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Content Writer’s Block: Break on through to the Other Side!

Updated on June 12, 2014
The Three Way Battle
The Three Way Battle

When the radio debuted in the world, people thought that interest in the written word would dwindle. When the television came through, it was said to be a death knell for newspapers and publications.

The written word, though, is still here and still flourishing. The entire concept of HubPages is the perfect example.

There was even a time when people believed that names and words have supernatural powers or spiritual relevance. The way words are still influencing people the world over and the manner in which threats like radio and TV were blunted, it is not that hard to imagine why age-old cultures had such beliefs.

It is also important to note that article writing and blogging have become an intrinsic a part of the online landscape and critical to the World Wide Web ecosystem.

Such is the value of the written word today that it is not hard to imagine packs of writers running free through the online wilderness. Unfortunately, like all peaceful creatures, writers including the subspecies of content writers have to cope with predators as well.

The Rampaging Writers Frozen In Their Tracks

The animal that is the writer needs to concern himself with only one type of predator. Only one type of predator can freeze and overpower the natural powers of the wordsmith and that is the writer’s block.

In fact, there is nothing that a writer dreads more than a writer’s block. This is true for all types of writers including creative, technical, and professional writers. This dangerous predator has the ability to immobilise careers and destroy writers’ confidence, if allowed to dominate.

You can only know what the writer’s block can do if you have experienced it. Thankfully, there are methods through which you can evade this predator. The generic counter to writer’s block is to simply walk away and stop trying which amounts to fleeing from the problem.

While effective, sometimes, it is unviable. The other side of the flight or fight dilemma is to stand your ground and use tactics rooted in psychology. Consider the following solutions to the dreaded writer’s block.

Words and Letters Are Not the Same Thing

The first method is to broaden your horizon. Most writers have a tendency to put words, letters, and characters under the same umbrella. They don’t realise that while letters may be critical when they are combined the actual result is larger than the sum of its individual parts. Consider this little experiment.

When you go to the market bring me a nice chocolate ice cream.

‘maer cec ie ta loc ohceci naemg ni r btek ramehtoto guo ynehw.’

Try to memorise these two sentences and then reproduce them. It would be impossible for you to have the same success with both. Consider the fact that the letters and characters are the same in the two sentences.

Add to this the fact that the spacing is the same as well. Now, read the second line backwards and you will see that the first and second sentences have the same letters but in opposite order.

You might consider this to be a pointless experiment but refrain because there is a lesson in this. The lesson is that when letters are written in a certain sequence, they gain meaning. The focus must be on words and their meaning and now letters and word counts.

Next time you have a writer’s block, take the subject you are writing on and explain it to a friend or a family member. The act of explaining what you are trying to write and defining the meaning will give you a new perspective. This will work with fiction and nonfiction writing.

That's how a writer feels when the dreaded writer's block is lifted
That's how a writer feels when the dreaded writer's block is lifted

Turn Definitive Words to Verbs to Gain Perspective

Countless researches have revealed that our minds try to take the path of least resistance. This means that while we may battle with problems and try to create innovative solutions, once we implement one solution, it gets ingrained in our minds.

The direct result of this is that when we face the same problem again, we don’t think and just apply the solution we came up with earlier. The same tendency works with words as well and falls under the category of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Everyone has certain definitions (written and emotional) for particular words.

It is even possible that two individuals can have two different definitions for the same word. When a person faces writer’s block, he gets stuck in the established meaning of words in his head. Thus, the second solution to facing writer’s block is to change the words altogether to gain a new perspective. This is technically known as Transderivational Morphology.

Many words have their definitive versions and verb versions. Usual examples are words for emotions such as depression, frustration, irritation, and pleasure amongst others. Consider the difference between the following pairs of sentences.

  1. He was depressed - XYZ was depressing him.
  2. He felt frustrated - XYZ was frustrating him.
  3. He was irritated - XYZ was irritating him.
  4. He was pleased - XYZ pleased him.

The difference between each pair of sentences is that the latter is an explanation which can lead to further details while the former is definite statement which is close ended. Journalists may relate this to their lessons on close ended and open ended questions during interviews.

