Writing is wonderful. The sound of the keyboard as you type out word after perfect word is like a symphony to your ears. The feeling of knowing you’re creating an amazing piece of content is what ascending into heaven itself must feel like.
But what happens when you can’t quite see through the clouds. When the keyboard is deathly silent and your brain just can’t think of anything to write?
The dreaded writer’s block hits us all at some point, and it can be devastating, especially if you’ve got a deadline to meet.
But don’t worry too much. The fact that so many writers get writer’s block and live to tell (or write) another tale means there must be ways to overcome it.
Why Do We get Writer’s Block?
There’s no one reason why writer’s block happens, but the way I see it, there are two common factors that can stop your writing brain from working:
You’re a Perfectionist
It’s normal to want your work to be the best it can be, but maybe you’re just focusing too much on trying to make it perfect. You’re spending too much time trying to get the best points and the best arguments for your article, but you’re not actually writing anything.
Or if you are writing, you’re getting preoccupied with polishing every single sentence and every single word. This can stop you from being able to move past a certain section of your writing because you can’t let go of one or two minor details that you’re not happy with.
The problem here is that there’s no such thing as the perfect word or the perfect sentence. If your expectations are that high then there’s no way you can ever reach them.
You know what you want to write, but there’s something niggling in the back of your mind telling you that no one wants to hear it. Or no one will like it. You’re worried about what people will think of your writing once it’s out there. Will it be criticised? Will it offend someone? Will anyone even read it?
Fear is one of the most common reasons for writer’s block. It’s easy to rationalise not writing something when you’re afraid of what will happen once it’s written. But you’re never going to know how people will react to it if you don’t do it in the first place.
It’s normally some combination of both of those factors that cause writer’s block. And once you get an idea of what’s causing it, it’s a lot easier to deal with. Here are a few ideas to get the words flowing again:
1. Skip The Introduction
A lot of people feel like the best way to write something is the way it’s going to be read: linear. So you start off with the introduction, then write all your points, and sum it all up in your conclusion at the end.
The problem with this approach is that you don’t always know exactly what you’re going to say before you write. Even the most meticulous planners can veer off track when it comes to actually writing something. How do you expect to write an introduction if you don’t know exactly what you’re introducing?
This means that it’s easy to get stuck writing the introduction, and you might end up feeling that you can't get the piece written at all. So a good tip is to leave it till last. You’ve more than likely done some research and know at least a vague idea of what your arguments are going to be, so write them up first. Once that’s done and you know what’s in the article, you can write the introduction.
2. Switch to Using a Pen and Paper
The way most people describe writer’s block is with the image of someone staring at a blank screen. But maybe that’s part of the problem; the screen. Try stepping away from the screen and turning to a pen and piece of paper.
You’d be surprised how differently your mind thinks when you’re writing the old-fashioned way. You probably can’t write as quick as you can type, so you’re already forcing your brain to slow down and really think about what you’re doing, rather than your brain trying to keep up with your fingers as you type.
You’re also freeing yourself from any online distractions. There’s no Facebook or email notifications popping up in the corner of your notepad to sidetrack you. It’s just you focusing on your thoughts.
As well as that, you’re giving your eyes a break from looking at a screen. Your eyes get tired and blurry if you’re staring a computer for too long, and it can cause headaches too. There’s nothing more distracting to your writing than the feeling of a drill in the sides of your head.
3. Leave Your Desk Completely
If you’ve been struggling with an idea for a while, unable to write about it, then maybe getting away from your desk completely and giving your head some space is the best thing to do. Doing something completely unrelated to the topic you’re writing about will give your brain time to cool down and relax, and you can get back to it with a clear head later on. There’s plenty of things you can do away from your desk that will clear your head:
Go for a walk
Exercise increases blood flow to your body, including to your brain. This, in turn, increases the amount of oxygen getting to your brain, which makes it perform better. Even something as simple as going for a 15 minute walk outside can improve your focus and have your brain fresh and ready to write again.
Exercise also releases dopamine, which makes us happy. And, as the saying goes, a happy worker is a productive worker.
Have a shower
Exercise isn’t the only thing you can do release dopamine. Having a warm shower does the same. There’s a reason the cliche of having your best ideas in the shower is so prevalent. It’s because it’s true. Not only are we happy when in a warm shower, but we’re also not thinking about work.
Doing something mundane that doesn’t take a lot of thought, like taking a shower, lets your subconscious work on your problems while the rest of your mind is relaxing. The combination of dopamine and relaxation lets your mind wander and work out your writer’s block by itself.
Write somewhere different
Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to boost your creativity. Instead of sitting at your desk, go to a cafe or sit in a park to work. The different noises and views around you may cause a shift in your mind that can unblock whatever it is that’s stopping you from writing and get your imagination working again.
When all else fails, the best cure for writer’s block is to just write anyway. Free-writing, or writing continuously for a set amount of time, can free your mind from whatever fears are blocking you. It’s not something that anyone else will see so you don’t have to worry about what other people think, you’re just writing for yourself.
It doesn’t even have to be about what you’re struggling to write about. Just write anything. Write about what you had for breakfast that morning, or what you watched on TV the night before.
It’s about silencing the editor in your head and just writing regardless of whether or not it makes any sense. You might be left with a bunch of nonsense by the end of it, or you might have a well-written piece (it’s more than likely going to be nonsense though). Either way, you’re writing, and often all writer’s block needs is a good kick in the arse to get rid of it.
There’s no one magic solution to getting rid of writer’s block.
Try out a few of these tips and find which ones work for you. The most important thing is not to panic. It’ll come back to you.
What about you, have you got any other tips for defeating writer’s block? Let me know in the comments.