Writer’s block feels like the end of your world.
Firstly, there’s the frustration — not being able to do something you love, that normally works like a dream.
Like getting into your finely-tuned, lovingly-polished car, turning the key and hearing a pathetic splutter. Or hitting the ‘Jump to Lightspeed’ button and watching the stars just sit there while the TIE Fighters close in.
Secondly, there’s the professional anxiety. If you’re an author, will you meet that deadline? If you’re a copywriter, can you still cut it for your clients?
Last and worst, there’s the identity crisis.
You’re a writer, right? Writers write, right?
So who are you if you can’t write?
Logically, you know that’s nonsense. But try telling yourself that at 3 am after another day when the sum of your efforts would fit comfortably inside a Tweet.
Now, there are many different types of creative block, and plenty of ways to tackle them and get back in the writing zone. (I’ve written an entire ebook full of suggestions — you can download it for free here.)
But before you start examining this particular block, and tinkering with ways to deal with it, there are three critically important things for you to remember.
Unless you remember these three things, you may not have the energy to do that tinkering. It’ll feel like a hopeless case.
1. Only writers get writer’s block
Beginners don’t get writer’s block.
When they sit in front of a blank screen and nothing comes out, it’s because they haven’t learned how to do it yet.
To be blocked, you have to have written in the past. You have to be a writer.
So, you are still a writer.
2. If you’ve done something in the past, you can do it again
This is something I learned way back when I first trained as a psychotherapist.
I worked with all kinds of people who felt they were hopeless cases — people struggling with depression, anxiety, addictions, divorce, work-stress and all kinds of failures, frustrations and disappointments.
One of the most valuable things I learned to do was to ask them about the past — not looking for the origins of the problem, but for the origins of a solution:
- Tell me about a time before you had this problem…
- How did the world look to you then?
- How did you feel differently?
- What were you doing differently?
When clients remembered their earlier, happier, more confident and capable selves, their body language changed. They became animated, chatty, even enthusiastic. Their sense of humour returned — along with their creativity.
Your ability to write is still there. Maybe latent, but it’s there all right, deep in your nervous system. You don’t need to start again from scratch — just go back to what you were doing before.
- What was it like when I could write fluently?
- How did I feel?
- What kind of thoughts went through my mind?
- What was I doing differently?
Then pick one or two of those things you used to do, and start doing them again, today.
3. Your writer’s block is temporary
How can I be so sure?
Take a moment to remember the other times you’ve experienced writer’s block.
Each time, you were probably racked with precisely the same fear — that you’d never write again — yet you came through and did it.
Statistically, this block will likely be the same.
It feels like the end of the world … it feels like you’ll never write again … until something changes, life goes on, and the words come back.
You will write again.
If you can’t write anything else, write this
Take a sheet of paper and a pen. No keyboard — you need to feel these words as you write them out longhand.
Write these words on the paper — slowly.
- I am still a writer
- I still have the ability to write
- I will write again
Put them in front of you and read them until you feel them.
If it helps, read them out loud. Keep repeating the words until you feel conviction in your voice.
Do this every day when you feel blocked.
Remember these three things, repeat them until you feel them in your bones, and you’ll start to relax.
And the more you relax, the sooner the words will return.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Which of these three things is most important for you to remember?
What would you add to the list?
Any other tips for beating writer’s block?
Let’s discuss these questions in the comments …
About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a creative coach with more than 15 years experience of helping clients overcome creative blocks. For in-depth advice on dealing with a range of creative blocks, download Mark’s FREE e-book 20 Creative Blocks (and How to Break Through Them).