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Writer’s Block Is Real: How To Fix It

By CM Strawn 12/18/19

Why is it called Writer’s Block

            This condition effectively puts writers in mental stasis, preventing them from producing new work. It essentially blocks the writer from writing.

            Writer’s Block is so named because of the vice-like grip that it has on the creative mind. It stanches the imaginative flow with stunning effectiveness.

            Fruitless efforts to overcome this creative log jam have left the blocked writer feeling hopeless. And failed attempts to prime the creative flow has put creative minds in a wallowing stupor, overcome with the belief that their muse has vanished forever.

            It has singlehandedly damaged, and in some cases ruined writing careers. Most notable among its victims are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles M. Schulz, Herman Melville, among others.

            In the 1940s Austrian psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, coined the term Writer’s Block. He attributed the condition to babies who were bottle fed and whose mothers had unstable love lives. He also thought the condition could be corrected through therapy. Neither theory was spot-on, although therapy could help.

The menacing dark shadow

            Before it had a name, writers who were plagued with the inability to produce new work thought that there was some invisible force opposing them.

            Beset by this phantom of the writer, and with no remedy to reverse the effects of this mind-numbing plague, many writers threw in the towel.

            Writers are dependent upon their creative ability to produce new material regularly. Because of the threat to the wordsmith’s livelihood, Writer’s Block is a term that strikes fear in the heart of any writer.

Can anyone be blocked creatively

            The answer to this question is obviously affirmative. Anyone who is creative can have their muse stanched. This includes painters, performers, musicians – anyone who must produce new stuff regularly.

            Software engineers and programmers are creatives that can suffer from inhibited innovative insight. Figuring out how to write computer programs, then find and fix bugs in the software, is taxing work which requires a fair amount of creative ability. They too are likely prey for the predator of the imagination.

            The victim will suffer a lot or a little, depending on the level of preparation they have made to thwart this thief of thought. Some will escape its clutches quickly. Others will languish longer.

Who is not effected

            People who have careers that require repetitive tasks to complete on a template are not in much danger of being blocked creatively. The repetitive nature of their work doesn’t need the creative spark to be done well. The very nature of repetition ensures that the work will improve the more it is done.

Is Writer’s Block real or a fabrication

            There are those who will say that it is an excuse not to write. Or that it is the result of laziness. It can even be blamed on a lack of preparation or sloppy work habits. Some or all of this can be true and contribute to Writer’s Block.

            One thing is for certain – anyone who has suffered the effects of this creativity killer will attest to the fact that it feels real. When the imagination is derailed, for whatever reason, the ability to think creativity is obstructed. That constitutes a blockage.

            Truth is, it’s more of a state of mind. When the writer is convinced that there is a blockage of creative thought that constitutes the reality.

            So, Writer’s Block may not be a real malady like the plague. But to the afflicted, it is real.

Is Writer’s Block just an excuse

            Is the writer just trying to get out of work? Valid question. Many people don’t feel like going to work. But that is no excuse to go fishing instead, unless it’s their birthday.

            A block could be burnout – too much work and not enough play. Drawing too heavily upon the source of originality produces stress. This can lead to the loss of words.

            It may be that a writer has used up the ideas in their creative reservoir. The inability to write anything new could mean they need to refuel the creative mill. A break could refill the cranial cavity.

            It is necessary to strike a balance between work and leisure. Some companies have recreation areas where their creatives can unwind while working out the solution to a problem.

What causes Writer’s Block

            Stress over a pending deadline. The need to produce stunning prose. Impending starvation from a lack of recent cash flow.

            Loss of confidence. Fretting over not knowing what to write about can cause the imagination to dry up.

            These reasons, and more, can contribute to the loss of creativity. Also, the fear of never recovering from the desertion of the creative muse can contribute to Writer’s Block.

Is there a cure for Writer’s Block

            As with most ailments, there is a remedy. There may not be a pill or injection that cures the laps in imagination. But there are organic steps that can help relieve the symptoms.

            One thing that may help is to focus on something else for a while. Relieve the stress by playing, taking a walk, jogging or just go fishing. One of the reasons the writer is blocked is because there is too much pressure on them to perform.

            The mind is an amazing tool. Sometimes it doesn’t respond to commands quickly. It may need to be coaxed a little.

            Let it relax. It may be overworked and need a break. A little recreation can be just the medicine it needs. Taking a break from the problem allows the subconscious to work on the solution.

How effective is the cure

            Effectiveness of the cure will depend on the individual and the severity of the blockage. Fatigue may have caused the block. In this case a little rest and diversion may be all that’s needed to restore originality.

            The more sever blockages may be the result of a profound lack of interest in the project. The cure for this type of block may be abandonment of the project. If that’s not possible, maybe working on a different project for a while may help.

            If a deadline is looming and neither option is viable, then just putting one word in front of the other may be necessary. Upon completion of the project, be sure there is an appropriate reward waiting.

            More difficult blocks may require counseling. There could be an underlying problem that a professional could help the writer overcome and restore their imagination and creativity.

How to prevent Writer’s Block

            Have a set routine, like regular office hours. Knowing that there is work to do makes it easier to sit down and string words together.

            If the flow of words slows down, just write for a while about anything. This could restart the creative juices flowing.

            Outlines are helpful. When the mind knows where it is going, it is easier to stay focused.

If one section is particularly troublesome, try writing a different section. Successfully completing a section will restore confidence. Then, with a fresh mind, go back to the problem section and finish it with flair.

There is no shame in being blocked

            Every writer gets blocked occasionally. It goes with the territory. Constantly coming up with original ideas is hard work.

            Know that a block will happen and prepare for it. When the creative juices start to slow down, have a plan in place that will prevent full blown Writer’s Block. Try making a list of antidotes to Writer’s Block.

            If the writer does get blocked it is better to embrace it. Denial will only exacerbate and extend the problem. Admitting that there is a problem will go a long way to solving it.

            By knowing how to handle the inevitable, a worse problem can be averted. There is no shame attached to being blocked. The problem arises when it is allowed to linger. Act quickly.

What to do when staring at a blank screen

            A blank screen can be intimidating. Heck, it can be scary, especially when the deadline is on a collision course with the keyboard.

            The best course of action is to have a plan in place. Here is a suggestion:

  • Write headlines then the subheads. That makes a working outline.
  • Now write the main copy. Just get through it without worrying about perfection. That will come next.
  • Polish and get ready to publish or submit the piece.
  • Check it over one more time, smooth the rough spots, then publish or submit the article or post.

What others have done when blocked

            There are many techniques available for overcoming Writer’s Block. Jerry Jenkins, author of over 190 books, 21 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, describes some things that he does to crush Writer’s Block. His website is www.jerryjenkins.com/writers-block.

            Another source of tactics comes from Maria Konnikova in her article, How to Beat Writer’s Block. Her article can be found at www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-to-beat-writers-block.

            Other resources are readily available and can be found by doing a Writer’s Block Google search.

Conclusion

            Knowing what to write about is always the first step. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

If the topic has been assigned, that’s half the battle. Creating the copy is still the challenge that requires original thought.

            Set regular work hours. Those writers who actually have an employer have that problem solved. Freelancers need to take their writing seriously and treat it like a business, which it is if it pays the bills.

            Having a routine that demands regularity will help keep the Writer’s Block phantom from terrorizing the muse.

            Be deliberate. Don’t believe the lie that creativity can be stifled. As long as the writer continues putting one word in front of the other, they will never be blocked.

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