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Writer's Block: Defeating the Madness

Updated on June 10, 2017
social thoughts profile image

I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Published on 22 July 2011 Stock photo - Image ID: 10050740
Published on 22 July 2011 Stock photo - Image ID: 10050740 | Source

Like many writers, I have several projects in the works while I am finishing one. Non-writers would think having so many topics already begun makes it easier to complete one after the other, but that just isn't how it goes. Sure, sometimes it does help if your mind goes in different directions at once, but it never promises the completion of one.

This dilemma of either writing badly or not writing at all is common among writers. Is it best to keep chipping away until it either drives you insane or becomes a masterpiece, or is it best to just let it sit there until the entire idea has escaped your consciousness, so you never have to deal with potential ruin?

Walking usually fixes my writer's block. In my last few semesters of college, I would wonder how to come up with ideas for my nonfiction, fiction, play-writing, and poetry classes, since I hadn't done any creative writing on my own in years, but once I took a walk...BAM...problem solved!

In the film Music and Lyrics, Sophie (Drew Barrymore) suggests to Alex (Hugh Grant) that they take a walk when she hits a creative wall, and it works. When they're discussing their personal lives, a line for a song comes to her mind. Like most writers will admit, ideas for current projects have a tendency of showing themselves once our minds are preoccupied with something entirely unrelated. So, when we are the most stressed that we'll never finish a piece of writing, that's when it's best to get away from it to allow the creativity to come to us.

Sophie: Let's go for a walk

Alex: A walk? What, now?

Sophie: Yeah, out on the streets, you see things, and you know, hear things, and eat things. It all sort of unlocks your mind.

The night before the wedding, in Sex and the City the movie, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) receives a call from Big (Chris Noth) explaining that he can't seem to write his vows because of his anxieties about the marriage. In the series, Sex and the City, Carrie does experience some writer's block of her own, but she is never dishing out advice. To help her fiancé, she tells him the benefits of sleeping on it. This can be another helpful technique when at the end of one's rope. Sometimes, when we overwork our minds, we are no longer at our fullest potential. The only solution, then, is rest!

Carrie:...I've found, as a professional writer, that you should stop thinking about it so much, and go to bed, and in the morning...

Big: You'll know what to do.

Carrie: Exactly.

In the film Howl, an adaptation of the poem by Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) of the same name, he talks about the writing process during an interview. What freed his mind when writing "Howl" was assuming it wouldn't be published. There it is, isn't it? Is it possible that the fear of wondering what others will think of the finished piece is what keeps us from actually tackling the idea until it's complete? It could be! The trick is ignoring that critic in our minds.

Allen Ginsberg: The beginning of the fear for me was what would my father think of something that I would write. At the time, writing "Howl," I assumed when writing it was not something that would be published because I wouldn't want my daddy to see what was in there.

A friend of mine on here, Bill (billybuc) just wrote an article out of a response to a question I asked him about voice. I strongly urge any readers who do not already know him to please read his articles. They are intelligent, funny, and friendly. I never get tired of his voice; however, I worry my own voice is becoming dull and/or annoying, to me. He gave some great advice, to me and his other readers. Part of it was to stop judging ourselves. As much as this article is about writer's block, it is also about the fear of the finished product. That can be, after all, the very reason the writer's block exists. From reading comments on that particular article, I saw many writers feel this anxiety. So, perhaps just knowing all writers do go through this will alleviate that fear.

The fear of what others will think, in terms of writing or just who we are as individuals, reminds me of a line from the film The Libertine, about the historical figure John Wilmot (Johnny Depp) aka Rochester, who wrote a satirical play about King Charles II (John Malkovich). Talk about writing fearlessly! At that part in the film, Wilmot is telling an unpopular actress, Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), that she needs to learn not to consider what others think because it says more about them than it does about her. According to Wilmot, those who judge are either too stupid to understand you or too jealous to admit that you intimate them:

Rochester: Mrs. Barry, you must acquire the trick of ignoring those who do not like you. In my experience, those who do not like you fall into two categories: The stupid and the envious. The stupid will like you in five years time. The envious, never.

