If you ask me how I feel about the term ‘Writer’s Block,’ I’ll give you my opinion—I don’t believe in it. And that’s not to diminish someone’s frustration or experience of feeling creatively ‘stuck,’ but to take another approach to the ways we hold ourselves back. Writer’s Block is a term we coined to explain our inability to get words onto paper. But how much of that ‘block’ is actually self-created? How much of that ‘block’ is from our own minds?
When I have a lack of inspiration, I acknowledge that something is in the way. I try to write around the idea, write without restrictions or editing, or sometimes simply walk away and do something else. I know that I can’t always have great ideas—and I don’t try to! When I feel creatively drained, I find other ways to get the words out. There’s no such thing as Writer’s Block when you empower yourself to be stronger than it.
If you feel like you’re struggling to write something strong, or if the words just aren’t making sense on your head or the page—don’t worry—you’re not alone. Overcoming Writer’s Block isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible. And it begins by pushing back against the doubt and fear in your mind.
1. Start by identifying the root of the problem.
Be honest with yourself for a second. What’s really getting in your way? Is it the fact that there’s really nothing to write about? Or is it that you’re talking negatively to yourself, feeling distracted, overanalyzing your words as you express them, or writing around the same topics?
When you take a minute to figure out what’s truly holding you back, it can give you a game plan for how to attack. Oftentimes this starts with acknowledging and taking active steps to make a change.
2. Use a word or phrase map.
If writing longer-form work is the problem, start small. Create a word map with words that are on your mind. Don’t have that? Flip open a dictionary and copy down ten random words. From there, draw lines going out from each word and write things/people/ideas that remind you of those words. Keep going until you’ve filled an entire page.
Phrase map: Think of a common phrase you’ve heard. This could be something you heard growing up (ex: ‘Sharing is caring) or something as simple as ‘I love you.’ Write down that phrase. What comes to mind when you read those words. Jot down anything, without worrying if it makes sense. The goal is to get words out without holding back. Sometimes that’s all it takes to break the cycle.
3. Draw or doodle.
If you’re feeling stuck with words, try drawing instead. Before you shake your head and say you’re not an artist, try it. This doesn’t have to be top-notch or beautiful, it’s simply an exercise to use a different part of your brain. Perhaps a silly doodle will spark a reminder of a person, place, or moment in your life. Start there.
4. Be an active bystander and listener.
People watching can be fun, but it can also be a useful strategy for overcoming Writer’s Block. Find a public space (can be a coffee shop, restaurant, park bench, etc.) and start listening to people’s conversations. Write down the things that stick out to you, for example words, phrases, funny outfits, mannerisms, etc. These notes can lead into stories or easily trigger moments from your past to write about.
5. Use a prompt journal or resource.
Prompt journals are so valuable when it comes to inspiring yourself and getting out of a creative rut. Whether you want to start from the beginning and work to the end, or open to a random page, these types of journals will essentially force you to write around a subject you might not have considered before. Even if you don’t like what you create, you’re still writing, which is the first and most important step.
6. Start with a single letter.
Pick any letter from the alphabet and write down as many words as you can that start with that letter. Then choose one item from the list at random to write about. Even if your sentences don’t make sense and you feel like you aren’t getting there, the act of putting the pen to paper will start to break the barriers in your mind.
7. Riff off something that you love.
First, let’s be clear. I am by no means advocating for plagiarism here. What I am suggesting, however, is that sometimes we can take what inspires us to craft our own work. If there’s a poem or piece you love, see if you can’t try to write it in your own words. If you really resonate with a poet’s ending line, start your poem with that first phrase (as a direct quote, of course).
Sometimes overcoming Writer’s Block happens when you just start writing. And to start, you sometimes need to borrow some inspiration.
8. Take a break.
A counterintuitive piece of advice, but useful nonetheless. Sometimes when we face ‘Writer’s Block’ it’s really because we’re overstressing ourselves because we want immediate results. Being creative on demand isn’t always possible, no matter how hard we work or how much we try to train ourselves. Sometimes giving yourself a break—even if that only means walking around the block before taking another stab at it—is essential to your mental (and creative) wellbeing.
Featured Image Credit: Andrea Vehige[