I had no idea how to start my blog so I decided to write about writer’s block. Pretty ironic, I know. I thought it would be interesting to research about it since it has been my excuse for not writing for over a year…
But what is the writer’s block exactly? A lack of inspiration? A fancy word to define our procrastination? Here’s what I found out about it:
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block definition is basically “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece”.
“How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing. It doesn’t come off. A page now and then is successful, but I can’t keep it up, the next day I am powerless.” Franz Kafka
That being said, is it really “this condition” confided to the sole activity of writing? Isn’t it something that can happen with any task we are reluctant to do? Reasons could be pressure, emotional involvement, amount of time and energy we have to dedicate to it…
Some people argue it’s something specific to writing, others that it’s basically a form of procrastination. To me, it’s something that happens to anyone who is trying to achieve something meaningful to them. You’re not doing it because of FEAR.
The causes of writer’s block
Fear of failure.
There’s always that really nice little voice in our heads telling us that what we are doing is lame, that we won’t achieve anything good. Every time we write a sentence, we judge it immediately. It can get to a point that we erase it so we end up writing nothing at all. I heard sentences like “I’m a perfectionist” or “It’s not ready yet”, which is to me just another way of saying “I’m afraid”. We have such big expectations for ourselves that it’s hard to meet them.
The Fear of judgment from others.
Not only we are afraid of our own judgment but also of the judgment of others. Putting something we are vulnerable about for everyone to see, is frightening. We also know the Internet is full of trolls, thinking about dealing with that kind of energy can stop you from doing anything.
Comparing yourself with others.
We usually follow other people on social media who inspire us to take a step forward with what we want to achieve in life. It’s really easy to go a bit further and compare ourselves to their own achievements and feeling discouraged.
The importance of the task.
When something seems too daunting and is too important emotionally, we tend to put it aside because it just seems too hard to tackle. Because we put so much hope in its realization, paradoxically it becomes something we drag on doing.
Overcoming writer’s block
1) Take it less seriously
Whatever your skill or talent is, you will always doubt it, struggle with producing daily content. If you let go of the pressure and just experiment for fun you will allow yourself to take more risks. And if you allow yourself to have less productive and inspired sessions of work, you’ll lower the pressure and actually achieve more. You might not write something as great as you thought you would, but it’s about starting somewhere and getting better and better. It’s not about being great right away.
2) Just go for it
Maya Angelou explained in the book Writers Dreaming:
“I suppose I do get ‘blocked’ sometimes but I don’t like to call it that. That seems to give it more power than I want it to have. What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ you know.
“It might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”
I love this approach because it’s a no-bullshit one. She just goes for it, just write, even if what she writes isn’t great. It’s about beating this inside voice that is constantly judging you.
The first thing you will write won’t probably be not as great as you expected. But it’s part of the process. You just have to start somewhere so in a few years, you can see your progression. It’s about practice. Nobody woke up a writer (or a composer, or a photographer; whatever your craft is), they just went for it and they worked from there.
3) Write to one person
When you write something, you think about all the people who will stumble upon it and you’re afraid of what they will say. It’s a certainty that some people will not like what you do but it’s ok. We are all different and like different things.
There’s also a small chance that some angry person will decide to spew their own life’s frustrations and negativity on to you. But it has little importance what you actually write, they are just trolls trolling. That is just what they do.
It’s also easy for people to say ” I would have written that in a better way”. But the difference is that you’re actually doing it. It’s always easy to cover yourself with the reassuring blanket of “I would have done it better” without taking the actual step of doing it. It’s really difficult, more than people think to be vulnerable and write something.
Instead of thinking of all the (negative) people that will stumble upon this post, I’m pretending I’m writing for some of my most supporting and positive friends. It helps me to go on with the process and inspire me to take risks.
In a 1962 letter to his friend Robert Wallsten, John Steinbeck advised:
Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist.
“In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
Now that you change your set of mind to fight writer’s block, you can also try to change your process of writing:
4) Have a ritual
What could help would be to create an ideal environment for you to write in. Somewhere you can concentrate and be inspired and trigger you to be in “work time mode”. I like to sit at my desk and get some noise in the background to write. Somehow listening to music or tv comforts me into writing! I used to try to write from my bed. So comfy right? probably too much. I just ended up napping. I also notice I work better in the evening than during the day. I’m an “owl” type.
Try to think of the best environment to work in and make a habit of it.
5) Break a big project into small tasks
Imagine you’re trying to write a book, the thought of it is overwhelming. It takes so much time and dedication to achieve that. And when you’re done, you have the same amount of dedication to edit it. This sounds so difficult that you just put it aside and never really start. It just feels like a huge mountain to climb. Also, big tasks are less satisfying to achieve because small tasks give you instant pleasure. Doing laundry gives instant satisfaction; working on a paper for a long time means no pleasure until it’s done.
Now, instead of thinking about the book as a whole, try thinking in chapters, better yet, in lines or number of words.
That’s it. Don’t think too much about the result, the finished product but just about satisfying little tasks from that big project.
6) Write 30 min a day
When you think about writing 30 mins a day, it sounds totally doable, right? Like Anna Sabino explains in her book “Your Creative Career“, 30 minutes a day is enough to produce decent quality content.
Rather having long writing demanding sessions, try to write for no more than 30 minutes. Even if it’s not great. If I had written every day 30 minutes since I decided to write a book, I would have written it by now.
Jack London believed that writing daily was the best way to rouse the sleeping Muse. He advised,
“Set yourself a ‘stint,’ and see that you do that ‘stint’ each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.”
If 30 minutes still seems unattractive to you on a particular day where you feel uninspired, just try 10 minutes. Instead of ditching it all together, just tell yourself you can work for 10 mins and if it doesn’t work you stop after that. Usually, you’ll see that once you get concentrated, you’ll continue after the 10 minutes.
Applying these techniques will enable you to write little more every day and writer’s block will be estranged to you. Just remember, you are writing for yourself, because you like it and because it’s fun. Negative people will always be negative and you will never avoid them. Try to find people who have the same set of mind as you: people who are willing to take the risk and being vulnerable. Accept that it will take time to be as great as you want to be. The most important thing is to start writing and continue trying and evolving in the right direction. And you should be proud of yourself just for doing that.
I would love to hear other people experiences!
Let me know in the comment section if you ever struggled with achieving something (writing or something else) and if you used those techniques are others to overcome your difficulties!