13 Ways To Combat Writer’s Block
Sometimes we need to flood our pages with anger, sadness, regret, disappointment or guilt before we can move on.
Why You Think You Can’t Write / Combating Writer’s Block
How many hours have you spent staring at a blank page, trying to type or write something worth reading or listening to? How many pages have you ripped or deleted so far? The answer “Too many to count” seems to be the most common, as well as the most accurate one.
In my experience, there are two main reasons why writer’s block occurs.
The first reason is the belief that your work isn’t good enough, it’s our need for control and perfectionism. Why bother writing if it’s not going to be good? We need to release the fear of not creating award-worthy material every time we put a pen onto a paper or our fingers on a keyboard. We need to stop being so precious about our work. Besides, you never know what might trigger that lightbulb moment, so just keep writing.
The second reason is that we are avoiding something. Writing for creators is a way of pouring their soul onto a page and sometimes, our consciousness isn’t ready to reveal what we might be feeling on a deeper scale. Sometimes we need to flood our pages with anger, sadness, regret, disappointment or guilt before we can move on. Maybe we need a good cry after our artistic catharsis, and that’s okay.
What I’ve included in the following paragraph are ways of getting over writer’s block. Keep in mind, not all of them will work for everyone, our processes are all different and we are all unique.
1. Mainly, allow yourself to write absolutely rubbish material
I have folders and diaries filled with stuff I never intend on using. I do not wish for these folders or diaries to see the light of day either. What was good and what is good will be used and abused. Yet I keep all this work and you might be wondering why. Simply because a poem you wrote 7 years ago might inspire you to write about personal growth and self-love today, you never know. But write, write, write. Even if it’s rubbish. You cannot tell where the golden nuggets lie until you dig through a pile of dirt.
2. Set a timer
This is for everyone that works well under pressure and leaves everything until the last minute. Set yourself a 5-minute timer and keep writing until the timer goes off. You have 5 minutes to write anything, go. See what you can work with, set the rest aside for a better time.
3. Consume something different
Take a break. Let your brain and soul absorb something different. Learning about income tax could spark a thought about the insignificance of human existence, you know, random stuff.
4. Have a conversation
Do you know that rush of trying to write down a statement you just made during a casual conversation so you can ponder on it later? This is what we are looking for here. Seek those situations and those people. Allow other people to be your creative triggers.
5. Read between the lines – even your own
Sometimes our subconscious tries to tell us something by repeating similar thoughts, symbols or by surfacing certain topics. Address those moments, recognise a possible pattern, study it for a while until you’re ready to face the deeper issue. You are your best guide and if writing is your medium, maybe you’re trying to tell yourself something.
6. Restrict yourself with a form
This technique forces us into thinking outside the box. Restricting yourself with the amount of syllables per line if you’re writing poetry or using just one letter of the alphabet as the first letter of every word are some common ideas. You can write a sonnet or a haiku, or just write another Eugene Onegin, a novel completely in verse. (Good luck with that one.)
7. Change your medium
This can mean a lot of things. Personally, I like switching between writing in a notebook and typing on a keyboard. However, a lot of creatives like to use different forms of expression – painting, sculpting, singing, playing instruments, dancing, knitting, cooking, floristry – to feel fully immersed in art and their creative identity. Right now is a perfect time to try any of these if you haven’t already, you just might discover a hidden talent.
8. Cut up some papers
While studying about the Dada movement (the movement of irrationalism and nonsense that emerged as a reaction to WW1) our secondary school teacher shared a technique of ‘constructing’ poetry that was sometimes used by members of said movement. They would take a page out of a novel or a newspaper, cut it up into pieces where every piece was one word. They would then put it in a hat and draw words randomly. This was now a poem. I remember my first experience with this technique was cutting up a page from The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats and the result was, well, a slightly disturbing poem.
9. Write a ‘report’
Use the 5Ys (who, what, where, when, why and the occasional how) of reporting and describe an event that happened recently. It could be a report on this morning’s breakfast, as long as the information in your report is correct and objective. If you can do it in under 5 minutes, you have gotten yourself a brilliant reset button.
10. Create a routine
There is very little that needs to be explained here. Our brains love routine and doing something at a certain time or in a certain space every day serves as a cue for your brain to enter creative mode. Whether it’s a room or a time, that’s up to you. It can be as small as writing into the same notebook every day, as long as your brain has something to associate with producing creative thoughts.
11. Using your dominant and non-dominant hand
For example, try writing a sentence with your dominant or writing hand and then do the same thing with your non-dominant hand. Psychologically, this reminds us that there are some things we suck at more than writing but in the realm of neuroscience, it strengthens our neural connections, put plainly, you’re exercising your brain. Long story short, laugh your failure off, or if you didn’t fail, tap yourself on the shoulder, congrats, you’re better than most of us.
12. If you’re bilingual, use the ‘other’ language
It’s a funny one, but it works. If you mostly write in one language, try using the other (regardless if you’re fluent or not) to express yourself. You might be surprised.
13. Change of environment
Our lives have been reduced to such a small space that this has become very difficult but also crucial. Our circles have shrunk and the feeling of being trapped is lingering in every room. Even if it’s just stepping out of your house or apartment and taking a 10-minute walk – do it. Even the smallest change means the biggest difference right now.
I hope you added a few of these to your arsenal for combating writer’s block.
Until next time.
Written by Ana Duran