Every time you feel writer’s block, it is likely that you have become stuck in definitive statements, situations, and arguments. You need to change tack to the latter type of statements which promote expansion and explanation.

In fiction, this will further your plot and give you the chance to branch off. In nonfiction, it will allow you to make your content more attractive to the reader through explanations.

Try ‘Verb’alising Words Even If They Do Not Make Sense

As you have no doubt already surmised from all the information provided above, writer’s block is all about stagnated perspectives and one-track perceptions. Sometimes, a writer’s block can be so severe that drastic measures must be taken.

Enter the art of creating new words altogether. This skill will be especially useful for fiction writers because it will allow them to break the writing mould and be expansive with their imaginations. At the very least, this skill can help with lateral thinking which can be particularly useful for professional and career writers.

The question, though, is how can you create new words? The underlying principle is simple. You take any generic word and add prefixes or suffixes to it. Take for example a word like joker (you can choose penguin or robin if you want). The root word of joker is ‘joke’. Here is what happens when you play with it.

  1. Joker
  2. Jokist
  3. Jokism
  4. Joking
  5. Jokeful
  6. Prejoke
  7. Exjoke
  8. Unjoke
  9. Cojoke
  10. Dejoke
  11. Jokerism
  12. Jokerment
  13. Jokerily
  14. Jokerer
  15. Jokerable

While it is true that all of these words will not make sense, it is also true that when you think about them, your mind tries to make sense of them. This happens because the meaning of the root word is still there and the prefixes or suffixes used also have certain meanings in our heads.

This is one of the most effective methods of moving past your writer’s block because odds are that one of these made up words will give you a new direction. For those of you who are interested in further experiments, here is a table of prefixes and suffixes for you to play with.

Suffixes
Prefixes
ment
pre
ion
neo
ian
un
ist
inter
ism
re
ia
non
ness
com
able
con
al
syn
an
im
ful
trans
ic
ex
ure
de
ive
para
ation
meta
ly
co
ing
 
er
 
ize
 
ite
 
Note: Parental advisory recommended if you give this idea to kids. They will certainly add prefixes and suffixes to dirty words. You have no idea what trouble will ensue.

Remove ‘Is’ To Work On Your Psyche

The last suggestion harks back to the traditional solution of ‘think positive’ but with a slight wordy twist. Let’s admit it, thinking positive when the mind is stuck is not easy. All you need to do set a time period and make sure that you do not use the word ‘is’ and its derivatives in that time period. Here are some examples.

  1. He is a pain in the backside – He acts like a pain in the backside.
  2. She is aggressive – She behaves aggressively.
  3. I am sad – I feel sad.
  4. I am stuck – I feel stuck.

You see how the latter statements always make you think slightly differently. Different people will try to avoid the word ‘is’ through different types of sentences. What is certain, though, is that their new statements will make them analyse the problem and come up with a solution. Make this a habit for a certain time period every day and you will never have motivation problems.

A must read for every writer
A must read for every writer

Create Something New; Become a Spellwright

If you were already facing a writer’s block then it is possible that your creative juices are already running free with the predator vanquished. With these techniques you can actually create something truly marvellous and long lasting.

Take inspiration from the book ‘Spellwright’ and its author Blake Charlton. The book is one of the most creative in the fantasy genre where magic and wizardry is rooted in language and words.

Wizards are known to throw written sentences at each other during duels and for grander magic they have to write paragraphs! Tell me that idea is not creative!

The author, by the way, was a medical student. More poignantly, though, Charlton is dyslexic. Shows what breaking the rules of wordsmanship (yes, that’s my contender for new word of the day) can do for a person.

Writers Assemble!

How do you deal with writer's block?

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    • wordsmanship profile image
      Author

      Shaleen Sinha 3 years ago from Delhi, India

      Hi Mdscoggins,

      'IS' does have a tendency to limit one's thinking and let's admit it writing depends as much on psychology as it does on words. Glad you commented. Its always a pleasure to know that my humble contribution helped someone.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you Wordsmanship for the advice. I see that everyone hits hard times when writing. Funny how you mentioned not using the word "is" since I recognize that I am hitting a writer's block when I become limited to that word. I will surely pay attention to that :)

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