Productivity and creativity are both elements of the writing process. Every written piece is a product of hard work and personal style. If you're a writer, you would know that a book or an essay is not just made of ink and paper. Behind any famous or excellent written work are sleepless nights; stack of coffee cups; pile of crumpled papers or deleted drafts; and countless moments when the writer stared at a blank page unable to get something out from what used to be a reservoir of words. Professional or not, for sure any writer already had moments like this and there is nothing more frustrating as falling into the pitfall of a writer's block. The good new is, not because it is inevitable doesn't mean it's unresolvable. So if you're in this pitfall, don't worry because there is a way out. In fact, there are a lot of ways out.
Let's start by defining what writer's block is. Whether you are a writer or not, I'm sure you can already guess the idea behind it just by considering the meaning of the two words in the term. Technically, writer's block is the moment when a writer is having a hard time producing a new piece or is not in their usual creative and productive pace. It usually comes together with the inability to focus, mental fog, lack of inspiration, stress and feelings of frustration. The usual length of this situation varies individually but any writer can experience this for either short-term or long-term.
According to Jeff Goins, the three common reasons why we experience writer's block are: timing, fear, and perfectionism. However, I would also like to add and give emphasis to another reason behind this situation: circumstances in a writer's personal life.
Maybe you just finished a piece of work not too long ago and you are still supposed to be in a break. It can also be because you have other priorities as of the moment and writing continuously is not possible.
You want to write but you are so afraid to start or continue because you overthink how other people will perceive your work.
You try so hard to come up with the "perfect" piece but not end up starting because you want everything to fall into place before anything else. But guess what, it doesn't usually work that way.
While trauma and challenges can sometimes inspire a writer to turn their pain into a work of art, being in a dark place can also hinder them. Such seasons may include experiencing a physical illness, depression, breakups, loss of a loved one, or financial problems.
A few months ago, I had the chance to read the book "Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life and Let Go of Your Fear" written by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was also the time when I was having a hard time coming up with fresh ideas and project plans. Whenever I'm in this kind of creativity block, I usually read or watch references to inspire me into moving forward with my craft. This is because I believe that I cannot give what I do not have and the only way to write again is to fill myself up with knowledge and motivation.
Upon finishing the book, I liked how the author views frustrating moments in a creative's life such as writer's block. For her, "Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn't feel like work) is when you're actually creating something wonderful and everything's going great, and everyone loves it, and you're flying high. But such instances are rare. You don't just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren't going great is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living."
I realized that both professional and amateur writers experience moments of drought but what separate great writers from those who just write is the perseverance to continue. There is nothing wrong with taking a rest and embracing the downside. But that doesn't mean that you're gonna stay there. Once you accept that moments like this is part of the process, that's when you should also know that there are still phases you are yet to experience and conquer. That's when you decide to find ways out of the pitfall you are in.
The good news when it comes to experiencing writer's block is that although it's inevitable, it is also resolvable. There are a lot of ways to overcome it but based on experience, here are my top 5 tips to squeeze your creative juices again:
Many may consider being in a block as a "break from writing but for some, being in a block is having multiple attempts to start writing. Therefore, your mind is not really in a break from the idea and act of writing itself. The key here is to change your environment for a while and refresh your mind and spirit. You can take a walk, go into a weekend getaway, expose yourself to nature, or spend time with other people. No matter how you choose to spend your break, make sure you feel fueled up again before going back to work.
Personally, I am more at ease when I am in a working environment where little to no clutter and distractions. Even if I multitask most of the time, it is hard for me to come up with a great output when I am not fully immersed into the moment of writing. So if you want to overcome writer's block, you can try eliminating distractions like social media, clutter, and other errands while working so you can focus into your main agenda which is writing.
As I've said previously, you cannot give what you do not have. Try to replenish your pool of knowledge and inspiration by reading and watching materials related to the topic you wish to write. You can also start conversations with people you deem wise and knowledgeable or read inspiring quotes and listen to music. After this, you can start brainstorming once again and decide from all the ideas you now have.
Writing when you feel is good is one of the best time to write. Whenever I am stressed out about being in a block, I make ways to be kinder to myself by meditating, exercising, taking a nap, eating good food, and of course drinking coffee. In fact, I cannot work properly without my daily dose of caffeine. The key here is to be kinder to yourself and accept that you also have bad and unproductive days. When my inner elf feels taken care of, that's when I feel like working again.
Now this is the simplest yet hardest one. But mind you, this is also the most effective. The best way to beat the writer's block is to actually write. It doesn't matter how many words, whether they make sense or not, or whether you like what you wrote. You just have to let the words and ideas be free. And when you find your jive again, work on what you have and keep going.
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After numerous writer's block moments across my whole life as a writer, I got to be prouder of my craft. Writing and creating content is harder than it seems to be. I learned to love and embrace the whole process including the downside and the bad days. As what Elizabeth Gilbert says in the same book I mentioned above, "Learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is a part o the job of a creative person."
She calls her creative spirit as her "genius" and whenever it leaves her, the mindset she has goes like this: "So I don't sit around waiting to write until my genius decides to pay me a visit. If anything, I have come to believe that my genius spends a lot of time waiting around for me - waiting to see if I'm truly serious with this line of work."
I don't know if you are in a block at the moment or if you will be soon. But no matter when and how many times your "genius" leaves you, just like Gilbert, I hope you also do something to invite it back.
I would like to add another point to this: setting yourself realistic goals. I know that in the past I have tried to do way too much and then, when I couldn’t achieve it for whatever reason, I became frustrated and started beating myself up about it and from then on, it got worse and worse and I ended up writing less and instead avoided it alltogether.
Nowadays, I don’t set myself any goals, other then, write something each day, even if it’s just a few words or even just some notes to get back to another day. Nothing worse then trying to write when you’re not in the right space or too tired or have so many other things on your mind.
Sometimes, when ideas don’t want to appear, I do some writing exercises with writing prompts I find somewhere on the internet. You basically get some details and then write something to fill in the details. That can bring back the fun in writing.
Hi Petra! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I totally agree with you. To share as well, I am currently reading a book about habits and it says there that in order for one to be more consistent in doing something, it should only be done up to the point that you are still enjoying it. Once you reach the point that you feel like it’s tiring already or you are just pushing yourself, that’s the time to stop. Accordingly, it will be less likely for you to dread the task the next time you have to do it again. I guess we should really be more realistic and kinder to ourselves. Good luck on your writing journey!
Very often, I just write! Force me to write. Else, as you mentioned, I’ll be waiting for the right time and who know takes how long. Time flies and before I realise it, a week may have passed. You are right, taking a good break and eliminating distractions to clear the mind is helpful. Once finished writing and published, take time to pamper yourself.
Hi, Sharon! Indeed, it’s hard to get back on track once you took a break longer than intended. But yes, breaks and rewards are necessary so we can avoid burn out. Hoping for more productive days for you and on days when you are on a break, I hope you make the most out of them Best of luck!
4 replies to "Productive Writing: How to Beat the Writer’s Block"