Writer's Block: Overcoming Loss of Inspiration
Have to ever found yourself staring at a blank screen, completely unable to come up with the words to fill it? You know you have the skill and ability to write, however for some reason the words will not come.
Most writers will at some point face a degree of writer's block. How intense this blockage is, as well as it's causes, will determine the length of time it lasts and how to overcome it.
For some, writer's block may simply last a day or two; for others it can be months or years before it lifts. Writers block can even cause someone to eventually stop writing all together.
It helps to know what causes writers block, how to deal with it and possible ways to avoid it.
Causes and Solutions:
It is important to understand that there are many causes of the blockage, some easier to deal with than others. Recognising the source can help you overcome it.
In some cases there may be multiple reasons for you losing inspiration, all combining to stop your creative flow.
Writer's block can be caused by issues connected to your writing, or it can come from external factors which are completely unconnected to writing.
What is Writer's Block?
Writer's block is when a writer hits a point where ideas, inspiration and creativity disappear, leaving them unable to write, despite trying.
The writer may sit down, attempting to compose their masterpiece, but find themselves unable to to come up with anything; or can reach the point where they totally lose the motivation to even try, wanting to avoid the pen and paper altogether.
At this level, the mere thought of writing can trigger a lack of desire and interest.
As well as finding your brain cannot produce ideas and creativity, it can also affect the emotions, causing a lack of motivation, feelings of despair and hopelessness. Stress can occur, especially when there is pressure on the author to produce, either self imposed or due to deadlines when the work needs to be complete by.
This can occur in varying degrees of intensity, sometimes just minor blockages, or a more serious situation can arise where even the most creative writer can find themselves unable to come up with anything for months.
A) Causes Connected to Your Writing
1) Run out of Inspiration
At times, even a very creative person can run out of ideas. This can apply to two different areas:
- Lack of ideas on topics to write about.
- Lack of inspiration once you have the idea. You have something to write about, but knowing what to say and how to express it simply won't come your way.
Sometimes a good way to deal with this is to do some research, look around at what others have said about the subject, and note down some ideas as they come. Doing some surfing around the internet can help.
Ideas can come at different times of the day or night, not just when you looking for inspiration. Keep a notepad or tablet handy to note down thoughts and sentences as you get them. These can be very useful later when you want to compose your creation.
Pressure over your writing can come from a few sources, including:
- Feeling like you have so much to write about, and not enough time to do it.
- Time pressure to complete a work. The pressure that comes from needing to complete a work can itself cause a block, delaying the work.
- Pressuring yourself by being overly perfectionist and critical of your writing.
We all deal with pressure in different ways, however if you find yourself unable to overcome it, the onset of writer's block can cause a far greater delay than something like taking a coffee break.
Sometimes a short break to relieve the pressure can make you far more efficient and effective in the long run, enabling you to complete your project.
3) Feelings of Inadequacy
You may feel like you are not good enough to produce anything worth reading. This can be self imposed, or as a result of comments other people have made.
Maybe you have written and written so much that your mind has reached the place of over-saturation, to the point it eventually rebels against any attempt to conjure up words from its depths.
Some of the tips further down will help you to deal with your mind being over saturated.
5) Coming to the end of one work, and simply losing motivation to start the next.
In this case some time off may be a good idea to allow your mind time to rest, and for the creative ideas to begin to flow again
7) Writer's block itself can cause further writers block!
Minor blockages can cause stress, and result in you further pressuring yourself. This can amplify the problem and increase the blockage.
This is where it is important to learn to overcome the early onset of writer's block before it develops into a major problem.
B) External Factors Not Connected to Writing:
At times in life when you are facing a lot of stress, it can cause your creativity to lessen, or even stop flowing for a while.
Short term and long term illnesses can both have an effect on writing motivation and creativity.
As with stress, internal emotional issues you are facing, like depression, can hugely affect your creative inspiration.
Human beings are not machines that can simply keep going and going without adequate sleep. When our minds become tired, they tend to start shutting down and rebelling against our attempts to bring forth ideas.
You need to know when to put the pen down, and go to bed. Something as simple as a sleep will not only refresh your body, but your mind too.
