Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
― Kurt Vonnegut
I remember June of 2015. I came back from University, sat down to write in my daily journal, and picked up my pen. I stared at the blank page with a sense of impending doom. Writer's block. It was here. For so long, I had evaded its dark clutches, but it had caught up to me. I knew one day it would.
Writer's block. It is one of those things that writers dread the most. Something they cannot avoid.
What is Writer's Block?
Imagine the most delicious food cooked by the best chefs in town. Now imagine yourself sitting down to eat all that food but not being able to.
For various reasons, the writer's block has been the most hated enemy among writers. You sit down to write but nothing comes out. You sit there staring at the blank page for hours, days, or even months. The right words, the right idea, the right passion always evades you. Welcome to writer's block.
How to Overcome Writer's Block?
I remember going to the gym, going to the park, and even going to a nearby swamp to watch little frogs jump around. Nothing worked. I came back to my room, picked up the pen, but still the same feeling of doom.
I could not bleed as Hemingway said. My ink had dried. It seemed I would never be able to write. I had forgotten my language.
Overcoming writer's block is providential. What may trigger the inspiration in your soul is unknown. All you can do is try.
Finding the Cause
Alright. Therapy time.
Try answering these questions to yourself (or in the comments below):
- Do I criticize myself too much? Do I see faults and imperfections in whatever I write?
- Am I comparing myself to other writers, envying their creativity?
- Am I afraid of criticism?
- Do I depend upon compliments and praise from others?
- Am I losing my desire to write? Am I tired, overworked, or demotivated?
- Am I waiting for the perfect story to come flashing down on me like a lightning bolt?
Do not be demotivated if your answers are yes. No one is perfect. The real question is, what can you do about it? You found the cause, but you still have no remedy.
Here is a list of a few things I tried. Remember, though, what may trigger your inspiration depends on you.
1. Make a Routine
I slept at 4 AM, woke around noon. My lunch was my breakfast. I never set a fixed time for anything, much less writing. And one day, it stopped.
Set a fixed time every day for writing. It will help you find focus. I found the morning to be the best time. If this works for you, you will look forward to the time you spend writing.
2. Write Imperfectly
There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.
― Robert Graves
I imagine perfection to be a disease. When I am born imperfect, destined to make mistakes, how am I supposed to find perfection in writing? Nowadays, I pick my pen and let it do its work.
Stop thinking about perfection. Just let everything flow. It may be a horrible piece, but you did it. Keep writing.
3. Do Something Else
If you are feeling stuck, demotivated, and finding writing to be a chore. It is time for a change.
Monotony is the bane of creativity. Just leave everything, and find something else to do. You will find your creativity and passion renewed.
4. Force Yourself to Write
The only cure for not being able to write is to write.
― Kaylin R. Boyd
Procrastination may be a reason you are not writing anything. Fix a time, ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes. And then write without pause.
Forcing yourself may be difficult. For this, you can try the Call of Writing app:
- You can fix the time or number of words in the app.
- It awards you a score whenever you complete a challenge.
- You can compete with other writers.
5. Start Writing from the Middle of a Story
It is a daunting task to start a story. The beginnings are the most difficult. Try starting a story from a fight scene, or a dialogue. Beginning a story abruptly will create suspense, opening up a thousand possibilities. You will see your pen flow.
6. Write with a Pen
Having a pen in your hand will give you a sense of purpose. Pen, ink, and paper have been tools of writing for centuries. They have a history.
I have written on paper and my phone. There is something novel about writing with a pen; in watching the words materialize in front of you.
Nothing beats the feel of a pen dragging on paper.
7. Make an Outline
Writer's block in the middle of your story is the most demotivating experience ever. Your protagonist is in the middle of a fight, but you are stuck. His sword is raised in the air, poised to strike upon the antagonist, but you cannot find the words.
It is time to outline your story. Take a birds-eye view of the entire plot. Highlight the critical points, and continue the story.
8. Write Something Else
I have about ten side projects going on simultaneously. Never do I find myself bored and demotivated. If one piece is not working out, I pick up another.
If the story is boring you, try writing a new one. Come back to it after a week. You will find new inspiration to continue the story.
9. You are too Conscious About Public Opinion
The first time I presented a poem of mine, I basked in the praise. I did not realize the problem until it had become a problem. I always sought others' approval for my ideas before I published any piece.
Pause. Breathe. Bring into focus your purpose for writing. Is it for yourself or others? Are you going to let others dictate your creativity?
You have incomparable potential waiting for your pen to move. Forget others. Forget the audience. Focus on how you want your story to be. Write.
10. Move away from Distractions
Your mind is your biggest enemy. You find it wandering. You bring it back only for it to get lost again. It is the most stubborn organ in humans.
Find a distraction-free place, and sit down. Close your eyes, and try to focus on what you have to write. What is your idea? Concentrate.
11. Start Keeping Notes
Driving, walking, eating, in the bathroom, or at a party; ideas can come anywhere. When they arrive, jot them down.
Your story will be born at the most unexpected time. You do not want to be without a pen at that moment.
If you cannot write today, do not be discouraged. Your time will come. Do not give up. Words not flowing today will flow tomorrow.
If you have already tried all of the above, you can check these resources for further help: