Dealing with Writer’s Block Effectively(ish)

Side view of young businesswoman with head in the clouds on chalkboard background. Writer's block conceptThere is a debate over whether or not writer’s block is a thing.  To which I say, “Of course it is,” as I sit staring at a blank screen.  The debate should not be whether or not it is a thing but what is the cause of it.  Sometimes it is something simple, for fiction it could be you’ve written yourself into a corner and don’t know how to get yourself out, leading to feeling blocked and unable to write.  It could be as simple as deleting those words and starting over, getting out of the corner by simply removing the corner altogether.  It could be a lack of inspiration or being distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand.

When it is the former it can just be a matter of buckling down and deleting all those words you spent so much time putting down.  For the latter, however, the answer can be a bit more difficult.  When our mind is distracted, or we are feeling uninspired, I find the best way to overcome it is to free-write.  It can be as simple as not having a topic for, say, an article, or an essay.  The scope seems too large and the answer just won’t come to you.  If you put aside the thoughts of writing an article or writing an essay and just write, leaving all typos behind, then there is usually a grain within those words that will spark an idea and give you direction.

Pushing yourself to free-write isn’t always that easy though.  I find the longer I try to get words down without feeling like I am accomplishing something the more difficult it becomes. This generally leads me to something I have written about before: productive procrastination.  I can’t simply walk away and watch TV or read a book because I will be nagged with guilt that I should be working.  So, I do the next best thing, clean something that has been avoided for too long, maybe even treat some leather boots that I have been thinking could probably use it since I bought them a year ago.

It is a bit amusing, the number of things I can find “that need to be done” when I should be working on something else.  While this form of guilt-free procrastination can be beneficial to other aspects of my life it does not help me get anything accomplished on the work end, which is what I should be focusing on and not rubbing this wax into these boots.

Walking away can help, but this isn’t always an option, there are deadlines, whether real or self-imposed, and things need to get done.  We could clean all day but that paper still needs to be written.  So if you need to walk away a better way to do it is to go and make yourself a cup of coffee/tea and come back to a fresh screen and write.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just let the words hit the screen in whatever fashion they take.  Odds are that once the words start to flow there will be a grain of inspiration, an idea, that will hit you and then you can take that and start the project that needs your attention the most.

  • Sass Enmore

    Free-writing often works. Sometimes it helps if you set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes, which serves two purposes: setting a limit to the “agony” of writing, and imposing a deadline. Not every strategy works every time for every writer. Experimentation and diversification are key. Great article!

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