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Writer’s Block – My Psychological Battle with Losing Words

Updated on October 27, 2019
Taz Haddlesey profile image

I began writing in April 2018 when worsening symptoms of PTSD and depression stopped me working as an ED nurse. Writing is therapy.

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.

— Charles Bukowski

Although I'm new to writing, not being able to write for any amount of time is scary for me

Firstly, let me explain how I managed to put this article together. As I am struggling to put words together in a line today, I am putting the points that pop into my mind on the subject in bullet-points as I able to do so. I am then hoping that I will be able to reorganise my thoughts into an article that may be read.

Even though I have only been writing for about seven month months, I have found it to be one of my most effective coping strategies for the noise and unpleasantness in my head due to trauma as a child. Occasionally I try my hand at something new like short stories or recently I tried to write a review for a local art festival and it was published in the local paper to my surprise.

Mainly, I write poetry, I write articles and I keep a journal. However there are times when I just can’t write, anything. It is as if all my words vanish, I can’t spell or be creative in any way and I absolutely hate it. I hate not being able to do things full stop, for any reason but at times I feel like I need to write but just can’t and that’s a strange feeling.

How is it possible to write for hours one day and then not for a week?

At times when writer’s block strikes, I get to thinking about why and how. How can I write for hours one day and then not write for a week (very rare)? In one breath I might say I’m lacking the words but not the feeling, in another I might say I’m full of feeling but have no words or maybe a combination of both.

I do remember reading somewhere that a person only has so many words in any one day. I recall thinking about the relationship I was in at the time; I wonder if that’s why I have nothing to say after work as I’ve used up all my words on patients at work. I’m not sure how the science works but I found it relatable all the same.

As I have said before, writing keeps me going, it keeps me expressing thoughts that bother me and it keeps me focused on the words I’m writing. So it goes without saying that writer’s block is scary for me. This is not only because I lose a coping strategy, but for the reason that I don’t know why or how it happens.

What causes writer's block?

I know it’s not personal and scribe’s fever can happen and does happen to all writers but why? What is it? And how does it work? In my reading about writer’s block the most discussed reasons for writer’s block refer to anxiety, perfectionism, timing, conflict, lack of ideas and the list goes on and on. It may even be a combination of these factors that causes the brain to freeze and become incapable of getting words out.

I can relate to all of these reasons both in relation to writing and otherwise so understanding this should make it easier for me to accept that I get short of words but it really doesn’t. I find it just as disconcerting and irritating, if not more so.

As I’m sitting here struggling to get bullet points down as I think about my lacking inspiration and creativity, I am noticeably quiet and discontent on the outside. Yet on the inside words and pictures are spinning around in my mind, I can’t concentrate on anything, I would say quietly agitated as I’m unable to satisfactorily able to place these words down.

The more I think about my lacking ability and how long it might last, I notice my mood dipping which only worsens the missing creativity. I wonder which one came first, the list of reasons for writer’s block or writer’s block itself?

There are stark similarities between 'treating' anxiety and depression and 'treating' writer's block

This creative impasse is very well documented in literature and in music. It is interesting to me how different writers have shared ways to combat it. Having spent a long time reading about improving my symptoms of anxiety and depression, I’ve noticed some striking similarities.

Here’s a summary of the most written about methods for easing writer’s block:

- Go for a walk/take a break

- Exercise/get blood moving

- Read

- Brainstorm/write anything

- Sit somewhere else/change scenery

- Listen to music

- Make a drink/have a snack

- Chat to a friend

- Maintain a routine

- Meditate

- Make a list

- Write a journal

The parallels between recommended coping strategies for anxiety and depression and those for writer’s block are clear in this list which corresponds with my earlier reading about reasons for this blockage such as anxiety, perfectionism and conflict. It’s starting to make a little more sense to me that the causes of writer’s block are most likely to be present first and presence of writer’s block then only compounds the issue.

Preventing creative blockages means taking care myself

I then wonder if it’s possible to force it when I’m really not feeling it. Is there a way I can force some words down in order to break this cycle. I then refer to the list and remember that I need to take care of myself first and be in a relatively good place to be able to write as the recommended ways to combat scribe’s fever essentially include taking care of yourself. As much as I consider writing to be ’taking care’ of myself and I’d like to push past the blockage, I’d be better to walk away and doing something else that might restore my mental wellness before trying too hard.

On the other hand, getting some bullet points down has enabled me to write about a space in my mind I normally struggle to document so maybe that’s okay too.

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