Writer’s block is something that happens to everyone whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner. It can be a worrisome experience the first time it happens. You may have doubts about your writing career or your ability as a writer, but don’t worry, there are some ways to combat it and prevent it. In this article we will explore the question of what is writer’s block and what can you do about it?
What is writer’s block?
Many wonder, is writers block real or just something someone made up as an excuse? If you have your doubts, someday you will find yourself staring at a blank page for long periods of time unable to think of the first word with a tight deadline approaching. It is real enough that psychologists Barrio and Singers examined it in the 1970s and 1980s. They found that there are four main causes of writer’s block, which are:
- A lack of external motivation, like praise and recognition
- A lack of internal motivation, like an expectation of a certain reward or outcome
- A fear of criticism and comparison to other writers
- Being a harsh self-critic
While this was an important step in understanding writer’s block, many other reasons might have you at a lack of words. Here are some other causes that can lead to writer’s block.
- Too few ideas
- Too many ideas
- Too many competing outside responsibilities
- A bout of depression
- Physical illness or lack of energy
- Negative self-talk
- Overthinking and perfectionism
- Time of life change
- Lack of sleep
- Distractions like social media
- Feeling overwhelmed
Is writer’s block normal? When you read this list, you will find that almost everyone goes through some of these things from time to time, and any one of them can leave little energy for creativity and writing. For instance, if you have family obligations that leave you little time for writing, this can leave you feeling tired and overwhelmed, which is the recipe for writer’s block. If you find yourself unable to move forward on your writing projects, the only thing you want to know is how to resolve it and get back to crushing your writing goals.
What does writer’s block feel like?
Writer’s block feels different for everyone depending on the cause. It can feel like overwhelming anxiety, racing thoughts that will not stop, negative self-talk like telling yourself you cannot do it, or it can feel like you have absolutely no motivation or energy to do the work. It can also feel like staring at a blank page and knowing that you need to get words on it, but your mind wanders in a thousand different directions. One thing it almost always feels like is frustration and stress.
If you feel like this, the only thing you want to know is how to get out of writer’s block and fast. The first thing you have to do to begin getting back into the groove is to try to find the root cause. You need to step back and take a look. Is there something in the outside world that is causing you stress, anxiety, or that may have you in a state of low energy?
If something like an illness, a major family change, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, or just feeling overwhelmed is the issue, then you need to begin with resolving the root cause first. Many writers make the mistake of just assuming that it will go away on its own, but it seldom does unless you try to address the core issue that is causing it. Without positive action, it will be likely to get worse, not better. What are some actions that you can take to resolve writer’s block if you cannot find an outside cause?
Overcoming writer’s block
You have looked for anything that could be causing this feeling and found nothing; you are still stuck. What now? Knowing what to do when you have writer’s block can give you a few tools that you can try. Here are a few tips that pros use to help prevent and manage writer’s block when it happens.
1. Exercise and nutrition
Many people underestimate the amount of energy that creative work takes. Our brains require a lot of energy, and the first thing that you can do is to pay attention to your exercise and nutrition. Moderate physical activity is an excellent way to unlock your brain and get it unstuck. You cannot do your best work if you are not fueled properly or well-rested, so this should be your first line of defense.
2. Writing routine
One of the tips that many writers follow is to establish a writing routine. Set aside a certain time of your day when you turn off your phone, turn off social media, and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Just like establishing any other habit, once your brain builds the expectation that this is what it will be doing during a certain part of the day, it will be become easier to turn this into productive time. You know that you will have plenty of time during the rest of the day for those other activities that have you stressed out, but this is your time for writing.
3. 30-minute challenge
This is my favorite trick for getting out of writer’s block. First, create a distraction-free zone, which means no phone, no email, no Internet unless is needed for research, and no social media. Set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer begins, you must keep writing and not let your hands stop moving. Even if it is off-topic and gibberish, just keep going and the ideas will start flowing.
The idea of this challenge is about word count. You will edit it and delete the gibberish later. Even if all you talk about is how frustrated you feel, just keep your hands moving. It might sound silly at first, but this is my favorite trick when I am at an absolute loss for words because it works.
4. Do something else
If you truly have writer’s block and are just sitting there staring at the screen, continuing to stare at the screen will not solve anything. Get up and do something else. Take a walk, take a shower, play with your dog, read, or do artwork. You will find that you will probably get a flash of insight or idea when you get your mind off your frustration.
So now, you can answer the question, What is writer’s block? You understand some of the causes and have some strategies for combatting it. One of the most important things you can do to prevent it is staying healthy both physically and mentally. Finding balance and taking care of yourself is the key to crushing it in 2021.