Writer’s block is considered a psychological condition. It is defined by a period of time where a writer does not make any advancements in his or her writing. It can be a complete stop to all writing or a serious slowdown of writing productivity. The condition was first identified and described by Edmund Bergler in 1947. He was a well-known psychiatrist or psychoanalyst, who was living in New York City at the time he discovered and coined this condition.
Understanding Writer’s Block
According to Dictionary.com, Writer’s Block is defined as “a temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.” However, writer’s block can be less severe than the cessation of all writing. Instead, it can be characterized as a slowdown in writing productivity. This can be caused by numerous internal and external factors, including:
- Brain Trauma – A physical injury or condition related to the brain can cause writer's block. This includes concussions, epilepsy and strokes.
- Physical Illness – An acute or chronic illness can contribute to writer’s block, including diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, fibromyalgia and even cancer.
- Mental Condition – Depression, anxiety, Bipolar and other mental conditions can cause writer’s block.
- High Stress Levels – Having excessively high stress levels from home or work can lead to writer’s block.
- Financial Hardship – Extreme financial hardship can deter a writer or author’s ability to write.
Understanding When Writer’s Block Is Most Likely to Occur
Writer’s block most often occurs at two ‘pain points’, including starting a project and maintaining momentum.
Failing to Start a Project
Writer’s block most often occurs at the beginning of a project when the author is staring at a blank page. This can be due to lack of ideas, fear of starting or fear of failing. It can even be caused by fear of success. In other words, it’s anxiety and possibly low self-esteem and having low confidence levels in one’s ability to write. Fortunately, there is some clout to the clichéd phrase that you must write terribly in order to write well. No author has the ability to write a perfect first draft. In most instances, it’s just not going to happen. That’s why there’s an editing process. In order to overcome this problem, a writer or author must accept that they won’t like their first draft. Once acceptance has been achieved, writing often progresses.
Failing to Maintain Momentum
Failing to maintain momentum often leads writers and authors to say: I’ve lost my muse, or I’m not inspired. When this happens, a writer may not even sit down to write. This is often referred to as failing to get into the chair and stay there. In order to write an author must sit down and write. The good news is that it’s not usually a loss of inspiration. It’s usually an external factor or mental block, like fear, that prevents the forward momentum. In order to move forward, the author must identify the cause of their mental block and resolve it. This could be as simple as cleaning the house or going for a walk, or it could be as complex as getting professional help for a mental or physical condition in order to feel better. After all, if you don’t feel good, you’re probably not going to be able to access the deep recesses of your brain in order to continue your creative flow.
Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
There are ways to overcome writer’s block and move forward with your next project.
1. Correct Your Environment
How’s your environment? Is it dirty, noisy or uncomfortable? Are you constantly getting interrupted while you write? If you can’t think and you suspect it’s your environment, take some time off to correct it. This could mean cleaning your office or your house or doing laundry. It could mean creating a dedicated space to write, like in an extra bedroom or sectioning off a part of a room to use as your personal writing space. It could also mean explaining to your family members that while you are in your space, they should not interrupt you unless it’s an emergency, and they should keep televisions and portable devices at a reasonable level or use headphones.
2. Increase Your Physical Activity
Having a sedentary lifestyle is not recommended for anyone. It can lead to being overweight and developing certain chronic conditions. It can also stall your mental cognitive abilities. To improve your health and maintain your writing productivity, consider getting up. This can mean going for a walk around your neighborhood, spending some quality time in your home gym or going to the gym and getting a good workout. If you don’t have a home gym or a gym membership, most gyms offer day passes or trials where you can exercise without committing to a contract.
3. Get a Change of Scenery
Get out of the house for a day or a week. This could mean visiting your local coffee shop, local park, state park, museum or other venue in order to get a chance of scenery. Visiting other places can give you time to unwind and relax, or you can choose to do some writing in these new places. Some authors even take writing vacations in quiet or mentally and physical stimulating locations. This could mean getting a hotel room for a week in another city or state or taking a cruise. There are even specific vacation packages and writing retreats for writers who need a break from their normal routines.
4. Write Something Else
Is there something on your mind? Many times another story idea can overtake your mind and distract you from writing your current project. Instead of trying to hold two ideas in your brain at once, write the other idea down. Once you get the thoughts on paper, they will leave your mind, and you’ll be better able to focus on your current writing project.
5. Wash Writer’s Block Away
Hot water does wonders for writer's block. This could mean taking a long hot bath or a hot shower, but one thing is for certain, the combination of hot water plus getting away from your desk for a minute can restimulate your creative processes. It also helps alleviate muscle soreness and tension.
6. Take a Break
In some instances, you may really need a break from writing. This can be as long or as short as you want, but if you’ve been doing a lot of writing, sometimes the best medicine is to give your brain a break by doing something else, like playing a game or watching TV instead of writing.
7. Manage Your Health
If you have a chronic or acute condition or think you do, take time out to figure out if you are ill and what you can do about it by scheduling an appointment with your doctor. Physical and mental ailments, and even thinking that you may have a physical or mental ailment, can contribute to your writer’s block by causing excessive worry. If you have been recently diagnosed with an ailment, you may need time to come to terms with your diagnosis, and it’s okay to take a break to manage your health and find your new normal. Of course, managing your conditions may mean working with your doctor to keep the condition under control and working with a therapist or counselor to help you come to terms with your ailment. Once you’ve found your new normal, you can get back to writing.
8. Take Time Out to Correct Your Financial Situation
Experiencing a sudden financial hardship can stall your writing productivity. If you are worried about getting your utilities turned off due to non-payment or losing your place to live, you probably won’t get much writing done. Instead, you’ll need to take time to figure out the best way to get your finances back under control. This may mean focusing all your attention on finding a job that pays better, cutting your expenses or looking for alternative ways to make money, like writing online or taking odd-jobs in your off-hours. Once you get your finances under control, you’ll be able to focus on your writing.
Once you locate the sources of your stress and/or writer’s block and make corrections, you’ll be able to stimulate your creative flow and get back to finishing your current project or your next project.
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