Writer’s Block is a big subject and, much to the chagrin of many people, there is no single simple answer to how to overcome the demon that has brought your writing to a halt. This doesn’t mean it is insurmountable, or even that the negativity which surrounds it can’t be turned into a positive outcome.
Writer’s Block – two words that are easy to understand in and of themselves, but the phenomena that lie beneath are not always easy to identify. With this in mind, it is imperative that we pause to consider what Writer’s Block actually is and what causes it, before going too far into the question of how to overcome it.
If you type Writer’s Block into Google, you’ll find 5,600,000 results headlined by the definition, The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing. Wikipedia tells us it is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which the author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences creative slowdown. These are similar definitions obtained from two of the most often consulted resources available. In both cases, there are obstructions to the writer’s ability to produce work; obstacles writers must overcome if they are to be productive.
When I ask writers what Writer’s Block means to them, there are comments like ~
- ‘When I don’t know what to write.’
- ‘When I can’t get going…’
- ‘When I want to write, but can’t get started.’
- ‘When I have started, but stopped and can’t get back to it’
- ‘When I get distracted.’
- ‘When I find other things to do instead of writing.’
These certainly describe ways Writer’s Block can manifest and fit with the above definitions. However, there is a need to delve deeper if we want to overcome whatever it is that causes a creative slowdown or a total stop in our work.
A writer is anyone who writes, has written, or has a strong urge to write – whether or not they have been published. Some may not agree with this broad statement because of a belief that a person isn’t a writer until they have published a work of significance. However, that would mean anyone who writes for enjoyment, and not publication, is not a writer. In my mind, this person is a writer in the same way as someone who plays golf for pleasure is a golfer, regardless of whether they play at competition level… or like the home gardener, who grows plants for the sheer feeling of satisfaction that comes from their connection with the earth and flora.
A block is an obstruction or obstacle, as outlined above… but if you go a step further and look up the word ‘blockage’, you’ll find it means ~ an act or instance of obstruction, or state of being obstructed, resistance to understanding, learning etc, set up by existing habits of thought and action.
Therefore, Writer’s Block is anything that obstructs a writer’s ability to write… be it physical, emotional or mental… long-term or short-term… real or imagined.
Opinions differ as to how blocked a writer has to be before they are considered to have Writer’s Block. Do they have to be totally paralysed? Or, is struggling to get back to their work for a few days enough to say they are stuck in the Writer’s Block tunnel?
Writer’s Block is personal – it can be different things to different people, and also different things to any particular person at different times. It can strike any writer at any time, and it seems to be inevitable that it will strike every writer at some stage of their writing life.
Having established this, it becomes clear that, not only is there no single simple fix that can be employed to unlock the impasse, but that there is not even a standard list of actions to eradicate the problem. The concept of Writer’s Block becomes as overwhelming as the question of how to move through it.
Problem-solving techniques demand that we identify and know the cause of a problem before we can find a solution, and Writer’s Block is a classic example of this.
What causes Writer’s Block? This is a simple enough question and the most common answers would range from having no idea, to having too many ideas and feeling overwhelmed, to perfectionism and fear. But there are multiple reasons that Writer’s Block occurs, many of which are unique to individual people and situations.
Causes will be explored in my Next Blog ~ Writer’s Block – Part B to be posted soon.
In the meantime, try Exercise #12 ~ How Do I Experience Writer’s Block?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section…