The Defeat of Writer’s Block
By Malik Sharrieff
Writer’s block is a condition that interrupts the creative process for writers and authors and drives publisher’s crazy because of the production delays. However, before discussing strategies that can defeat this affliction, it’s important to get a handle on what writer’s block really is.
Writer’s block is an emotional and psychological condition that can affect the productivity of any creative process. Throughout time, painters have stared blankly at dry, empty canvas; sculptors have lamented over hunks of un molded clay or unrefined marble. In the same way, writers will sometimes find themselves despairing over that blank page that seems to mock their creative effort and ability.
The professional writer or Independent Author should understand that while writer’s block is indeed common it is also treatable.
Literary professionals should understand that writer’s block may be:
- A signal from the subconscious that you are overwhelmed and need a break from the creative process or how you execute the process,
- Triggered by external anxiety or stress (i.e. relationships, the 8 to 5, lack of sleep, poor diet or vitamin D deficiency),
- Triggered by an internal anxiety (i.e. a lack of belief in your own ability, fear of failure or success, or a subconscious reluctance or resentment for the project), or
- Reflecting a need for a new source of inspiration.
The list above may not be exhaustive. However, I believe it does illustrate the point that while writer’s block can derive from a number of sources, every instance of writer’s block can be addressed and eliminated. Here are a few ideas on how to treat your next case of writer’s block:
- Take a break or shake is up a bit: If you are blocked because you are too rigid with your writing schedule, take an hour or a day off. If you have a routine that you stick to with religious intensity, maybe you could shake up the process by taking a day and recording your ideas instead of cloistering yourself in front of your laptop screen. Or, you could schedule days within your process to have review sessions with friends or family. Engaging in lively conversation can be an incredible stimulant to the creative centers of the brain.
- Find ways to relax and eliminate stress triggers from your environment: No, don’t quit your day job if you are not financially ready. However, you can identify those things within the work environment that you might need some space from. Talk to a counselor or a confidant and get some qualified direction on addressing stress in your external or internal environments. When you begin a project and you need peace, perhaps that overly critical relative or friendemy might need to be removed from your environment until your project is completed.
No matter how much of a roll you are on, DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR HEALTH! Get enough sleep, take breaks when you need them, eat regularly (no, Red Bull and Snickers bars DO NOT count). And, get some sun and exercise. Taking a walk in the sun when you can will help oxygenate the blood, improve circulation to the brain, increase energy and help fight depression.
- Be real with yourself or get to know your own mind and heart better: do some serious introspection or get some counseling. While this is good advice for anyone, it is absolutely critical for a creative professional. Your ability to create is intimately connected to your spirit, intellect and emotion; if you aren’t in tune with these aspects of yourself you will likely only produce un-publishable pulp-product. Understanding your inner-self and being able to relate to that wellspring of creative resource is the key to building worlds that others want to live in.
- Read, travel, interact with new intelligent people, read and READ!: As a publisher, I need you to understand that a writer who does not read at least 100 stories for every one they write is highly suspect. Reading is the primary means of developing a foundation for the development of your craft as a writer.
Experience new places; gain an appreciation of other cultures, practices and personalities. Make new friends and experience new perspectives. Seek out the opinions of intelligent and informed people, ESPECIALLY if their opinions differ from yours. Expanding your paradigms and understanding of the world will not only make you a better writer but a better person as well.
Finally, read, read, and read some more! I can’t stress this enough. Any serious writer or author should be reading at least 10 to 12 books each year within the genre that they write (and another 10 per year in other genres).
Taking the above recommendations (individually or cumulatively) will defeat writer’s block when it occurs and help to keep the next occurrence from happening.
Feel free to comment on these tips or let me know if you have any additional strategies that I might have missed.