I used to think writer's block wasn't real. It only existed in the minds of writers who didn't really want to write. Maybe there's some truth to that. But deep inside every true writer there burns a desire to write, even if it's buried really, really deep. It's there, like a sleepy monster that just needs reawakened. Whatever is blocking the writing monster must be swept away.
Causes and Solutions for Writer's Block
Writers block can stem from a host of different problems. Each problem has its own solution, although there can certainly be some crossover.
The Scrambling Scribbler
This is the writer who is swamped with life and can barely find time to fit writing in. Honestly, this applies to most of us from time to time (all the time?). Occasionally, when busy schedules or an overcrowded life forces us to take a step back from writing, it can be tough to get started again. We feel like we don't have time to refresh our minds on what we were working on. Or we don't have the energy to dive back in.
The Solution: Write. Right now. Really.
The truth is, if you're a writer at heart, you need to write. It's important. For your sanity. And for the sanity of your friends and family. Trust me. When you're experiencing that panicked I-don't-have-the-time-or-energy-to-write-anymore feeling, take a deep breath. Sit down for five minutes and write. Right now. You can manage five minutes. Write anything, whatever pours out of you. It doesn't have to be related to other work you've set aside. Just the simple act of reconnecting with your writing self will help ease you back into the joyful act of creating. The barriers will start to come down. If you need ideas to get your started, try out these prompts.
The Hairy Deadline
Sometimes a deadline can make us freeze up. We want to produce our best work. We want to satisfy a publisher. We want to please our fans. Maybe we want to win a contest. Whatever the case, the hairy deadline can create a ton of stress, which then blocks our creative progress.
The Solution: De-Stress
I could write an entire month of posts on de-stressing, but here's a few quick tips. First off, tell yourself it is ok to not be perfect. And really try to believe it. Making progress and producing a body of work is more important than being the best at what you do. Second, get outside and run, bike, or go to the gym. Do a little yoga. Anything to get your blood pumping so you can sweat out some of those toxic stress hormones. Follow this up with a little meditation and relaxation - indulge in a nice, long bath or a beach read, anything that helps you unwind. You'll find yourself refreshed and ready to write again.
The Dreary Doodler
This is for when you are totally bored with what you are writing. This creates a block of its own. And trust me, if you're bored, the reader will be, too.
The Solution: Try Writing Something New
Even if you're working on a project you are committed to finishing, experimenting with an unrelated story can give you just the break you need. It can stimulate fresh ideas and insights into your primary work-in-progress.
The Shell-Shocked Spirit
Unfortunately, sometimes a tough life experience can hurt our spirits and shut down our creative processes. We feel like we are just trying to survive. If our physical or emotional needs are not met, we can't achieve our potential. This hampers our creativity. Check out the science behind this principle. This is where I first learned that writer's block is real.
The Solution: Meet Your Needs
This is a tough one. But I would say the solution is to find ways to meet your other needs. Maslow's hierarchy describes a pyramid. The base is our physical needs like food and safety. Next is psychological needs such as relationships and feelings of accomplishment. Once those needs are met, we are more free to create and be fully self-actualized.
The Inner Critic
We've all been shut down by the inner critic before. You know that nettlesome voice that criticizes what you write, sometimes before you've even written it.
The Solution: Put on Your Creator Hat
It's time for the critic to take a break. Put them to bed. Lock them in a dungeon. Take off the critic hat! Writing and critiquing activate two very different parts of your brain. When you are writing, mentally put on your creator hat and respectfully tell your critic side to shut up. You can say it however you like. The point is, be aware that writing and editing are activities that should not happen at the same time. Give your creative side a chance to breathe, a chance to create. Feel free to edit later.
The Weary Wordsmith
Life can be exhausting. So can writing, especially when you are delving into dark or emotionally intense storylines.
The Solution: Take a Break
Take a nap. Go for a walk. Take some kind of break doing something that rejuvenates you. You will return refreshed, renewed, and ready to write.