When I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t for the life of me come up with an idea. I thought, and thought, and thought some more, but my brain was empty. Then it hit me why don’t I write about this situation? See, most writers have also experienced the following predicament at one point or another in their careers; staring at a blank page in their notebook or an empty document on their computer and nothing coming to mind. Writer’s block, or creative block, is possibly as old as the art of writing itself. This problem isn’t just exclusive to writers. Creatives from all walks of life – artists, musicians, poets, etc. – can all suffer from it. Sometimes inspiration just doesn’t strike. But what exactly is writer’s block? What causes it? And once it strikes, how can we beat it?
Webster’s dictionary defines writer’s block as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.” The reason why it’s so hard to get started and find continuous inspiration changes from person to person. However, there are some common causes for writer’s block. First, perfectionism. It’s normal to want to do our very best, for everything to be just right before we even start our first sentence. Unfortunately, trying to achieve perfection could lead most writers to never write a single word. A second common cause is fear. Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and critique. While fear is completely normal, it becomes a problem once it prevents you from creating anything new. Other causes may be self-criticism, timing, or external pressure.
So, how do we defeat this enemy? It’s a tough question to answer and I’m afraid I don’t have a great solution. I’ve wrestled with writer’s block on a few occasions and each victory looked different. So, I looked for some insight online. I gathered for you the few ways that I found to be helpful in the past and those that I feel will work the next time I face this battle. The first way to combat writer’s work is to exercise. Physical exercise has been proven to reduce stress, focus the mind, increase productivity, and enhance memory. Aerobic exercise, such as running, was found to be beneficial in particular. A second possible solution could be changing your environment. Sometimes all you need to clear your head and get some new ideas is a change of scenery. Try working from a different environment the next time you feel stuck.
A third possible solution is to eliminate distractions. Put away your cellphone, turn off the Internet access on your computer, or write in a notebook to avoid the distraction of the computer altogether. If you’ll lose focus, of course, you won’t be able to come up with ideas. Try creating a distraction-free space for yourself when you’re writing or doing creative work, both physically and mentally. Another possible way is freewriting. In this writing exercise, all you have to do is, well, write. I know, it’s easier said than done, however, this is definitely worth a try. Start writing down any thought that might pop into your head without editing or censoring. The idea is to let your imagination roam free. Set a time and write non-stop. At the end of the set time, read what you wrote, and see if anything pops out that inspires you.
The last possible solution to writer’s block is to aspire for progress and not perfection. As mentioned above, perfection is one of the most common causes of writer’s block. The best way to fight it is to remind yourself that you’re merely working on the first draft. Thinking of your work as a first draft of many will take the pressure off. Rewriting, editing, and tweaking a piece of imperfect writing is a lot easier than trying to get it right the first time around. At the end of the day, what will truly get you to overcome your writer’s block is, well, to write. So, please, give the tips above a chance. Some of these may take time and patience, so don’t give up! Once you start heading in a direction, it’s easier to pick up speed. Before you know it, your block will be a distant memory and you’ll be doing what you once thought was impossible – writing.