It is a writer’s worst fear – what they call ‘writer’s block’. Being frozen when you intend to work on your project. The idea that the well has officially dried up. Perhaps you encountered a deadline and just went blank because of the strain. Or, out of the blue, you cannot find the urge to write. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not exactly temporary.
The truth is that this is one of those moments every writer simply doesn’t relish. Sure, we can try to be reasonable and say…ah, what a relief! I’ll just take some much needed time off. No problem.
But then the fears creep in.
What if this is it?
What if my last story or book was the last one I’ll ever write?
Even if this is short-term, what if I lose my readers in the time it takes to get the urge back?
Will my best efforts be good enough?
All that, among other worries, of course.
Writer’s block happens, even to the best of us. We all have moments when life’s stressors have just overloaded our mental capacity to be creative any longer. Maybe there was a period of grief, financial strain, or a number of other personal situations that can interfere with one’s imagination. Whatever the cause – or even if you don’t believe there is one, it’s likely a multitude of things that fed into the block – do yourself a favor. Give your inner writer a break.
I really mean that.
Draw a deep breath. No matter how long your writer’s block lasts, it’s not going to do any good to stress too much over the whole thing. Why? For one, freaking out will not only put more stress on you, it may lengthen the period of the barrier jarring your creativity. I can name around two or three points in my life when I experienced writer’s block, and putting extra pressure on myself only made it ten times worse.
Let’s face it; as humans, we tend to fear the worst, and then we jump to try to fix everything. Even things that may not be so ‘fixable’. Often it’s not just a lack of willpower for a project which is blocking you, but a bunch of stressors that led to the problem. That’s why patience is key.
Stay positive. Believe me, I know it’s tough. Especially if the cause of the block is more emotional, it is harder to look up rather than down. But keeping a positive outlook, at least about your creativity, will seriously help. Plus, who knows? This could be a brief situation, right? That leads me to my next point.
Take a break. However long you need, take some time to chill. Relax, and STOP overthinking.
Go enjoy your life! Heck, go on vacation if necessary. That deadline or story will still be sitting there tomorrow. Why work yourself beyond your limits for something that may result in what…one word? Keep a small notepad on hand, just in case, though. You never know when a great line or idea will pop up, which you can use for a future project.
Distract yourself. Maybe this is a good time to really start launching your blog. Or work on that DIY project in the kitchen. Anything you have to do to distract yourself from the ‘block’ that’s hanging over your head, just do it. Some writers use this time to approach specific parts of the impending project that don’t require too much of your creative juices. For example, learning more about your characters, or doing research on the locations which you’ll use to create a great setting in the novel. It isn’t necessary at this point, though. In my opinion, throwing yourself into a project that has nothing to do with your book or story is better. But, hey, you may as well get some things done in the process. ;)
Measure the muse. You’re going to have moments that feel like false hope. You really want to work on your story, but you are afraid to dive in, that it might result in…well, nothing. If ideas are creeping up, it won’t hurt to write them down somewhere. However, be certain that your urge to write isn’t only a way to pressure yourself into finishing something. Until you’re truly ready to get fully immersed in the writing process, try to discern what urges are real or just temptation.
Other projects. Depending on the source of your writer’s block – an external reason, such as an event that happened in your personal life – or an internal writing dilemma, such as needing to resolve a plot conflict – it might even behoove you to work on a different idea entirely. Sometimes we have to step away from something to get better clarity.
Try writing a new story. Or, work on a project you’ve kept on the backburner for months or years. And if that doesn’t pan out, try using a different part of your brain. Edit a work in progress. At times the best solution is to do a complete turnaround. Maybe once you’re done with that project, you’ll have a ‘Eureka!’ moment and suddenly the motivation to work on whatever you had trouble with before will return.
The struggle is REAL, as they say. All right, let’s suppose that you can’t even handle working on a brand-new project, or something which is just sitting around. Consider other options. What might some of those be? Relax; I’ll tell you…
Reading is awesome! Huh? That’s right. If you’re a writer, you are almost certainly a reader at heart. Read a ton of books, especially those in your preferred genre. But don’t be afraid to change things up and try something that’s a little out of your wheelhouse from time to time.
Reading is actually a two-part “cure”, so to speak. It gets you out of your head, and into the fictional world. That’s where we love to be! Even better, it helps to familiarize you more with what other authors are doing, so you can develop your own style when you’re ready to start writing again.
You’re ready to dip your toes in the water of success. Notice I said ‘dip’. That means, for God’s sake, please…you gotta take it slow. Unless you’re an old pro at handling writer’s block, you do not want to relapse. I suggest you try a few writing exercises first. These are really helpful for jumpstarting a writer’s creativity. There are some great prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. And if you’ve never had a journal, consider the idea of journaling for a while. Sometimes you need to get all the junk out of your head before you can find the real meat which results in a story or book. We humans have so much going on up there!
To help you out, there are some links below with exercises or writing prompts that might get you started in the right creative direction. And if a book or story doesn’t come from any of these, don’t sweat it. This is just for fun. Remember, the point of writing is also to enjoy what you’re doing. Why else did you become a writer? :)
Ideas for Exercises
So…you’re finally ready to take on the real world. Okay, let’s say I trust your judgment. Perhaps that story or book, or even an entirely new one, is calling to you. Consider the following statement first.
Ease into the project at hand. As aforementioned, putting too much pressure on yourself all at once is just going to place you right back where you started. In the black hole of writer’s block, of course! Don’t get me wrong. I understand your excitement. To experience the genuine call of the muse is like a beautiful madness has descended upon you. But, try to be patient.
At first, cut the book or story into small segments, parts that are more approachable. Work on each section separately. Remember, you don’t want to find yourself in a pit of regression as soon as you’ve started. I like to separate everything into individual scenes or chapters that eventually make a whole, and even handle my research topics one at a time, so I don’t feel as overwhelmed. When you finish, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished overall.
Seriously…no worries. If you’re currently suffering from writer’s block, the best thing to do is to distract yourself and do your best not to stress out about it. The time will pass before you know it, and then the muse will return in full force. With some patience, you’ll be right back to constructing those stories freely, and enjoying your life as a writer. That’s what we’re here for anyway, right? ;)