I don’t particularly like to use the phrase ‘writer’s block’ as I don’t place a high degree of importance on it as a concept. Nevertheless it’s a relatable term that everybody is familiar with to some extent, so that helps I suppose.
The reason this topic has come up for me is due to the fact that I come across many writers in my Instagram journey who are very talented, but find themselves stuck in ruts or creative lulls and unsure how to claw their way out of it.
Now while there is certainly no hard and fast rule on how to squash this frustrating brick wall you come up against when trying to write, there are plenty of ways to ‘activate’ that juicy part of your brain and get the words flowing again.
The important thing to understand first is what I call the ‘writer’s paradox’, and if you make peace with it now it will save you a whole lot of pain going forward. The writer’s paradox is the idea that, the more you write and practice, the more you will end up producing and the faster you will be able to tap into your creative brain. However, the more you produce, the sooner you will encounter a lull. If that sounds both obvious and vexing at the same time, welcome to the writers’ table.
The idea is to always be writing in one way or another and always be challenging yourself creatively, but at the same time recognising when you’re down for the count and need a recharge. If you’re staring at a blank page and absolutely nothing is coming out the way you want it to, it may be time to drop the pen. On the other hand if you’re not writing at all and keep telling yourself you’ll get to it ‘tomorrow’, then it may be time to quit the procrastinating and start working.
In the end though, lulls are sure to follow high periods of creativity, and whether that is the case or you just simply can’t get off the ground, I’ve come to make use of numerous tactics and methods that have not only worked wonders for me, but have helped the struggling writers I know to get back into action and produce some magic. Ideally, these tactics can work wonders for you too.
With the least melodrama possible, I present to you my tips and tricks to defeating the red-eyed beast that we so unceremoniously named ‘writer’s block’:
- Exercise: Light to moderate exercise is an excellent way to not only reduce stress, but get the blood pumping the way that it should, enabling you to unjumble your frustration and lapse in creativity.
- Use Prompts: In another blog post I went into detail about the benefits of writing with word prompts, but it cannot be understated how useful it can be to use prompts to focus your mind and pen on what a word or phrase means to you at first glance, and writing to that. When done right, you’ll create things you otherwise would not have thought of on your own!
- Music: I find that calming, moody, slow, haunting tracks do wonders for my creativity, especially when you take the time to listen to the lyrics or melodies while on a walk or at peace in your favourite place of relaxation.
- Use Your Voice: Rather than try to write the next best thing the world has seen since ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, try to plot words, themes or expressions you wish to write about and focus on what they mean to you specifically. For example, there may be a million poems and books about winter, but what does winter mean to you in your mind, with your voice and your memories? That’s how you can guide yourself towards not necessarily writing something that has never been written before, but writing something that matters, others want to read, and that is from a sincere place in your head.
- Take a damn break: To avoid the damnation of your mind and soul, it’s important to recognise when you need to give yourself a break and stop antagonising yourself over ‘wasting’ a day or night on leisurely activities. Us writers tend to view not writing as some indictment on us as people and our capabilities, but it’s as important to know when to stop as it is to start up again.
- Revisit your old work: It’s particularly helpful to re-read stories you’ve written in the past, or interact with media you’ve created after the fact. Once some time has passed it can be immensely helpful to take another dive into a creative project when you’re not so close to it and can offer up a new perspective or insight that may have previously eluded you. Recognising your shortcomings or ‘things you might have done differently’ is a vital part of the creative process that is natural. It is best viewed as a learning experience rather than one as regret.
- Consume high quality media: Other creators should always inspire you. Rather than read a book, watch a movie or play a game and think to yourself “I’ll never make something that good”, you should rather try to interpret how those amazing creations may inspire you on your own path. All that a writer has is his own voice, and audience always determines quality, never you as the writer. You can never know whether something is objectively good until it hits the big world out there, and so you owe it to your creativity to make the attempt. It’s the best thing for you to open yourself up to the best of media and expand your creative vocabulary, so to speak.
- Stick with your story: Unless you feel absolutely no joy from writing (read joy, not confidence – it can be natural to feel unconfident in your story) or some other, more powerful creative passion completely consumes you, it’s imperative that you stick to your guns in writing or creating a particular piece. There’s no timeframe in which you can create something, unless you’re given a firm deadline, but those usually entail different kinds of projects. So, something you’re creating can span weeks, months or even years and at any moment in that process you can be taken in a whole new direction, or what you started out can be totally different to what you end up with.
- Forcibly challenge your mind: Often our creativity flows best when our minds are forcibly challenged, sometimes uncomfortably so. Whether that entails being critiqued by someone you trust, or having to explain your story to someone out loud where every word is a fight not to make it all sound ‘stupid’, you’ll find an immense power in hearing what an outsider thinks or having to ‘sell’ your story to someone. The more you try to explain your concepts and dive into your own story, the more ideas and shortcomings will reveal themselves to you, and it’s a seriously helpful way to broaden your synapses and rediscover your impetus in any story.
The above would be the best ways that I know of when it comes to beating the mythological beast known as writer’s block. There is no such thing as a definitive method for any creative person, so I cannot guarantee that any of the above will work for you. That may sound like a disheartening disclaimer, but the reality is such and it can be harsh.
The only thing that I can actually guarantee is that your mind is your own worse enemy, and removing the cognitively suffocating umbrella that is ‘writer’s block’ from your makeup will absolutely do wonders to helping you find ways to claw out of it.