I sat there staring at my laptop screen for 10 minutes before realizing there wasn’t a word typed on it. Instead, I had been drifting off to my mental checklist of things I needed to do before the weekend. When my eyes refocused on the blank screen, I shook my head and chastised myself, “Get something down. Anything.”
Why was this so hard? Other times, I sit down to write and have at least a rough draft to show in less than a half hour. Today, and – realistically – over the past several days, I lacked even a morsel of creative inspiration or focus. I was obviously in the throes of a full-blown case of writer’s block.
If you love to write, how does writer’s block even happen? It’s like seeing a cheesecake across the room but you just can’t seem to find the enthusiasm to get out of your chair to get some. Ok, not quite related, but it makes perfect sense in my mind.
There are various reasons writer’s block plagues us. For me, it is often perfectionism that leads to procrastination. I sit around waiting for a great topic to fall in my lap and then stress over how I will even word what I want to say. I put it on the back burner for a day or two, thinking that inspiration will creep into my brain like a hot coal awakening with the soft breeze. Realistically, that “great awakening” rarely happens. Instead, many professional writers give this word of advice – just start writing something. Nothing profound. Just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is half the battle.
Let whatever comes to mind just flow out. You likely already have some idea of what you want to write about but worry about being eloquent and creative enough. Think of your first words as a very basic outline you can clean up later. Don’t worry, only you will see it. It might be scribbles in the margins or a boring bullet list – but it’s something concrete.
Some people like to make a visual map where they draw pictures of their ideas before attempting to turn them into words and complete thoughts. Need a few ideas to kick-start you? Here are a few examples at Inspiration.com.
Maybe you are afraid of other people’s opinion of your work. You will never please everyone and plenty of folks will never read your words, but do it anyway. If your dream is to be a writer, that’s what you need to do – write. Give yourself at least a block of words to push around, tweak, or ban into the outer realms. At least you have a starting point.
Maybe you just lack inspiration. I love some of the suggestions I read from other writers:
- Go for a walk (Blood flow is brain food!)
- Drink coffee (This is my personal contribution and my standard response to all problems in life.)
- Read some inspiring quotes (Write a few on cards and hang them where you can read them often.)
- Change your surroundings (For goodness sake, don’t sit next to the dirty laundry pile when you are attempting to write.)
- Listen to music (This doesn’t work for me. I always end up singing instead of writing.)
- Write every day (Like exercise for the mind – keep it limber and warmed up.)
- Set deadlines (Find an accountability partner, mark it on a calendar, etc.)
Just in case you feel like you are all alone in this dilemma, here’s a post about 10 Cases of Extreme Writer’s Block by Mental Floss which includes Stephen King as an example. If Stephen King has issues with writer’s block and still produces a steady stream of best sellers, we totally got this!
Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time.
~ Leonard Bernstein
(I do not receive any income or benefits from the links shared in this post.)