What’s the deal with writer’s block and how do people overcome it? That’s the question that the Well-Red Mage is asking for Asking Big Questions #3. I enjoyed reading the six tips on overcoming Writer’s Block, along with everyone’s suggestions in the comments. Everyone has had some great advice on this topic. It is a well-timed question, as The Shameful Narcissist points out, considering that NaNoWriMo is coming to a close as we speak.
When I was in high school, I firmly believed in writer’s block. It was an invisible nemesis that stunted productivity and killed fun writing ideas before they got out the door. In college, I came across a piece of writing advice that boldly stated that writer’s block was a myth. I was outraged. How dare they belittle the experiences of so many writers? Who did that person think they were? Did they think they were better than everyone else?
After giving it a good, long thought over the years, I have decided that I agree with that now unknown-to-me writer. There is no such thing as writer’s block. There is, however, such a thing as the idea of writer’s block, and ideas are very powerful.
The idea of having writer’s block is more powerful in preventing writers from getting their words out than any affliction. I came to realize that I often fell back on this idea whenever I felt stuck . Anytime that I couldn’t get the words out and felt defeated or despondent, I could shrug it off by saying that I had Writer’s Block. I wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t realize that falling back on this idea of writer’s block allowed me to avoid asking myself what was going wrong so that I could do something about it.
After realizing what writer’s block was, I became determined to find ways around it. The Well-Red Mage’s list of solutions largely covers some of the best strategies (especially number 1, about getting out and doing some exercise. Stepping away from your project to clear your head allows unconscious parts of your brain to work on the problem. Surprisingly, this is a helpful idea when you’re struggling with other tasks too, such as studying). I do, however, have two items to add to the list of advice on how to overcome Writer’s Block.
First, I recommend just allowing yourself to do a writing-dump. Simply freewrite. Let everything that comes to mind out onto the page unrestricted and unjudged. The rule with this method is that there is no editing and no self-censuring allowed (you’ll get to edit later). Don’t worry about grammar, about something being stupid or unrelated, or about formatting. Don’t worry if it is a huge mess. Just let your brain take control and write whatever it wants. In the end, you might not keep everything that you wrote down during the dump. You might not even keep half of it, but it will leave you with a starting point, and might even clear away or improve some of the ideas you were not sure about before.
The second suggestion is more of a question for yourself. When you’re stuck and can’t put a single word down, ask yourself, is this really what I wanted to write? Sometimes the reason that we are stuck and unable to write something down is because what we are trying to write isn’t what we actually want to write. Now, I’m not suggesting that you should never write about things that aren’t interesting to you. Many times, we have to tackle topics we don’t care about for various reasons that we can’t avoid, and I’m not advocating shirking these situations. What you’re really asking is, is this how I want to say it? What is it that you want to say? Combining this question with any other strategy for overcoming Writer’s Block (including a writing-dump) is a great way to overcome that block.
When it comes to overcoming writer’s block, there are few wrong strategies. What matters is finding something that works for you. Don’t worry if the method that worked for you last time doesn’t seem to be working this time either. Sometimes different situations call for trying out different strategies. If you’re looking for other strategies, check out the original post to see what The Well-Red Mage has to say on the topic, and consider checking out the comments while you’re there. Who knows, maybe someone else will have shared a strategy that will work well for you.