How to Overcome Writer’s Block
Have you ever wanted to write a piece or gotten an essay assignment and then when you sit down at your computer to actually start working on it, your mind goes completely blank? This, my friend, is what people like to call writer’s block.
What is it?
What is writer’s block? If you need to ask this question, you are a very fortunate individual to only be encountering it now. Our trusted friend, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines writer’s block as a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.
The important thing you need to note in this definition is the word “psychological”. This word in and of itself gives us hope because it shows us that it is in our minds that these limitations exist. And can we not control our thoughts? Of course, we can!
Now you might be saying, “Well sure, I can control my thoughts but I still feel stuck. It’s like I simply can’t write anything worthwhile…”
That’s a fair enough argument. I have been there and am currently there. So, let’s dive right into some helpful pointers on how to escape the bondage of writer’s block.
Okay, that’s all I have to say on the matter. See you in my next post!
I’m just kidding! But, my first piece of advice is this simple. The best way to overcome writer’s block is to simply sit down at your computer (or typewriter or grab your quill and parchment paper) and start to jot down everything you can think of on the subject that you’re writing about. Only once you do this, will you realise how much (or how little) you know on the subject.
Even if you realise you know next to nothing, this was still a useful exercise, as it gave you a starting point and exposed the areas where you need to do some additional research.
This point was illustrated very well in a movie I saw recently on Netflix called Set It up. The main character, Harper, had to write this important, career-defining article (isn’t this always the case) but simply couldn’t get herself to write.
Then her best friend gave her some amazing advice and I am now going to pass it along to you:
“Of course your first draft is going to be bad. It’s gonna be terrible. Then you know what you do, Harper? You go back and make it better. But you can’t make it better until you actually do it.”
This idea seems so simple, yet it has been profound to me personally. Now, whenever I feel like I shouldn’t start writing because it’s just going to suck, I think of this quote and do it anyways.
Remember, it’s called the first draft for a reason. You still have the opportunity to study it under a microscope afterwards and dissect and remove every part you’re not happy with until you end up with the end product that meets your standards.
Another thing that usually gets those creative writer juices flowing, is reading up on your subject. Sometimes you simply need a little more info to draw on to get going with the writing process.
Let’s say you have to write an essay on the fall of the Roman Empire. All you have to do is take that little phrase (“the fall of the Roman Empire”) and type it into Google. You will have access to over 129 000 000 results in a matter of seconds.
Not all those results will be worth your while but you get the gist of it. And then, of course, I’m in no way condoning the copying of someone else’s work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing what others are writing about and forming your own ideas and opinions around it and writing an essay or article about it.
And, I mean you can always cite your sources should you find a snippet or two of information that is simply indispensable as is. This will in no way discredit your work and to the contrary, will add value to what you are writing about.
Use the sources at your disposal. We are so fortunate in this time we live in to have a multitude of different information platforms at our fingertips. We should make use of this wonderful privilege.
Step Away from the Computer
If you’ve been cramped up inside your room, trying to force every last bit of sensible writing out of your brain for hours on end, my suggestion would be to change your environment. Sometimes, all you need is a breath of fresh air.
Go take a walk, call a friend or run some errands, whatever gets you moving and preferably out of the house. I would, however, steer clear of other forms of visual stimulation like the TV, Youtube or even some other forms of social media, as these things can leave your mind feeling more exhausted than before (or at least that’s what I’ve noticed from my own experience).
Normally, at this point, I would say you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. But, in this instance, I would say you should push yourself forward to go through this block.
Force yourself to write something down, even if it sucks, even if it’s the worst piece of writing in the history of the written word, write. For only if you write, can you revise, edit and improve.