What is writer’s block?
Everyone who has tried to write has experienced this phenomenon when we absolutely have to write something, particularly on deadline.
Writer’s block is the irrational (?) fear of the blank page. You may think you know EXACTLY what you’re going to write, but as soon as that blank screen appears, your mind suddenly goes completely blank. I’m not talking about the sound of one hand clapping kind of blank.
I’m talking about hot sweat , anguish and panic and suffering kind of blank. The tighter the deadline, the worse the torment of writer’s block gets.
Usually, the cause of the block is FEAR! You are terrified of that blank page. You are terrified that you have absolutely nothing of value to say. You are afraid of the fear of writer’s block itself! It’s a vicious cycle.
It doesnt matter if you’ve done a lifetime of research and all you have to do is string sentences you can repeat in your sleep together into lucid paragraphs. Writer’s block can strike anyone at any time. It raises our doubts about our own self-worth.
Below is a list of what may possibly be causing this terrifying condition.
1. Perfectionism. You MUST produce masterpiece of writing in the first draft. Otherwise, you are a complete failure.
2. Editing rather than composing. There’s your little man sitting on your shoulder, yelling as soon as you type “In the beginning,” no, not that, that’s wrong! That’s stupid! You get the point.
3. Self-consciousness. How can you think, when you’re not focusing on what you’re trying to write, youre focusing on your writing problem (or lack of).
4. Can’t get started. It’s always the first sentence that’s the hardest. As writers, we all know how VERY important the first sentence is. There’s no way we can get into writing the piece until we get past this impossible first sentence.
5. Broken concentration. You’re pet is ill. Your power might be turned off any minute. You have a crush on the Postman. How can you possibly concentrate with all this mental clutter?
6. Procrastination. It’s your favourite pastime. It’s your soul mate. Its the reason you’ve knitted 60 woollen scarves or made 200 step ladders in your garage workshop.
How Can YOU Overcome Writer’s Block
At this point I hear 90% of you saying that writer’s block is absolutely, undeniably, scientifically proven to be impossible to overcome.
Get over it! Well, I guess it’s not that easy. So try to sit down for just a few minutes and take this in. All you have to do is listen and you don’t have to write a single word.
I am here to tell you that WRITER’S BLOCK CAN BE OVERCOME.
Here are some tried and true methods of overcoming writer’s block:
1. Be prepared. The only thing to fear is fear itself. If you spend some time think about your project before you sit down to write, you may be able to thwart the worst of the debilitating panic.
2. Forget perfectionism. No one ever writes a work of art in the first draft. Don’t put any expectations on your writing at all! In fact, tell yourself you’re going to write absolute garbage, and then give yourself permission to just dump your thoughts on the page.
3. Compose instead of editing. Never, never write your first draft with your little man sitting on your shoulder making cutting editorial comments. Just sit down at your computer or your desk. Take a deep breath and flick that little man off your shoulder. Write, scribble, scream, howl, let everything loose, as long as you do it with a pen or your computer keyboard.
4. Forget the first sentence. You can work on the all important firsts sentence later . Skip it! Go start at the middle or even the end. Start wherever you can. Chances are, when you read it over, the first line will be blinking its little neon lights right at you from the depths of your writing.
5. Concentration. This is a hard one. Try creating a space, perhaps even a physical one, where nothing exists except thesingle present moment. If one of those irritating worries gets by you, stomp on it like you would an ugly insect!
6. Stop procrastinating. Write an outline. Keep your research notes near by. Use someone else’s writing to get going. Rant and rave incoherently on paper or on the computer if you have to.
Just do it! (Where have I heard that before?). Tack up anything that could possibly help you to get going: notes, outlines, pictures of your cat. Put the reward you will allow yourself when you finish your first draft within sight but out of reach. Pick up the same type of writing that you need to write, and read it and re-read it. Soon, trust me, the fear will slowly fade away. As soon as it does, grab your keyboard and get writing!