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Causes of Writer’s Block
Okay, to tell you the truth, this article was blank for a few days. See, everyone’s experiencing it. So I’m afraid I have to disagree with Terry Pratchett, who said, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” Writer’s block definitely exists! It’s not just a romantic notion, or a writer’s fashion statement because we’re special.
According to Wikipedia, writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. Simply putting it, writer’s block is simply…you don’t know how to continue. It is when you are unable to think of what to write or how to just proceed in writing. Some may call it laziness, but sometimes, you have all the time, the will but what you could just do is sit there, staring at the blank document, and just…feel lost.
It is when we’re not able to write and enjoy our work. Even if we BADLY want to write, no words come to us. And also the words do occur, we just hate them because it feels like it’s not our voice, not the way we write, or they simply make no sense.
A writer’s block is most commonly a manifestation of burnout, loss of passion and priorities, fear, laziness, and lack of a writing routine. Everybody’s been there at some point in their lives: Staring at a blank screen with the cursor’s constant blink harsh like a rude disdain of your failed attempts to write. It is not exactly a pleasing situation to be in. But sadly, it’s real. And this is known as the archfoe of all writers, the notorious Writer’s Block. You cannot cure a sickness without knowing what’s causing it. So, let’s tackle first the probable causes of writer’s block.
Fear of being rejected.
The Fear that you don’t know enough.
Fear of snags.
Most writers struggle with fear. I, myself, struggle with the anxiety of writing. When my work was sort of rejected, instead of using this to become better, I stopped writing. I was scared of showing my work to anyone again. When I started to write words, they are just so disgusting; I kept on deleting them, resulting in a blank page. Was so afraid to put my ideas out there. I was worried everyone’s judging, criticizing my work. While fear is entirely reasonable, it becomes a problem since it prevented me from creating anything new.
So, what did I do to overcome it?
After that, I started thinking about why I am writing in the first place? Was it to be accepted by everyone? So I can show people I was good at it?
Nope. I started writing because I wanted to immortalize my ideas, didn’t want them to just die in my head. I wanted to have a record of them—so my works were some sort of diary for my imagination.
Another thing to overcome your fear in writing is to accept that your fear is legitimate. It’s f*cking real!
Yes, you might not really good enough! (Ouch.)
You might get rejected, yes. (Your works won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and neither are you.)
Yes, you might not know enough. (But learning is a never-ending process, that’s why you’re reading this right now. You are learning how you will conquer your writer’s block!)
The best writing is born from diffidence. The great stuff comes to life in those distressing and intoxicating moments.
When writers become deeply aware of the limitations of their skills, that’s when they try the hardest to be better.
Many creatives, especially writers’ brawl with perfectionism. A special someone told me, he never seen any artist/writer who actually liked their works…which is…hey, that’s quite true. Perfectionism is an enemy of productivity. Unless we wrestle it into its proper place in the writing process, it can lead to paralyzing frustration we call…yes, writer’s block!
It’s normal that we want to do our best, to have the perfect opener—the first sentence. Most people use perfectionism as a defense mechanism, to protect themselves from unforgiving critique or failure…argh, the one I mentioned previously on number 1.
Unfortunately, trying to write the perfect sentence, paragraph, or novel on the first draft will lead most writers never to write a single word. We set our expectations too high, expecting perfection when we have yet to write it first.
Remember what Jodi Picoult said, “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
Scientifically speaking, the more pressure you put on yourself, the higher your anxiety level rises, and the more writing becomes a signal of danger, which transmits a message straight to your limbic system, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction.
My advice, and everyone’s advice, keep writing separate from editing. Write your first draft as quickly as possible—don’t think much, and just write your ideas. Write anything and finish it. Don’t think that anyone will read your first draft.
There are two voices inside your head while you are writing.
Tell your perfectionist editor voice to shut the f*ck up. For sure, that sassy voice kept on wanting to fine-tune every word and phrase as you write. Don’t listen to it. The first draft isn’t the time for perfectionism; it’s the time for productivity—the time to listen to the creative writer’s voice and jot it all down.
