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Your Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Block

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By: Jean Buehler
Nov 24, 2020 • 7 min read

How to Overcome Writer’s Block – Let it All Out On The Page. 

People who often write, whether creative writers, students, or members of the workforce who need to write various reports, are often faced with the most ironic problems. A blank page can easily become the most daunting aspect of life. Writer’s block is a bitter affliction because it makes deadlines more and more imminent and stops writers from doing exactly what we love. So, what causes writer’s block, and how can we work to make it less of a problem in our lives? Let’s explore some strategies you can use to conquer that empty page in front of you!

writer's block

Causes of Writer’s Block

The simplest explanation for writer’s block is perfectionism. Although it is good to have high standards, a perfectionist will experience anxiety at the thought of missing their own high expectations, which will cripple them and render them unable to produce anything at all. In this way, writer’s block is connected to procrastination through the anxiety of perfectionism. Another possible cause of writer’s block is burnout. Especially for creative writers, there is only so much going on in one person’s life at a time. Writing personally or professionally can be a wonderful cognitive outlet, but too much of a good thing can be paralyzing. In this case, writer’s block is a way of an overworked person’s brain, forcing them to take a break. When working with frequent deadlines, the idea of taking breaks becomes daunting, so we work more and more with no stops until we just run out of energy.

Take Breaks

Dealing with burnout in a professional environment or a constantly changing world can be hard. Sometimes, it feels like there is no time at all to take breaks. However, the only way to treat burnout is to try not to cause it. Humans can only do the same thing for so long. Because of this, writers must take preventative measures regarding burnout. Working with deadlines can make these preventative measures seem impossible, but it is also impossible to write forever. Even in a crunch period, it is still possible to take breaks to cook meals instead of eating small snacks or to take 5 minutes to walk or draw and restore your energy.

writer's block

Read to Overcome Writer’s Block

Some people will say that writing and reading are the same action. Cognitively, this may have some truth: your mind is being active and creative, whether you are interacting with your own thoughts or with someone else’s. However, when your own thoughts are eluding you, it can be refreshing to think in someone else’s voice for a while and step out of your own head. That is why reading is a great example of a productive and restorative break to take when you are afflicted with writer’s block.

Be Okay with What You Produce

When dealing with the pressure of perfectionism, it is hard to let oneself compromise. As a writer, though, a lack of compromise will only lead to a blank page. Many people deal with creative block not because they don’t need to create, but because they need desperately to create, and they are afraid of the results. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap. Try not to anticipate what will come out at the end of your project, but instead make peace with what you can do in the moment. This way, you can avoid the paralysis of perfectionism. In the end, what you end up producing will likely be good enough, and if not, you can only edit something that already exists. You must get something on the page, and confronting or ignoring the insecurity that stops you is one of the first steps.

writer's block

Distract (or Kill) Your Inner Editor

One facet of the insecurity that enforces perfectionism is the inner editor. Writers are all very selective of their adjectives, verbs, and nouns, the words that begin their sentences, and the syntax of adjacent parts of a paragraph. Writing is a craft, and it can be exhausting to decide what sounds good, what sounds cliche, and what is okay to try to publish. Because of all these factors, it is common to catch oneself editing while one writes. Taking breaks to go back and read an unfinished work and moving sentences around, or to swap out this word for that, is actually very time-consuming, and it takes up a lot of energy and mental space. Thus, less space is left for the actual content that you want to write.

Allow Editing To Come at The End 

Let editing be something that comes at the end of the project, or for longer projects, at the end of each day (at most). If you want, you can highlight awkward phrases or words as you go for you to return to, but let yourself move on as quickly as possible. This way, you can get into a good flow that is more genuine and less analytical, and maybe even less prone to excessive self-scrutiny. 

writer's block

Just Start: Writing About Writing

Tony Olliver writes that a powerful way to combat writer’s block is to write about writing. If it’s becoming impossible for you to get anything on a page, you can just let your internal monologue flow through you for a while. Maybe you can start a report with “It is half-past twelve, and I have a report due soon, so I am writing the report.” And so on. You don’t have to write anything you will keep, but if you get in the flow of writing about what you think of your assignment or project, likely, you’ll just end up with the perfect starting line. 

Remember What You Love

If your career involves a great deal of writing, writing is likely a passion of yours. This is even more true if writing is a side project that you consciously make time for regardless of what you do for a living. There is a reason that you chose to write what you need to write, and because there is a reason for it, there is a way to do it. Keeping a physical journal could help you reconnect to your passion and overcome burnout or perfectionism. The same could be said for a meditative practice. If you take steps to reconnect with what you love about writing, it might feel less and less like a chore. Once you reconnect with that feeling and put something on the blank page, you will surely soar.

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