You also need to be aware of factors that can trigger stress, illness or depression, and the effect they will have on writing. Things like going through a relationship break up, financial challenges or changes in career will all have an impact upon your internal condition and can have a knock on effect onto your writing.
If the cause of your block is illness, or stresses outside of the writing itself, you may need to seek professional help; or seek ways to deal with the external stresses.
When life is putting on pressure, it is important to find ways for yourself to deal with the pressure.
Talking About Your Stress to Someone Who Will Listen
We all deal with our internal condition in different ways. Some internalise them, keeping them hidden from anyone else. Others are better at sharing them with someone.
You may find that talking with someone else can help you work through the writer's block, possibly a partner or friend. If there is stress associated with, or causing the loss of inspiration, then releasing it through sharing can help remedy the block.
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Learn From Others and What Caused Their Writer's Block
If you have never experienced major writer's block, you may be able to avoid ever reaching such a serious point by learning from what others have been through and working in a way that avoids the potential triggers which they experienced.
I first encountered writer's block after months and months of writing books. I had a lot of spare time, so used to write 12 or more hours a day. In a month I could write tens of thousands of words, completing a book of a couple of hundred pages.
As soon as I finished one, I would start another, allowing myself little or no time to recover from the previous project.
I was under pressure to complete works, as well as dealing with financial stresses.
After doing this for a few months, I reached the stage where I didn't want to write again, and could not face even the thought of writing another book. I even went through pulling away from writing all together for over a year at a time.
I had over done it, and burned myself out in the area of writing.
This is when I realised that 'writer's block' had become something more to me than just a term I had heard. I was now living it and it took me a while to recover from.
After a long break, I went back to writing a bit, however I found that I reached the saturation point quite fast again. I realised I had not fully gotten over it, and ended up backing off writing again for a long time.
Recognising how serious the writer's block is can help you determine the necessary solution.
- If it is simply a minor blockage, then a short break may be all you need.
- If the condition is more serious and set in, you may need more extreme solutions, including a longer break from writing.
Appreciating the Value of Clearing Your Head and Relaxing:
If your writer's block is simply a loss of creativity, or over saturation of the mind then you need to take time out to relax and clear your head. It is important to take some 'me' time out for yourself to allow your mind to recuperate.
This may be as simple as enjoying a short coffee break, taking a walk in the park, going out for a drive, or playing a game. Find something fun to do to take your mind off the project.
In more serious instances, you may need to consider taking a holiday.
Like the muscles in your body, your mind needs time to relax.
Have you ever had times when you cannot think of something (like someone's name) then later, when you are relaxing, maybe watching TV, or even lying in bed at night, somewhere out of the depths of your mind pops they very thing you were trying to think of earlier?
Your mind has continued to work on the thought in the background, almost like a computer performing background tasks. While you are relaxing, your mind takes the opportunity to alert you that it has now completed its task.
This principle can be used for your overcoming writer's block. Something as simple as taking a relaxing walk in the park can do wonders to refresh creativity and kick start your inspiration.
Some Questions You May Want to Ask Yourself as You Write:
- Are the blockages minor enough to simply keep at it and push through?
- Do you need a short break, after which you will be ready to go again?
- Have you reached the point that you need to stop for the day, rest your mind and be ready to write again tomorrow?
- Are you hitting regular blockages every time you write, and maybe need more serious solutions?
- Is your emotional condition deteriorating causing stress, discouragement and frustration as you attempt to write?
- Do you have other sources of stress in your life, which are interfering with your writing creativity?
Another important key is learning yourself and understanding how you work.
This is a process as you get to know your own responses to stress, emotions and other pressures.
Learn to recognise when you are approaching the point of blockage, and rest before it hits.
Learn some of the early warning signs that you go through which show the early onset of writer's block. When these arise, you need to determine the effect they will have on you and whether you need to deal with them now, before they become a bigger problem.
Writer's block can be a complicated challenge to deal with because it is affected by so many factors, both internal and external.
However there are ways to reduce, and possibly avoid it, by recognising its early warning signs, and causes.
There are some simple keys you can follow to overcome it. Things as simple as taking a break and relaxing may help you overcome the blockages.
You don't have to get to the stage where you never want to write again. Learn to refresh and pace yourself, taking breaks when needed so you are ready to write again.
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