Once you have the first draft, you have a solid base on which to build, and all the “problems” you anticipated will work themselves out as you massage and craft your raw material.
What stops many writers midway is attempting to make the first draft the best they can write. Instead of setting your sights too high, permit yourself to write anything, on a topic or off-topic, evocative or stale, valuable or madness.
People say that writer’s block is just a myth—an excuse for your laziness. Procrastination in disguise—a term to make it fancier.
For some, this may be true. But I still stand on my belief that writer’s block is real.
Everybody hits a wall sometimes, and that’s okay. Especially for creatives like us, there are just those days when you feel like nothing’s coming out no matter how hard you squeeze your brain—so instead…why don’t we just open our Facebook?
Most writers are master procrastinators, or should I say Professional Procrastinators? Yeah. You can add that to your Twitter bio. Procrastinating is inevitable but also part of the process. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of the time to procrastinate, why? Because procrastination is like a diet.
The more you stop yourself from eating certain foods like steak, burgers, pizza—the more you crave it. Instead, you should schedule your ‘occasional’ procrastination. Like maybe sometimes on weekends?
Few of us have the indulgence of being free from distractions—like having our own little world where we can freely write and get lost in the world of our imagination. I’m talking about our own office, or maybe a room where we can actually work on our writing.
Most of us have other jobs, spouses, kids, (ANNOYING BROTHERS), and responsibilities that occupy a vast amount of our brain space.
If your productivity has hindered or you’re very frustrated, maybe there are too many other things going on inside your head.
For many, household chores and prior commitments begin to pester you. There’s just too much on your desk and especially, in your brain. When those disturbances mount, it’s often easier and more productive to just stop writing and take care of your life, to do whatever it is that is causing you to feel pressured. Take note that, unless you’re one of those rare Pokemons who could write whenever-wherever, you will experience times in your life when it’s impossible to keep to a writing schedule.
You need another regular-paying job other than writing, your dog needed a walk, your parents want to annoy you or your lover needs extra attention, you need to swipe right and left to find a lover, and so on.
Sometimes it’s merely necessary to put the actual writing on hold. BUT the distractions we shouldn’t allow are these: checking emails when it’s not necessary. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (follow me lol)…oh f*ck…online shopping, have you checked the sale today? Clickbait’s—stories that disrupt us.
Before you knew it, your writing time already evaporated, and what? You accomplished nothing. Block these kinds of distractions by MAKING WRITING AN ABSOLUTE PRIORITY.
Establish a STRICT writing schedule. I’ll tackle more about this later on. Disconnect from the internet, block social media while writing, or maybe use pen and paper. Tell everyone in your house, your friends that you are not available. They usually think you can always write anytime you want and they will distract you, learn to say, “f*ck of”…I mean, no that you’re working and unavailable at that moment.
Writer’s block is sometimes emotion-based: you have anxiety, you are depressed, sad, lonely, and you are overwhelmed and disconnected from the story you’re trying to write.
Maybe you were excited before about this story, and now you can’t even write it—yes, you have writer’s block caused by depression, boredom, lethargy, probably–self-doubt.
Some people could only write when they are in a good state of mind. That when they try to write in a bad mood, they often find themselves not thinking straight or focusing on the writing work. Some, though, uses their depression to express how they feel.
I am not sure about this. I had major writer’s block before because I’d been too depressed, I wasn’t able to write my novels again. My suggestion is to use depression to fuel your creativity (if you can). If you used to write blogs, novels, or non-fiction stuff, why not switch to writing poems? Songs?
You may have simply emptied yourself out. We all have our boundaries, be they physical, mental, emotional, and all of those mentioned above. Eventually, your gorgeous body, brain, or emotions are going to be rebellious and will insist on time out, which may come in the pretext of what you may call…dundundun~ writer’s block.
But keep this in mind: You aren’t just blocked; you’re exhausted as well.
