person that read her work, and some that didn’t, were weighing in their opinions.
Some of those opinions weren’t pretty, especially when it came to Allegiant, the final book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Commenters said she destroyed her career, they gave her book one star reviews, and there were even some death threats. Talk about being negative, and wanting someone to conform to what people believe an ending should be.
But before I go too far down that bunny trail, let’s get back to writer’s block.
How do people get unstuck?
First off, understand what’s going on in your head when you get blocked. To do this, you need to become aware, to consider alternatives. It doesn’t help to use trial and error, to wait for inspiration, or to insist on a perfect draft.
Heads up: Perfectionism is a very good way to develop writer’s block.
Work on separating your inner voice from the daily world. If you’re worrying about what to get at the grocery store, whether or not you got an A on your biostatistics test, if your boss was happy with your latest article, if your boyfriend is still mad at you for not calling him back, and the fact that you haven’t had time to workout for three days in a row, you’re going to have a difficult time delving into your creative side.
Some ways to help connect with your inner voice:
- Take a break from whatever you’re writing and do anything that’s creative. Paint, take pictures, make a scrapbook, woodwork, work on your website or blog.
- Exercise. Doesn’t have to be strenuous. Get up and dance, practice yoga, go on hike or a walk around the neighborhood. Go for a bike ride. Find something that brings you to a peaceful state.
- Free write. Take fifteen-twenty minutes to write whatever comes to you. It can be completely random, grammatically incorrect, and with a ton of punctuation errors. Just write.
- Eliminate distractions. Put the phone away. Log off Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and whatever else you use for social media. Clean up your workspace. Find a quiet place to work. Let your family know that solitude is important to staying focused.
Most importantly, let go of your insecurities. That’s a lot easier said than done. But once you work through your fears and not worry about what others think, you’ll find the creative side of you is readily available.
Two quotes for overcoming writer’s block:
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” – Ernest Hemingway
“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.” – Jennifer Egan
Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?