You have been staring at the same page for hours, tapping your pen on your desk as if you could magically will the words to appear. A half hour later, you are just about to hurl the whole notebook out the window and declare your relationship with writing officially over. The honeymoon period has ended and you are now hearing the alarm clock that has awakened you to reality.
Or are those warning sirens?
Writer’s block might seem like a good idea to throw in the towel and call it quits, especially when you seem so sure you are going nowhere with your story or your book or your blog. But should you let it defeat you?
In this article, you will find how I combat that feeling of despair before it has a chance to sink its teeth into me.
Do not let perfectionism rule you.
I have gone through this many times and believe me, perfectionism can induce crippling paralysis of your writing muscles the likes of which you have never seen before.
Picture this out — you have just managed to finish two thousand words and are now currently feeling mighty proud of yourself. As you read through your work, your horror grows with every word. What drivel have you just spewed? Were you just planning to inflict this terror on an unsuspecting editor or populace? Even your mother wouldn’t side with you on this one!
And it did happen to me. Several times, in fact. I erased the whole lot of those two thousand words and stared at the screen for another two hours, inwardly sobbing in grief because I have let myself believe that I wasn’t truly a writer at all.
My dear friends, a lot of writers will tell you that you will undeniably spew drivel in your first draft. Ernest Hemingway himself said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
The purpose of your first draft is not to become the next bestseller but simply to be. So, just write it out and never mind that it feels like something your dog vomited the night before.
What about the writer’s block that is so crippling you can’t even begin to write anything at all? You thought you had a great idea but when you sit down, nothing will even come out.
Just crickets chirping and utter darkness and a slight feeling of impending doom.
If you have been feeling this several times during your writing hours, it might be time to go out and breathe in some fresh air. Yes, as much as it would seem counterproductive to leave your writing desk, you need this as much as your writing does.
Besides, you’ll be in good company as a lot of famous authors also relieve writer’s block or seek to improve their writing by taking nice, long walks. Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth, to name a few, and even Aristotle himself. Exercise releases endorphins, the “happy hormones” as I like to call them, and they can do wonders for inspiration.
Personally, a lot of my great ideas were generated during my early morning walks, this blog post among one of them.
Sometimes, we need to step back and just let that story be. This doesn’t equate to quitting but it means you let yourself and your work take a break for a while as you work on something else. Good ideas might need time to incubate so let your work sit undisturbed for a while and get back to it when you feel better.
In my desktop, I have a folder labelled “WIP” or “Works In Progress” and it is filled with all sorts of ideas and snippets of scenes. I revisit this folder every once in a while, about every month or so, and I am always amazed at what I find I can work on. It does not mean I am quitting on my other work — I am just giving it some time to grow on its own.
Another tip is to work on a writing prompt you find on the Internet. You can find them all over Pinterest and they are always great fun to work on.
I’m not talking about copying or plagiarism. I’m talking about research.
Read your favorite authors and your favorite genres and note what you love the most about their works. Read new things and new ways and learn how you can incorporate them into your own work.
To be a better writer, one must read and read a lot. Nobody is born a great writer — you are molded by your experiences and the information you get from the world around you, which you can easily get by reading.
Writer’s block can be quite daunting and it has brought every writer to his knees at one point. What separates a writer from the rest of the world is how he faces that point of despair and continue to write.
Because that is what writers do. That is what writers are.
Do you have advice on dealing with writer’s block and the feeling of getting stuck? Let us know in the comments below!