Lace up your motivation at our writer’s block boot camp
“Writer’s block is a myth!” . . . said no writer ever.
Sometimes, for no reason at all, your creativity just goes on strike. Trying to write feels like squeezing your brain out through your eyeballs, or attempting to make a cat take a bath – it just isn’t happening.
If you’re on a deadline or have specific writing goals, running out of inspiration and/or motivation is akin to torture. I’m sad to inform you that writer’s block is inevitable & stubborn and could strike at any moment.
Luckily for us all, there are ways to beat it.
The key to defeating writer’s block is to figure out how it wormed its way in. It’s easy to dismiss writer’s block as an occupational hazard, but if you can identify what triggered it, you can fight it off – and maybe even avoid it in the future.
Common causes of writer’s block include:
Many writers struggle to get words onto the page because they’re worried about the quality of their work. It’s an easy trap to fall into – everyone wants to be proud of their work – but that’s why we edit, get feedback, and redraft. You’re never going to get perfection from the get-go. If this is you, try to rewire your brain. Every time you think “This is terrible! I should just give up and become a [insert nightmare job]”, remind yourself that not completing your project – or, sin of sins, throwing it in the trash – is the only way to guarantee it gets worse, not better.
If your writing’s been going really well and you’re steaming along like a champ, hitting a sudden roadblock can be a real slap in the face. Could it be that you’re creatively worn out? As a society, we are getting better at looking after our bodies, but our minds often remain a little neglected. Simple things like getting enough sleep and having regular breaks away from writing are essential. How are you supposed to discover new ideas and find inspiration if all you do is stare at a screen? Your job as a writer is to produce pages, but it’s also to get outside and experience life: you know, that thing we’re all actually writing about. However, be wary of blaming writer’s fatigue when the reality is . . .
Do you blame your lack of writing progress on your environment or things out of your control – for example, a tidy desk or clean home? Maybe it needs to be a certain time of day, or you have to watch something “inspiring” on Netflix first? While it’s good to have a routine and favorite space in which to work, if your requirements are stopping you from actually getting things done, you need to ask yourself if these prerequisites are actually just excuses. Decide what your priorities are (hopefully writing) and complete them before you do anything else.
People often procrastinate and experience writer’s block because they’re afraid. This type of writer’s block can hard to beat because, as a writer, you’re putting your inner voice and thoughts onto a page for everyone to see. You may have been mulling over the idea for months, even years. Once it’s on paper or online, that idea is open to critique and interpretation. What if no one likes it and you’ve just wasted your time? There’s no quick fix for such fear – but reading about writers you admire might help. They will have all felt this same fear and overcome it. You can bet there will be plenty of their inspirational quotes available online, probably photoshopped onto pictures of stock saturated sunsets and epic panoramas.
Sometimes writer’s block is the sign of a problem in your narrative. (Perfectionists, do not panic!) If you’re stuck on a particular scene and don’t know how to advance past that point, maybe it’s because a character’s motivation isn’t clear, or there’s a plot hole that might destroy the reader’s/viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Or, maybe you know how to advance the plot – but are too bored to do so. If you’ve already ruled out fatigue as a suspect, is the problem scene unnecessary or just plain dull?
You have two options for solving this problem: put in a placeholder and come back to the scene later – you may even realize you never even needed it – or take a break from your writing by engaging in a completely different activity. Painting, baking, gardening, exercise – choose something that will leave you with a sense of achievement. Sometimes, just thinking over a story problem in bed before sleep can magically provide you with an answer come morning.
However you choose to deal with it, don’t let writer’s block stop you reaching your goals. The mark of a true professional is to keep on writing after inspiration & motivation abandon you. Even Stephen King, author of over 90 books, has experienced writer’s block. Maybe it’s actually a sign of greatness! Let’s keep telling ourselves that.