Not every writer can discipline themselves to set aside time to write on a scheduled basis. Some writers only write when they are either inspired, or simply must out of necessity—the Schaffer Paragraphs continue to haunt me till this day. Whether we decide to write for ourselves or an audience, our mind creates what it is able to produce before we reach a roadblock: the writer’s block. If you find yourself unable to write because you cannot come up with anything new or your personal life problems suddenly killed your focus, don’t worry: this pause in your writing flow could be just the break you need to recollect your thoughts and create a more significant piece.
Many who experience it may recall having thoughts similar to these:
“Why can’t I think of anything!!?”
“My life sucks right now and I don’t want to write.”
“This piece is not even good to begin with…better scratch it”
“I am such a terrible writer…”
Good news: you aren’t alone; I plead guilty to all of these and more. But you can break out of it too! I won’t sit here trying to convince you of something I don’t believe in, so instead try it for yourself. Here are the motions I go through:
Have a conversation
You don’t even have to talk about anything related to writing whatsoever! Whenever I go out to a café, ride the bus, or go somewhere that involves being around strangers, I start a conversation with the person next to me and get a glimpse at someone else’s lifestyle. You’d be surprised how dramatic my writing abilities improved just by investing time listening to people’s stories of their upbringing, life philosophies, or, in one bizarre instance, how one might find therapy by performing satanic rituals using crystals (and no, I did not try this; I simply managed to feign a smile from beginning to end of that trippy conversation and that was that).
Watch and learn
YouTube is your best friend and will continue to be. Think of all the times when you got stuck in life and needed to watch a tutorial video or needed to hear speakers give advice about a life problem. Whatever it is, I can’t tell you how significant these have helped in breaking out of a block I had for months. Similarly, you can listen to podcasts or audiobooks to stimulate your brain into thinking different.
Actually, I do two things: I read, and I critique. As I read, I pay attention mostly to style and ask myself why the author arranges their points a certain way. I look at each paragraph to see how one idea connects to the next until the climatic moment when the author is able to explain the bigger picture. The proper term for this practice is known as “close reading” and can help you branch out into different ways of expressing thought.
I found that I’ve escaped blocks by writing about something away from my subject. Mostly for me, this would be my emotions, what’s going on in my life and in my head. I do this sometimes in the form of free-writing or even poetry to relieve stress, and it so happens new thoughts and ideas begin to emerge: I have my “Aha!” moments.
Whatever you choose to do, just remember that “writing” is not always writing: thinking, too, is writing, whether you realize it or not.
What is your experience with writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!