Remedies for Writer's Block
I’ve read many varying opinions about writer’s block, but no matter what we want to call it, most writers will agree that there are times when the words don’t flow easily. I don’t think it’s unlike anything else in life, where at times we just feel stuck, in a rut, blocked or out of alignment. Of all the descriptions of writer’s block, I tend to agree with Sarah Ruhl’s definition of as “the studious avoidance of writing”; be it conscious or subconscious. Our minds are highly creative and create ideas, words and things daily. We dream, we cook, we engage in activities and make things daily. The simple task of dressing yourself in the morning, is creative expression.
I also think that the remedies for overcoming writer’s block will be personal. What works for one person may not work for another. From what I’ve heard from other writers, this process, although different, has some commonalities. As every other aspect of our lives where we may be out of alignment or experiencing resistance, the remedy appears to be a combination of feeding your soul, quieting your mind and re-evaluating actions.
These are some common practices that could help with overcoming writer’s block.
Step away for a while. This applies to any situation or task that is not progressing well. Taking a time out and stepping away from the task can give you a fresh perspective when returning and allow for a clearing of the mind, space and energy that resulted in the block. Some writers set a timer while others prefer to be less structured.
Our lives are our poetry and some pieces will need time to ruminate before they are ready to be expressed. The words may need a bit more time to settle before making their way onto the page.
Stir creativity through the arts. At times, the cause may be a general lack of creativity. When this is the case, you could try turning to art, craft, music or performance art. Anything that evokes emotion or memories will work to inspire creative expression.
Release some energy and get the endorphins flowing. Exercise is a good way to clear your mind, reduce stress, improve emotions and can be meditative (depending on the activity). Many words have floated across my path when taking a hike in the forest or by the lake. Some of the most blissful and inspiring times in my life have been in nature, while kayaking, swimming, or on the stand up paddle board. No matter the activity, you’ll reap multiple benefits from exercise and exercise outside has a different energy that will also inspire.
Read works by other authors. There are so many good writers and artists who are inspiring and reading their work can spark an idea. 1Q84 by Murakami, and the air chrysalis, made me think of all the ways we encounter rebirth through the course of our lives and the idea of parallel realities. Reading Robert Frost or Mary Oliver shows me new ways of looking at nature, while Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, made me question our social structures and how women could rise above oppression and assume positions of power, while being just and ethical, retaining the essence of femininity.
Try a different form of writing; an article, a short story, prose or a song. Explore styles and mediums, challenging yourself to create and think in different ways. Try stream of consciousness or automatic writing; pushing beyond the conscious mind and allowing the words to flow without the expectation of meaning. Research a topic you are interested in or passionate about and write an article. Try writing a song, or a short story.
Abandon the piece. I have done this in the past and it never sits well, but I do agree and understand why there are times when it must be done. There are some pieces that were not meant or ready to be written. These pieces have been ones that have touched on topics or areas not yet healed or have been pure word vomit; something that needed to be purged, but isn’t useful for anyone.
Avoid the popularity trap. Writing a piece that you think may not be received well, can cloud the mind and the words may find resistance. When I find myself questioning the piece, I think of Salvador Dali and I wonder how many times artists like Dali and Picasso met with disapproval from the average person. While your piece may not resonate with the average reader, it may appeal to others and could be your masterpiece.
The obligatory words swim upstream. Having to write a piece that you’ve been told to write, but either don’t agree with or don’t have anything to say about, can be difficult. If this is unavoidable, you may have to push through with research and perseverance, but if possible, try to avoid any pieces or topics that you disagree with or don’t have anything to say about.
Distractions can also interfere with the writing process. This can be notifications, children, unexpected visitors or the laundry list of ToDo’s that you can’t forget. Try to find a quiet space or set some boundaries for yourself. Friends and family can be taught to respect your time and the doorbell and phone don’t always need to be answered. Alternatively, you could set aside your piece, spend time with kids, friends or family and return to the piece when all else is calm and your attention doesn’t need to be divided.
My final note is about laziness and procrastination. While I do love lazing around on a Sunday morning and I think it’s wise to have some downtime, whenever I am aware that I’m either procrastinating or being lazy, I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today” followed by the Nike slogan, “Just do it”. The key to overcoming procrastination is not to overthink it. Take the first step, then the next and just keep going until it’s done.