5 Things About Writer’s Block No One Tells You
I’ve got nothing
How many times have you sat down in front of your computer to work on your latest blog post or writing project only to discover that you’ve got nothing to say.
I know it’s happened to me, and it’s probably happened to you. In fact the only people who never get writer’s block are the ones who never try to write anything.
However, this isn’t just an issue for us neurotic writers. This type of creative paralysis can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a painter, a musician, a choreographer, or someone who crochets sweaters for cats — whenever you try to create something new, chances are you’re going to get stuck somewhere along the way.
Having said that, we’re going to use writers as our example because “creative block” sounds pretty lame.
#1 It’s not permanent
Even though when you’re stuck in the middle of it you may feel like it will never end, writer’s block will eventually go away as long as you keep writing (or attempting to write ).
It can be hard to know the best way to get through these types of creative droughts because sometimes you just need to keep banging your head on the keyboard, while other times you may need to step away from it and let your writer’s block run its course like the flu.
Either way, writer’s block won’t last forever so it might be a good time to restock your creative well by reading more books, copying passages from the masters, or even getting your pasty little self outdoors for a few minutes to soak up some sunshine.
If you’re afraid you can’t write, the answer is to write. ~Richard Rhodes
#2 Everyone gets it
You don’t get writer’s block because you’re special or because you are being punished by the universe.
You’re not defective and you are definitely not alone. The only reason someone gets writer’s block is because they had the guts to write something and writing is not always as easy as it looks.
Writer’s block is simply part of the creative process.
Let’s face it, sometimes words will easily flow through our fingertips and sometimes they won’t. The key is to give them every opportunity to do so. This may mean sitting down to write even when you have nothing to say, or it might mean writing page after page of random crap until things eventually sort themselves out.
#3 Inspiration comes from working not waiting
One of my favorite quotes is from the author Jack London who once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” This comes from a man who wrote over 50 books, dozens of articles, collections of poetry, and essays within a period of just over 20 years. So the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to sitting down and getting to work.
By writing much, one learns to write well. ~Robert Southey
You can’t wait around for inspiration to find you. You’ve got to be writing and creating even if it’s on something completely unrelated to what you want to be working on.
Sometimes you need to force yourself to write crap.
Sit down, open up a blank text file, and just get your fingers moving. Use this as an opportunity to sort out that idea that’s been swirling around inside your mind but you just can’t seem to get your head around.
Write down all of those disjointed random thoughts that don’t seem to fit anywhere but are too good to just throw away. That’s the beauty of this type of exercise — it doesn’t have to flow, have a logical order, or even make sense. This is not something you’ll probably ever read again but simply a way for your subconscious thoughts to organize and work themselves out.
Sometimes you may also need to get out of the house and out of your routine to write
Grab a notebook and a pen and head to your local library or a quiet corner of your favorite coffee shop. If the weather is nice get outside, go to a park and take a walk. When you find a comfortable spot, just pull out your notebook and write. Don’t try to push through what you’ve been stuck on, just write about whatever is going through your head.
The point is to simply get your words and ideas moving again.
#4 Writer’s block is often fear in disguise
Ask any type of creative artist when they get stuck and most of them would tell you the same thing. We tend to get stuck at the beginning of a new project, and then again when we’re close to completing it.
It doesn’t matter whether your are staring at a blank page or an empty canvas, beginnings are hard.
Part of it is that we are never 100% sure if we are working on the right project to begin with, so the doubts start creeping in. What if this new idea is stupid? What if I don’t have the skills/talent/experience to pull this off? What if I’m just wasting my time? Instead of writer’s block, maybe it should be called writer’s doubt.
Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer.
We also tend to get stuck near the end of our projects.
In other words, if the beginning of a project doesn’t completely shut you down, you can look forward to the ‘almost done blues’. This is usually when fear really rears its ugly head and we start second-guessing every decision we’ve made up to that point.
We also tend to freeze up at the end because we’re afraid of being judged.
We hesitate to finish our project not only because our final result falls short of our original vision, but also the idea of having to stare at another blank page scares the crap out of us.
#5 It’s not going away
The last (not so) bit of good news, is that writer’s block is never really something that we outgrow.
Despite what you may have read on the internet, there is no “cure” for writer’s block. We can’t outrun it, avoid it, or pretend it doesn’t exist — because as long as you’ve got the nerve to write or create something, it will always come back. It’s simply the nature of the beast.
All we can do is keep pushing ourselves forward and find a way to work through it. We need to have faith in ourselves and our ability to create, taking comfort in the fact that if we’ve done it once, we can do it again.
Fear and doubt may never leave us alone, but we don’t have to let it stop us.
How do you deal with getting stuck?
What do you do when your creative imagination shuts down?
What kind of things have you done to snap yourself out of it and get back to work?
Do you think overcoming writer’s block gets easier over time?
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.