Every person has his or her worst enemy, even if they are superhuman.
Superman has Kryptonite. Tom has Jerry. And writers have writer’s block. Sure, to non-writers, it doesn’t seem like much. But those who put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for a living, it can make the difference between food on the table or rummaging through the trash for remains.
As a writer, I’ve had my fair share of frustrating moments when attempting to get an idea – which seems utterly fantastic in my mind’s eye – to come to life on the glowing blue screen in front of me.
I’ve managed to unclog those pathways through a process of trial and error. Here are 3 methods that I’ve found useful in defeating writer’s block.
01. Dive into Freewriting
Some writers feel incapacitated before even writing a single word is because there are too many ideas in their mind. I often face this right when I begin writing – a whole deluge of possibilities jumps into my mind and plays hide-and-seek.
Whenever this happens, I find it useful to open up a blank document, and just note down whatever is on my mind in that moment. Yes, I do mean everything that is on my mind – whether it be relevant, mildly relevant, or completely irrelevant.
Some call this free writing, others call it stream of consciousness writing. The idea is to free up your mind, and get everything down in a central location so that you can connect the dots afterwards.
As with all things, practice makes perfect. Niall Doherty pushes out 1000 words in 20 minutes every single day, without fail:
“Here’s what I do every morning: I sit down at my computer, open up a blank post in WordPress, start a countdown timer at 20 minutes, and then try to push 1,000 words out of my brain and onto the screen before the clock hits zero.”
And everyday, he comes away with something useful.
“Even on days when I feel completely uninspired and would rather not write, I come away from my little mind dump sessions with some promising seeds.”
The best part is, you might even be able to come away with brand new ideas after perusing your brilliant mess. I know I definitely have gone off on a tangent several times after taking a mind dump!
Get away from your work, and do something else
The pressure to perform, or the fear that you will be unable to meet expectations, might be another reason why you feel frozen whenever you want to start writing. Miranda Hersey, a writer, editor and creativity coach, says thatany creative block is really about fear. How does she suggest overcoming it? One way is simply to get away from your work completely, and doing something else to get your mind off it.
Take the pressure off of your writing while you do something else that pleases you creatively. For instance, paint the dream you dreamed last night. Bake an elaborate cake. Sketch silly.
It seems counterintuitive, but it really does work. I’ve found that, after taking an extended break from whatever I was previously working on, I always come back with a fresh perspective and new ideas.
Of course, this can only work if you honestly and entirely take work off your mind. A solution: do something that you really love, and really get into the flow. Your mind will naturally gravitate towards that task.
Give yourself the permission to fail
Another way to tackle the fear of not being able to perform up to par is to allow yourself the leeway to write badly. You heard me right – be comfortable with the idea of failing. Here’s how author and poet Robbie Blair puts it:
“When fears associated with the project lead to perfectionism, the writing functions inefficiently because we’re working in the left hemisphere of the brain. Just as often, our fears shut down the writing process completely.”
In other words, as long as you have fear in your heart, no good can come forth from your brain. Giving yourself the permission to fail effectively cancels out this fear, and allows your brain to settle into the writing process.
After all, you can always come back to edit your piece, so what’s the worst that could happen?