When necessary, I say that line to myself. If you have not seen the film, I highly recommend it.

Remember, ultimately, writing is about revising: cutting, moving, adding, and so on. First drafts are rarely, if ever, the finished product. That's true for any type of writing: story, article, essay, instructional, music, and others. In fact, even when the words are flowing effortlessly, it would be foolish not to proofread, anyway, right? So, if you write a jumbled mess, at least you have somewhere to go from there. The real beauty comes from what you haven't thought of while you're writing, or how you can put the pieces you created together for a beautiful delivery.

Which technique do you use the most?

See results

Take a break. Read, watch, listen to people who inspire you. Get out of your own mind. Allow who ever inspires you to enter your mind, and let them take you on a journey. You'll probably find yourself taking the wheel to show them your own journey.

© 2015 social thoughts

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  • social thoughts profile image
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    social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

    That's beautiful, Ann. :) Keep up the wonderful work!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    I just take photos of anything which inspires me. Some I use for hubs but the initial impetus is the photo. I'm my father's daughter; he was an avid photographer and his enthusiasm was passed on to me.

    They are a great catalyst for creativity though, be it drawing, painting or writing.

    Ann

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

    Ann,

    Thank you! I like that--"famous last words!" Haha! I think most writers at least have ideas, but sometimes finding the way we want to express them can be where we get "finger-tied." ;)

    Having thousands of photos to help is a great idea! I have a list of photos I want to take, but need a better way to take them. Do you take them after being inspired by a topic or are they photos which inspire you to write?

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    Always good to have some ideas and you've provided plenty.

    I'm lucky that I don't seem to get writer's block - famous last words! - I have a pile of draft articles waiting to be refined and lists of ideas taken from when I go out and about, as well as from my thousands of photos.

    This is a valuable reference for many a writer.

    Ann

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Yes I have shared my process in a number of hubs including "What Does It Take to Be a Writer" and "Much Ado About Nothing". Cheers.

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

    Jodah,

    That sounds lovely! I'll be sure to look for them in your articles! Do you mention a little story with them about how you had begun writing those pieces however long ago?

    I have thought about doing something similar. I may take my favorite college papers, and transform them into articles on here. :)

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Hi again. Yes I used to keep all my old unpublished and unfinished writing in a box. I dragged it out a few months ago and refurbished a lot of it turning it into hubs. The rest has been transferred to magazine racks and shelves where I can access it more easilly.

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

    Hi, Jodah!

    Thank you! I am glad it helps. Yes, I have a habit of saving everything, too. Do you have a box of miscellaneous writings, like I do? It's nice to go back, and read them.

    I will check out that writer's hub. Thanks you for sharing, and for your support!

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

    Bill,

    You are quite welcome! I talk about you in my daily life at times, so it was only a matter of time before I talked about you in an article!

    Your type of "problem" makes sense. Perhaps, that explains my own difficulty, too. Finding subjects isn't the issue, but I know that high we experience as writers, and how it can go away at times, quite unfortunately! :)

    Thank you, friend!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Well thank you for mentioning me. I appreciate it.

    I don't really get writer's block. I never run out of things to write about. What does happen to me, however, is a fluctuation in the "rush" I get from writing certain things. There are days when I have zero desire to writer articles. Those are the days when my novels seem to flow. If I am "blocked" on a certain part of a novel, I usually go for a walk or just do some other chore. I become unblocked fairly quickly when I quit trying to solve the problem. :)

    Anyway, nice article...good points and suggestions....and I heard your voice in this one. :)

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Hi social thoughts. I enjoyed this hub and the tips you gave as well as the quotes. Very informative. I never discard anything I have written and sometimes drag it out years later when I have a totally new perspective and finish it. If I can't think of something specific to write about I just sit down and look around me and start writing...you just need to begin. I just read another great hub on the topic you may like to check out "Writer's Block and Other Myths"by FatBoyThin. I think you'll like it. Voted up.

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