How To Beat Writer's Block And Restore Your Creativity
Common Causes of Writer's Block
- Your subconscious knows there's a problem with the story
- You're distracted by something else
- You're suffering from depression
- You're putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect
- You're stressed
- You've had negative feedback on your work, and are afraid of getting more
Those are the words that strike dread into any writer's heart.
Whether you write hubs, blogs, novels, or something else, chances are you've had a day when you simply sat there with your fingers on the keyboard, staring at a blank page, unable to put a single word on it.
There are many different causes for this condition, and the solutions are just as varied. So what are some of the things that can interfere?
A Problem With The Story Itself
Are you only blocked on one particular project, but can work on other things just fine?
This is usually your subconscious trying to tell you "Hey wait a minute, we've got a problem here!" The block is your brain's way of trying to keep you from spending a lot of time going down the wrong path.
Try to remember exactly what point you started having problems, and ask yourself if there's some other path your project could take from that point. Maybe you're trying to make a character do something that's simply not something they would do. Maybe your article is going the wrong direction.
Most of the time, when you find the point where the trouble started, you can find an alternate solution - ask yourself, what would be really exciting to see happen here? Chances are, you'll know how to fix it then.
And remember -- if you are bored with something you are are writing, your reader will be doubly so. Don't waste the time on what isn't working.
This is usually more just "not-writing" than true writer's block. You find any excuse to not sit at your keyboard, and when you finally do, you spend hours watching videos of goats doing cute things on YouTube instead of working.
The solution to this one is often just managing to start in the first place. Once you write the first few paragraphs, you'll be able to keep going.
Set yourself a timer for ten or fifteen minutes -- whatever works for you. Tell yourself you're going to see how much you can get done in those minutes, and then if you want to, you can stop. If needed, promise yourself a cookie at the end if you play along.
You'll be surprised at how much you can write in that short amount of time, and chances are good you'll want to keep going.
And if you don't?
Get up, do something else for a bit, then come back and do another timer-stint...it'll all add up!
Depression is a major cause of writer's block, and the worst one for me personally. Creative people seem more susceptible to depression than others, so it's something we all must be careful to watch for.
If you're feeling sad, hopeless, irritable, tired, having trouble concentrating, or having difficulty with tasks that used to be simple -- please see a doctor. Counselling, medication, or lifestyle changes may help lift your mood and return the creative spark.
When I was at my most depressed, I couldn't write a single word for months. Once I began taking medication, the ability to write returned almost immediately.
Whatever you do, if you're depressed don't push yourself to write, and don't put yourself down if you can't do it. Be gentle with yourself -- if you try to force it, you'll only feel worse about it and that won't help anything.
Oh boy, this one's a big one. Most of the writers I've known have had problems with perfectionism at one point or another.
Does the story have to be absolutely right before you feel you can continue? Do you get discouraged when you see typos and awkward sentences in your work?
Have you re-written the first chapter of your novel fifteen times to get it just right, without moving on to the rest of the story? [I sure did -- and then when I finished the manuscript, I realized the first chapter needed to be cut out of the story entirely, thus wasting all those hours of revision]
Do you tell yourself you'll start that story soon...just as soon as you've gotten good enough to do your idea justice?
Your new mantra is: FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. Repeat it over and over to yourself. Give yourself permission to write appallingly. See how many words you can do in six minutes, and don't fix the typos.
There's a time for perfectionism, and it's not while you're writing, it's while you're editing. Writing is where you spew the entire mess of creativity onto the page. You can make it good later, but you can't edit a blank page.
Tell yourself that nobody but you ever needs to see your work unless you want them to, and you won't show them the early drafts. Make it a secret project.
Throw perfect to the winds, and write in glorious imperfection.
Like depression, stress in an outside force that can have a severe impact on your writing. You only have so much attention and brainpower to spare, and if most of it is occupied with worry, there simply won't be any left over for your writing.
Sometimes, when you have a major point of stress in your life -- a family member's upcoming operation, for example -- you just need to set the writing aside for a bit until the problem is resolved, and then you can come back to it.
Other times you need to work through the stress. It's difficult, but it can be done!
Make a list of things that relax you. Maybe you like to go for a walk in the park, take a hot bath, do yoga, or sit in the back yard and watch the birds.
Whatever it is, do it right before you're planning to write, and you'll be surprised by how much easier it is to be productive.
Poll: Writer's Block
Have you ever suffered writer's block?
You finally worked up the courage to show someone a thing you had written...and they didn't like it. Maybe they told you it sucked. Maybe you could just tell from their face.
Writers are usually sensitive souls, and rejection hurts. That one comment can worm its way down into your heart and fester there, keeping you from writing.
The thing is, you can't please everyone -- whatever you write, someone is going to think it's horrible. And someone else is going to love it. It was just your bad luck to meet the one who hated it.
Pick your favorite author -- the one you secretly worship, the one that makes you tell yourself, "if I could only write like she does...."
Look them up on Amazon, and check the single-star ratings. That amazing person with the brilliant writing? Somebody thought they sucked -- thought so so much they went to the trouble of writing a whole review about it.
Chances are, your piece did need work. Most things do. But you'll never be able to improve if you're frozen in fear of negative reactions.
Find someone whose opinion you can trust, and let them read your work. You can even tell them beforehand to mention the parts they loved as well as the parts they didn't.
But most of all, trust yourself. If YOU love it, someone else will too.