There are lots of myths around the act of writing. You have probably heard some of them, such as: “Inspiration is a gift from God.” “You have to suffer for your art.” “Inspiration is finite.” It’s no wonder that writer’s block can be distressing for writers.
What Is Writer’s Block?
Writer’s block occurs when a writer cannot write at all, when they work at a much slower pace than is usual for them or when they find it difficult and exhausting to write. The exact details can manifest differently for different writers, but symptoms may include the inability to focus, feeling mentally foggy, a lack of inspiration, and feeling stressed and frustrated.
The good news is that writer’s block isn’t as grave as you might think: it’s a temporary condition. Most writers will experience writer’s block from time to time, but with a desire to persevere as writers, they will be able to conquer it and return to their creative work in due course.
Causes of Writer’s Block
There are many potential causes of writer’s block. Here we’ll examine some of the most common ones to help you consider what might be temporarily holding you back from writing, if that’s the case. We’ll also provide some suggestions on how to fix it.
Humans aren’t made to operate at full capacity all the time. Whether you’re training for a marathon, leading a grueling project or writing a demanding book, it’s possible to simply burn out from all the effort you’re exerting. But don’t beat yourself up over it. Your body and your mind naturally need to alternate periods of activity with periods of rest and recovery. If you respect that, you’ll be able to tend to yourself and kick that writer’s block in no time.
Try not to think about your writing for a period of time. Instead, relax, recharge your batteries and do things that you enjoy: go for walks, watch movies, enjoy time with friends, sleep! Self-care is important.
Once you feel refreshed, your enthusiasm for writing should return.
How is your health these days? When did you get your last medical checkup? Undiagnosed medical conditions like diabetes or an underactive thyroid can make it hard to focus and write. However, there are treatments available. After getting your health back on track, your cognitive function and writing should improve.
On the other hand, what if you’re already in treatment for a health problem when you notice your ability to write diminish? Did you start taking a new medication perhaps?
Have a chat with your doctor about the drugs you take, potential side effects and your desire to write. Your doctor probably has the answers you need.
Too Many Distractions
Are you feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities at work, at home or in other areas of your life? If that’s the case, your writing can often naturally take a backseat. Humans only have so much mental space, after all.
To get your groove back for writing, there are a couple of strategies to try. First, try to pump the brakes on what’s stressing you out. If writing is really important to you, ask others for the help you need at home or at work, but also be frank with yourself on what really needs to get done – people often expect more from themselves than other people do.
At the same time, depending on what your particular responsibilities are and the resources available to you, I recognize that that may not be possible. A second option is to prepare for a quieter time filled with more writing in the future. After all, that work project must come to an end and the kids must start school sometime. Read books. Write short passages. Sow the seeds for your future writing comeback.
Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? Do you feel paralyzed in your attempt to make every page perfect? This is actually a common, albeit counterproductive, problem.
Many famous writers have suffered from writer’s block after a big success. In many cases, their first breakthrough novel was personal and fun, but then they felt pressure for their second novel to be as good or better than the first, resulting in some serious analysis paralysis.
No matter how much or how little you’ve written before though, you can tame those unrealistic expectations by focusing on making writing fun for you and silencing your inner critic.
Remind yourself why you started writing in the first place. Remind yourself how good it feels to write. And above all, simply get something down on the page! You can always make some revisions. (Just don’t keep yourself too long in the rewriting stage.)
Don’t Allow Writer’s Block to Hold You Back
Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common causes of writer’s block, you probably have a better idea of what has been holding you back, if that’s the case. Yet, whatever the cause of your writer’s block, be confident that you can overcome it and go on to write a book that you’re proud of!
If you’d like to move forward with your writing in a supportive environment, do check out our Move Me Forward program.