How to write: Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writers do not write because they want to. Writers write because they must. There is an idea leaping from every pore. It must be expressed! The need is so great that they often shut out the rest of the world to see the creative process to its end. If my fingers all broke tomorrow, my eyebrows would somehow figure out how to type.

So what do you do if, for no apparent reason, that tidal wave of creativity suddenly… dries up?

Writers are engaged in a very fundamental act of communication. And yet I find it is very difficult to explain Writer’s Block to someone who either isn’t a writer, or to the rare creative soul who has never experienced it. One day you are standing astride the deck of your mighty ship, easily navigating the tsunami of creative expression. The next morning you wake up…

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Not pretty.

There’s a lot of advice about what to do when writer’s block hits.   Many writers feel that it’s often a simple matter of burn out.   If you walk away from the project for a time you’ll return refreshed and (hopefully) with fresh insight.  And a lot of times they’re right.  It’s likely you’ll burn out even on the most beloved project.  A little distance is good for you both.

But really, that’s not writer’s block.  That’s “If I have to pound another key today someone’s gonna die.”  Writer’s block is looking at the screen and wondering where it all went.  And why won’t it come back?  Wanting to write, but unable to form the words.

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Assuming you’re not in a drug induced creative straightjacket (see my other blog Jubilarian for more details about that), I’ve found one way to break the block.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but so far it’s worked for me every time.

So there you are, staring at the screen, and nothing’s coming.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.  Damn.  Pull out your keyboard and type this:

“I’m looking at this stupid screen and nothing’s coming.  I mean NOTHING.  NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING!!  Yesterday I was typing 100 wpm and today I can’t think of a thing to say.  I can’t believe it!  ARG!!!!!  NOTHING!! You’d think…”

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Check it out.  You’re writing.

Keep going.  Don’t worry about your project.  Don’t think about what you’re typing.  Just get it out.  Shut down your inner editor with a little stream-of-consciousness ranting.  Nine times out of ten, that’ll break the creative logjam and let you blow off a bit of steam in the process.  When you’re done hit “delete”, then go write.  You’ll be ok.

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4 thoughts on “How to write: Overcoming Writer’s Block

  1. It sounds like a strange exercise, but I suppose it might work for some. I agree it is good to type something, but usually find it more helpful to simply copy a great piece of writing – a Bible verse, poem, song, etc… and let it seep into my fingers and just keep writing from there.

    Thanks for the post.

    • That’s another great strategy! It actually incorporates two popular ideas to write something else, and to go read if you can’t write. Both are inspiring and may help motivate the creative process. Thanks for the ideas!

    • That’s the best habit a successful writer can develop. I’ve always thought that’s what separates the pros from the pretenders. Do you write every day? Even when you don’t want to or can’t think of anything? But no matter how dedicated you are, there will come that time when, for no apparent reason, you just can’t think of a thing to say. That’s when this little trick comes in handy. As my partner is fond of saying, it’s another tool in the toolbox – just in case. 🙂

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