Be kind to yourself. Rest. Take care of yourself. Do things that could make you want to write again. Watch excellent movies, go to new places, meet new people, or read a new book. Do so to give yourself—and your brain—a rest. No thinking about ‘I should write’! In fact, don’t stress yourself with anything.
Lie back, have a margarita, Netflix, and chill. Once you’re rested and find yourself again, you’ll likely find your Muse has come roaring back.
All writers reach a point when they feel lost, their work conflicting off into unpredicted directions or experiencing a surprise—like for example, I’m sitting on the couch with my protagonist, who’s just learned something earth-shattering, like—gosh! His next target will be his girlfriend—and I’m just as shocked as him…only I’m the one who has to keep the story going, and I have no idea where it’s going. LOL
Rather than allowing this to disrupt your momentum, try going back to the outline you made before you even wrote the story (I hope you did because I usually don’t …which means…YOU SHOULD WRITE AN OUTLINE!). Identify the holdup, and work around it a few days.
Kidding aside, you should look at your character outline…(well, again, I hope you have it.)
If you’re stuck because you lost your way, try the opposite of what you usually do—if you use to plot your stories, try not doing it. Try not to follow your plots (oops that will contradict what I just said.). If you like to write without the plots and all, try to make an outline. Enumerate the scenes. Interview your characters.
If you’re having a hard time identifying the problem, your outlook may be too constrained. Try slowing down. Contemplate about how the story is working on a larger scale—think outside the box, they said.
Acknowledge yourself for even getting this far, and then polish in on what you think maybe the snag.
Maybe you think your character is acting too out-of-character or the plotline has too many plot holes.
If that’s the case, reread what you previously have written.
Because writing a novel requires engagement, absorption, being one with your work—thinking about it, crafting it, visualizing it, obsessing about it—your brain may be on overload or just bored. It doesn’t mean that your writing is dreary; it means that you’ve worked and reworked the material so much that it now feels, sounds, or reads dull to you.
It’s like riding a roller coaster, at first it was so exhilarating. Your stomach is filled with butterflies of nervousness as you screamed while riding it.
The second time—well, it’s almost the same. But try to ride it ten times or more in a day. You might think it’s already annoying, but, hey, it’s not. Just because you just got used to it means that other people will too.
A pair of new eyes would likely have a more objective opinion, though if it’s your first draft, I don’t think it’s the time to ask for their advice. Asking right now would be a disaster. Finish the first draft first and edit it.
Fiction or non-fiction, writers commonly lose interest in their book somewhere in the middle, discarding their project…argh. I so much relate to this. It’s the time where we feel heartbroken because the Muse just left us and we can’t keep going anymore. We often think that maybe this is the wrong idea, after all. Wrong genre. Full of the mark story. Awful characters…or whatever. That may be the case for some, but if you have a ton of unfinished stories in your drive, then…listen to your character as they whisper, “Sorry, it’s you, not us.”
I have a lot of friends who are like this…and well, yeah! Okay, me too!
The phrase “ningas cogon” is actually a Filipino idiom that describes someone who is only doing well, in whatever it is that they’re doing, during the beginning. It figuratively means that the individual is unable to maintain the quality of his/her work any better than a Cogon grass maintains its burn (ningas). It is the tendency among individuals to start a new venture or task with too much enthusiasm and effort, but after some time will take a pause or will suddenly stop working, until such time that they lose interest in the venture or task.
Do your best to work through the whys and wherefores you got delayed and to finish what you started.
If you’ve lost your Muse along the way, try to rest, but do not stop. Read or think about something else. Then, go back to writing. Ask yourself these questions: Why were you writing about this in the first place?
Is it worth my time? Do I love what I’m doing?
If your reasons remain reliable, accurate, and relevant enough to you, then please, go back to writing now. Stop reading this. LOL Now, finally, what’s the ‘Miracle Cure’ for writer’s block?
Please click HERE to the next article since I’ve already talked too much about this article.