How do I overcome writer’s block? Writers block, regardless of the reason, is when the writer can’t produce new words on the page or can’t focus to edit written work. I hear writer’s block explained with root causes ranging from lack of focus to lack of inspiration or from lack of skill to lack of confidence.
“Writer’s block” happens at some point, to some extent, to all writers. Admit it, life happens and can take us away physically, emotionally, and mentally from writing. Frustration builds. Stress builds. All getting worse and worse as more pressure is applied to: “Got to write! Got to write! Write, right now!” The focus on writing gets lost as the writer’s block becomes the bigger story instead.
I thought this was a great topic for today because it’s the start of the holiday season. I note this timing because I suffered from “writer’s block” this morning. It stemmed from my wanting to be somewhere else, but trying to force “good use of the writing time” while sitting in my office. My college son is home. I heard him and his brother wrestling in the living room and laughing. Part of me wanted to yell, “Take it outside, boys!” Another part of me wanted to sneak up on them. The mature, more responsible part of me whispered, “Ignore them and get back to work.” I had a writing project needing my attention. The problem: I was conflicted and focused somewhere other than my writing. Writing wasn’t happening.
Overcoming writer’s block is an individual answer, but what follows are some methods that work for me. (FYI: I’m writing this after taking a break to use a Nerf gun to sneak up on the boys and chase them outside for a while. It felt good to laugh for a few minutes.)I know myself too well. With what was happening in my house, I wasn’t going to block out my children’s laughter. Even if I couldn’t hear them, I knew they were there. Trying to ignore these facts caused stress and resentment, therefore, feeding the writer’s block. I had a choice to make.
Plan A: Sit here for two hours, frustrated, and not get anything written. Or Plan B: Go play and laugh for 30 minutes and get those good endorphins released into the body. Plan B won. I sat outside for a while, then came indoors to write for a few hours.
A primary way to diminish writer’s block is not to set unrealistic goals, like writing 5,000 words a day. Before a writer knows it, they need to write 40,000 words today to catch up. Or don’t plan to write every day from 4 until 6 a.m. if you’re not a morning person. I call these tactics setups for failure.
With that said, sometimes writer’s block is born from distractions, therefore, get rid of distractions. For example, figure out how to block out the TV by closing a door or turning on your choice of soothing music, even if it means putting on headphones.
Pack up and move to a different location to write. Sometimes a change of scenery allows the mind to focus better. It is as simple as moving from a desk in the office to a table in a different room. Try taking the laptop to a big comfy chair. Another option is a local coffee shop or library. I’ve gone to a picnic table in the park to write on a beautiful day. While at the park, go for a walk and just breathe. Focus on the clouds in the sky or leaves on the trees. There are creative benefits that occur when increased oxygen levels penetrate different parts of the brain.
Another idea: Do some sort of activity that doesn’t require much thinking or a different kind of thinking, like coloring, cooking, a simple puzzle, free style building with blocks. I hear writers talk about meditation and yoga, too. I’ve sometimes journal just to do some sort of writing. Try free writing with a set timer and write about whatever comes to mind, even if it’s how dumb this free-writing time is. See where your hand and mind take that writing exercise.
Also, it’s a mixed blessing, but I think clearly when I relax enough to go to sleep. Sometimes I’ll lay down and just before I doze off my mind produces the perfect title, blog topic, or chapter theme, so I get back up and write.
I don’t recommend a writer lock themselves away for long periods of time, trying to ignore family or friends, especially during the holiday season. Time is precious. Join in and get fully committed to the shenanigans for a little while. Have some fun! Let lose. Give yourself permission to participate in life. Then write.
Forced focus on “I need to write now!” keeps the very thing we want to do from happening. The writing process should create a sense of accomplishment, the process itself should be fun. If it isn’t, take a break.