I can’t remember too many times when I couldn’t find something to write about. I’ve never sat down at my computer and had nothing to say or no way to say it. I’ve never experienced so-called “writer’s block,” and I don’t believe it exists.
I can remember many times when:
- I felt afraid to write about a topic.
- I didn’t know how to approach my topic.
- I didn’t know how to put what I wanted to say clearly into words.
- I wasn’t happy with what I had written.
- I felt unsure of my degree of knowledge about the topic I needed to cover in my writing project.
- I didn’t really want to write about a subject.
- I didn’t want to produce that project or piece of work.
- I didn’t feel passionate about a particular writing project.
- I didn’t feel inspired by the project at hand.
- I resented writing a particular piece.
- I felt unsure about my opinion on the topic.
- I simply did not feel like writing or want to write.
- I have felt afraid of criticism.
- I have felt afraid of failure.
- I have felt afraid of success.
- I needed to write perfectly the first time.
Any one of these situations might slow down my writing—or the start of my writing process. However, I would not call this the dreaded writer’s block.
In fact, as a writer, I can’t allow anything to block me from writing. Writers write. We power through and write no matter what.
Don’t Validate Writer’s Block
Here’s what I really believe about writer’s block: As soon as you give your slowness to start a writing project a name like “writer’s block,” you give that condition power—power over you. You make it real—even if it’s not.
In fact, you don’t have writer’s block. You “have” one of the conditions, or some other condition particular to you, on the list above. You simply need to figure out why you don’t write, and address that issue.
Writer’s block is a condition that supposedly prevents you from writing, typically for long periods of time. If, indeed, it existed, it would stem from the reasons listed above. If you want to write, and you aren’t writing, you need to discover exactly why you aren’t writing and address it head on.
Also, when you tell yourself you have writer’s block, you give yourself something to fear. Maybe you’ve heard it said that fear is nothing more than false evidence appearing real. Fear is the source of most people’s so-called writer’s block. Fear stops people from doing tons of things if you let it! It’s like a jailor that locks you in a cell.
The more you fear writer’s block, or that you have this condition, the more you validate that you have the condition. And the more you fear having it. It’s a vicious cycle. The fear alone stops your fingers from typing.
9 Ways to Get Yourself Writing When You Feel Stuck
Let say for whatever reason you are having a hard time writing, or maybe you haven’t yet figured out why you can’t write, but you really need and want to get moving on your nonfiction writing project. Until you get to the source of the problem, here are nine ways to get you writing. Maybe once your words are flowing, you won’t need to figure out what caused you to get stuck in the first place.
Start with your topic and begin asking yourself questions about it. Ask them with the reader in mind. The goal is to get your mind thinking about what you need to or can write about. Ask such things as: What do my readers already know? What do my readers need to know? What do I know? What do I need to find out? Allow yourself to jot down ideas for a set amount of time without censoring any possibilities and without striving for perfect prose. You can also do this as a mind map, which allows you to utilize a different part of your brain and have a visual depiction of your subject. When you complete your “brain dump,” arrange your ideas and begin writing…or don’t arrange and start writing if inspiration has hit.
2. Use a Different Format
Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you rather than writing in full sentences. You can do this freehand or on your iPhone using Evernote or on the computer. Don’t bother with paragraphs and sentences. Try a mind map that allows a free flow of ideas using charts, arrows, boxes, outlines, even pictures. Just get your ideas flowing.
If you really can’t get the fingers to move or the mind to produce words, freewrite. Set a timer for ten minutes, and write down everything you can think of about your topic. Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. If you can’t think of anything to say, write “blah, blah, blah” over and over. If other thoughts pop into your head, record them as well, even if they are not directly related to your subject. Doing so allows your mind to “dump” thoughts that might be blocking your current project.
Even if you write nothing worth using during your freewriting period, you’ll be warmed up and ready to keep writing after this.
4. Start in the Middle
Start at the end or in the middle of your project. If you’ve got a plan for your article or a table of contents for your book, choose a part of the project that feels most interesting or inspiring to you at the moment. Start there. When finished, move on to the next one that inspires you. Later, you can work on the first section, possibly when you have a better sense of the project as a whole. It’s possible that starting at the beginning of your project isn’t giving you a creative spark. Some say this methodology even causes “Perfect Draft Syndrome.”
5. Write Like You Speak
Stop looking for the perfect phrase and write the way you think or would speak. Each time you get stuck, say to yourself, “What I really mean is,” and then write exactly that in simple language. You can come back and refine the phrasing later. That’s the purpose of editing and revising. Although it’s true that our speech habits don’t always make for perfect prose, if you are stuck trying to make each sentence perfect or find the perfect phrase, you may give yourself so-called writer’s block.
6. Be Accountable
Find an accountability partner. Or, even better, write with an accountability partner. Report in daily to tell each other how much writing you have accomplished. The reason coaches are so popular is because they serve this purpose, and once you pay money to a coach you are more likely to actually get something accomplished.
7. Be Satisfied or Bracket It
If you an endless search for just the right word or sentence, or just the right bit of information, stops you in your tracks, agreed to feel satisfied with the first reasonable solution or bit of research you find. Use it, and move on. If you feel dissatisfied, use it anyway, but place it in brackets and fix it later. Even better, place the place in the document where you need the research, or where you writing feels stuck, in brackets immediately, and come back to fix it. Write around it.
8. Don’t Stare
Stop staring at your computer screen or the blank page. Get up and move your body instead. Getting your energy flowing will help your thoughts flow as well. That’s why so many writers had walking for many hours as part of their daily ritual. Don’t use this as a way to procrastinate, though! Schedule a nice 30-minute walk, bike ride or run, or a yoga class, and then come back and get right to your writing.
9. Create Conducive Space
You might also find it helps to create writing rituals, to create a sacred space in which to write or to organize your work space or eliminate distractions. Sometimes sitting in nature helps or going to a coffee shop.
Do you experience so-called writer’s block and how do you overcome it?