Ever found yourself staring at a blank page for a long period of time, trying to write but being unable to find the right words? You’re not alone. This is writer’s block, and all writers struggle with it, from journalists to novelists.
Writer’s block is triggered by a number of things, depending on the individual. Some people believe that writer’s block stems from a lack of ideas or even talent. However, that’s usually not the case.
In the 1970s, Yale researchers Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios studied a group of “blocked” professional writers in a variety of disciplines, from screenwriting to poetry. After several months, the researchers discovered that there are four main triggers of writer’s block:
- Apathy. These writers felt constrained by the “rules” of writing and struggled to find their creative spark.
- Anger. These writers were often narcissistic and would get angry if something they created went unnoticed.
- Anxiety. These writers worried that they weren’t good enough.
- Issues with others. These writers didn’t want their writing to be compared to others’ work, resulting in a fear of writing anything at all.
Overcoming writer’s block is a delicate process that is often highly subjective and depends on each individual. But, at the end of the day, it is about conquering self-doubt and knowing that hard work will pay off.
Below are some writing tips and tricks to get the creative juices flowing again;
- Take a break. Do something else for a while, and return a few days (or weeks, or months) later to view your work with a fresh eye.
- Jump ahead. Write smaller pieces of the article, story, or writing project without knowing where they fit. The important thing is to keep going. A lot of problems are resolved in the doing. Avoid areas of high difficulty. Just write. You can always rewrite the first draft—make use of that freedom and get stuff down. Then come back to it.
- Pretend you’ve never read your work before. Start at the beginning of the work and read it through. This can make it obvious where you’ve gone off track.
- Do something else. Get away from your desk. Do the laundry. Go for a walk. Real-life events and observations are key to keeping your idea box full and can serve as the inspiration for your best writing.
- Create a deadline for yourself. Time pressure can create focus and can force you to make decisions that you may be avoiding.
- Make your process more visual. Unsure of how to continue a section or chapter? Turn to diagrams, post-it notes, or just plain pen and paper. Sometimes, visualizing the problem can help.
- Do something thoroughly mundane. Monotonous tasks like showering, cleaning, and so on make your brain go on autopilot, leaving the creative side free to daydream about all kinds of things—including how to solve the issue that’s causing your writer’s block.
- Free write. This is good advice for any kind of writer. Write without pausing to worry about sentence structure, grammar, spelling, or whether what you’re saying makes sense or not. Just write without second-guessing anything. While most of it will be unusable, it’s a good way to push through the block.
Summarily, whether you’re someone’s favourite author or a potential bestseller, reading is a reliable cure. When you take in another writer’s words on the page — one who has in all likelihood overcome the block as well, at some point — it challenges and motivates you to get the words out.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.