“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Samuel Beckett
Some of history’s greatest writers have admitted to have faced the very infamous writer’s block. But what we need to remember is that being blocked didn’t make them legendary – overcoming it did. A writer’s block, as we know it, is an inevitable omen. Studies in this regard have shown that writers who allow themselves to be stuck in this block can actually end up in depression. They show several symptoms commonly linked with depression, including self-criticism, low self-esteem, self-doubt, procrastination, and a compulsive need for perfection. While that is quite scary, as people who have to write professionally on a daily basis, our biggest challenge is that we CANNOT afford to be blocked. At all.
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There are some jobs that are purely technical, that can be controlled with your knowledge and expertise, and have very little or no dependence on external factors. Sure, they have their own set of problems and mental blocks, and I’m not discounting any of that. But facing a creative block at work, when you’re already over-burdened with deadlines and more work is just the worst feeling ever! If you’re a full-time writer, you know it better than anyone else. Every writer has to face, struggle, and overcome their writer’s block.
You’re not bored, you’re not lazy. Your fingers are throwing all these random words on the paper, but your heart is in pain because you know it’s not right. You know you’re blocked, but what can you do about it? Here are a few tried and tested solutions:
Movement is a proven cure for creative blocks. Change rooms. Put on some music and dance a little. Pack your work and take it to a coffee shop or a bookstore. Sometimes, a writer’s block can stem from monotony, or lack of newness, or plain and simple occupational burnout. A new place, new people, or a new environment can have a very positive impact on your mind.
Draw up a schedule. Discard all clutter from your work area. Switch off your phone. Close all tabs on your browser, and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts. Some writers use tools like Wattpad, Ommwriter to focus better. Others challenge themselves with NaNoWriMo. No single technique can work for everyone, so experiment till you find yours!
Go wash some dishes or finish your laundry. Bake a pie or surprise your family with a home-cooked meal! Some writers also feel that choosing another creative project over writing can sometimes work as the perfect muse. This can include painting, or designing your garden, or reorganising your jewellery box. Taking your mind off the constant pressure of ‘being blocked’ can be a good way of actually, really forgetting all about it.
What better way to seek inspiration to write than through words! Take a break and pick a book. Allow yourself to get lost in the world of another author for a while, until you’re ready to return to your own!
You’re blocked. You’re staring at a blank screen. This is not the moment to obsess over perfection. Write in bullet points. Write without sentences. Write in your native language, if that helps. It does not have to be perfect, it just has to be written! In the words of American cartoonist and author James Thurber, “Don't get it right, just get it written.”
Free writing is a concept where you write without intention or agenda. Forget about your writer’s block for a bit. Pick a notepad and write about anything that comes to your mind – your grocery list or your books-to-read list, for example. Think of your topic and write down every idea, no matter how ridiculous or irrelevant it is. Do this for 10-15 minutes and then read through your work. Something in the random musings could be just the inspiration you needed!
“Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.” - Jacques Barzun, historian
More often than not, we get stuck at one particular point in the prose and can’t find a way ahead. Leave it be. Move ahead, or go back – writing doesn’t have any rules. If you can’t find a way to begin your article, don’t stress over it too much. Draft an outline for the rest of the piece and come back to the introduction in the end. Sometimes getting stuck to patterns can restrict your natural flow and ease of writing.
It’s the easiest and the most obvious solution! A writer’s block is challenging, but you will never overcome it if you let it get to your head. It takes jumping off a cliff to face the fear of heights, or a scuba-dive to get over your fear of water. As author Charles Bukowski said, “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” So write, even if it doesn’t make any sense. It’s your work, and no one is watching, so you can always go back and edit, approve or throw it out the window. But to do that, you have to write first. Your muse is not going to just come knocking to your doorstep by itself, you’ve got to entice it.
What works for one person might not work for others. Most times, any one of these tips might work for you instantly. At others, a combination of two or three, and sometimes, you might have to try them all, and it still might not be enough! Writing is challenging, which is what makes it so beautiful. You just have to choose to hang in there and never surrender. Happy writing!