Writer’s Block was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, and frustrated writers have been throwing around the term ever since.
But is it real? Does the creative muse sometimes just vanish without cause or explanation?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no.
Yes, writers get blocked occasionally. All creative types know the sinking feeling of inspiration ebbing away.
But there’s an underlying reason why you can’t write. It’s not just because you’re cursed, or because the writing gods look unfavourably upon your measly sacrifice of time, energy and words.
And diagnosing yourself with writer’s block will only make the problem worse – backing you into a self-fulfilling prophecy where you cannot even muster the confidence to lift a pen.
So here’s how to stop obsessing over your blockage, and get back to the page.
Take a break
And it has to be a complete break.
Step away from your desk and don’t think or speak about your writing.
Take that energy and throw it into something completely different – exercise, spend time with friends and family, do some gardening.
Just get away for at least 24 hours. And don’t be afraid to leave it longer than that.
Unless you’re on deadline (which is a whole other issue), you can let the work languish a bit.
Take care of yourself
There’s nothing that kills writing faster than stress.
Or lack of sleep.
If you’ve diagnosed yourself with writer’s block, you are adding more pressure to an already stressful environment.
Rather than fretting about what you’re not doing, focus on what you can control.
Eat well, get outdoors, exercise and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
If there are any lingering issues that you’re not dealing with (a row with a partner, an activity you’ve been avoiding), now would be the time to put them to rest.
Take comfort from those who’ve been here
You’re not the first writer to be temporarily stymied. Far from it, many of the greats have been there and gone on to write their masterpiece.
So it’s important to remember these two things:
- You’re not alone
- It’s temporary
And if that doesn’t help, Philip Pullman has some blunt words of wisdom:
“Writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. A professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.”
Take a trip
If you can afford to, travel.
Lack of inspiration might be at the root of your problem. If that’s the case then you need to explore more.
If there’s nothing going in, then it’s not surprising nothing is coming out.
And you don’t need to go far. There are new experiences right on your doorstep, if you know where to look.
Alexander McCall Smith says it best:
“Writer’s block is a load of nonsense – I’ve always been a bit suspicious of it. Using your imagination to create a work of fiction involves exercising the mind and the more you do it, the more adept you become. I go to Botswana for a couple of weeks a year and I just open my eyes to the opportunities in everyday life. Most of my writing is what I have in the bank of memories I’ve accumulated.”
Writer’s block may not be real, in the sense that it’s not a ‘condition’. But it does describe a common part of the creative process.
Writers, artists, musicians, can all benefit from a few science-backed ways of sparking creativity:
I’m going to be writing more about these in the future, so stay tuned!