It’s mean and messy and frustrating. It sneaks up when you least expect it and stays around like the in-laws (just won’t leave). It latches onto your life and your brain and the more you think about it, the stronger it grows. It’s writer’s block and if you’ve been writing for very long, you’ve had it and know it well. Most writers look forward to writer’s block like they look forward to a dentist appointment, you know it’s going to happen at some point in the year and you know you’re going to hate every minute of it.
So that leaves the question: “So, I’ve got writer’s block, what the hell am I supposed to do about it.”
Here are four things that I have found in the past to help me, please feel free to add you own in the comments. (Instructions: Use any and all tactics in any order or grouping as necessary as many times as necessary.)
1. Write Anyway – This one sounds silly. “Joey, writer’s block means I can’t write, you cotten-headed ninny muggins.” I know you can’t write. Write anyway. I don’t care what it is. Sit down, park your ass and put words on paper. I don’t care if it’s a shopping list with adjectives before the produce names (i.e. “Awesome Apples”, “Exhilarating Asparagus”). A lot of times the problem of writer’s block comes about because of a phenomenon known to psychologists as “fixation“. While created by Freud originally as an explanation of sexual activities (like everything else he diagnosed), modern psychologists have related it to a “state in which an individual becomes obsessed with an attachment to another person, being or object or idea”. Writer’s block becomes unsurmountable because of the fixation on completing the gola of writing, making the fixation worsen and strengthen. Just focusing on the act of writing itself helps the brain re-route itself around the end goal and find familiar patterns to remove the fixation.
In Short: Write Anyway.
2. Stop Writing – Okay, now I’m just being mean. I just told you to write. I know. I put this one second because it also relates to the “fixation” issue. Sometimes writing won’t help and that’s okay. Sometimes you just need to take a break. Play video games, take a walk, read a book, build a canoe out of wicker and chewing gum. Whatever. Focus on something else, completely releasing the idea/goal of writing from your mind for a time. When your mind can’t focus on the issue it’s fixating on, it loses it’s grasp and can get back to functioning normally.
In Short: Quit.
3. Divert, Divert, Divert – This one includes many of the tactics others will tell you to do (reading books, reading poetry, watching something creative, etc) and while all those fall into this category and are great suggestions, you already know them, so I’m going to suggest something else. Try a divergent-thinking exercise. Pick up a sharpie and give yourself 2 minutes to write down all the uses for that Sharpie (i.e. Tattoos, Show Polish, Door Prop, Hair Pin, etc). Write down as many as you can think of. Be as weird and creative as possible and then read through the list. Doing this with a partner or writing buddy is great, by the way. Then pick up something else in the house and do it again. Get your creative juices flowing all through difference levels of your brain, THEN come back to writing.
In Short: MacGyver It.
4. Rearrange – If you’re anything like me, you’ve got your space where you write. It may be your kitchen table, it may be your office, it may be the Starbucks down the block, but you’ve got it. When dealing with writer’s block, that psyche gets into our space as well and those objects in that order may be keeping you in that funk longer than you need to be. Try either rearranging the entire room or space or going to another space altogether. A change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered.
In Short: Move.
So there they are. My top 4 tips for dealing with writer’s block. It can be a long painful battle, but just know there’s light and words on the other side. Feel free to list your favorite tips and tricks in the comments and let’s learn from each other here.