Things to Try When You Just Can’t Write you have “Writer’s Block”
It happens to everyone who writes at some point; the words are somehow blocked from the writer. Each person is different and uses different methods to move past this state of stuck pen on the page.
Writer's block may be from no inspiration, no time or no ideas. The longest this lasts is about 2 months. And then you have writers burnout. This can last from 3 months to a full year.
Writer's block may have several causes. Some are creative problems that originate within an author's work itself.
Other blocks may be produced by adverse circumstances in a writer's life or career: physical illness, depression, the end of a relationship, financial pressures, or a sense of failure.
Some blocks occur in our environment. For example, dress codes and tidy offices at work are all subtle signals that remind us that we must conform, even in our thinking. Most of the time this is not a bad thing, but when we want to be creative it can be subtly obstructive, even when we are working alone. If you want to be creative, it can be a good idea to go offsite.
Maya Angelou explained in the book Writers Dreaming:
“I suppose I do get ‘blocked’ sometimes but I don’t like to call it that. That seems to give it more power than I want it to have. What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ you know. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”
Below are possible methods that should be helpful, along with some tips and strategies that can be helpful.
➔ Try free writing, or writing without editing.
➔ Use brainstorming (mapping, outlining, or listing ideas) techniques.
➔ Use note cards to separate ideas. Make up your own system – whatever works best for
you, not what works for someone else.
➔ Go back and forth between generating writing and editing your writing. Focus solely on
getting the words on the paper, then focus solely on making the words make sense. Rinse
➔ In the same way, go back and forth between generating words (saying things) and
generating ideas (what you want to say). Start with one (which one doesn’t matter), then go to the other. Rinse and Repeat.
➔ Abandon your first draft for a few days (or even a few hours) and start fresh after you've been away from it. Your writing will look different after some time has passed.
➔ Let yourself write what you feel. Once you’ve gotten it down, you can make it work in your writing or take it out.
➔ Give yourself deadlines. Desperation often silences your inner editor.
➔ Cut out wordy phrases. Say what you mean.
➔ Follow your instincts. They are usually right.
➔ Remember: there is no right or wrong way to write.
➔ Try not to be disappointed with what you do write. Just like athletes, writers have to
exercise their writing “muscles” to get better, and sometimes that means writing work that
isn't your absolute best.
➔ Don’t be afraid to write “stupid” ideas. Just because you write (or type) they don’t mean
you have to turn that in, and sometimes you need to write it to get it out of your head.
➔ Don’t mistake editing for writing. Writing comes first; editing comes last.
➔ Improvement in writing takes time. Again, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see
➔ Don’t rush. Even the best writers need time in order to write something good.
➔ Read. Read a lot. The best way to learn how to write is to see writing used.
How to Overcome Writer's Block
You Don’t Need to Set an Insane Word Count Goal
Graham Greene’s daily writing goal was only 500 words. | 1978 photo of author Graham Greene. Credit: Karsh via LA Times
How To Overcome Creative Blocks & Writer's Block
Many of these we have blocks come from our past and are programmed in from an early age. We are taught to follow the rules, be logical and not rock the boat. Our parents, teachers, and peers have all helped us put some powerful psychological blocks in place to keep us on the straight and narrow socially-acceptable road. Most of the time this is perfectly useful, but when we want to be creative, it is just a darned nuisance.
In the final analysis, all blocks are internal, although the people and things around us can still make it easier or harder to get into a creative frame of mind