No, this is not an article on how to deal with Writer’s Block’s editorial board. I like to think that is something you don’t need help with. Rather, this is my attempt to provide a guide to beat the condition our magazine was named after, the temporary situation where writers find themselves unable to produce any kind of text, whether that is a novel, a poem, a text message, or, in my case, a 500 word website article. It is currently five minutes past midnight, five minutes past my deadline, because I haven’t been able to write anything for days. I think that working for a magazine called Writer’s Block might have actually come back to haunt me, like some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m certainly not the first WB editor to suffer from this condition, and definitely not the first (occasional) writer. Therefore, I decided to come up with a list of possible reasons for the writer’s block condition, and ways that will hopefully help out both you (the reader) and myself to overcome it. A Semi-Professional Self-Help Guide, then.
First of all, let’s talk about the things that might have caused your writer’s block (assuming that you are a writer who is currently struggling with this phenomenon). I think there are two main types of writer’s block: the one where you are unable to come up with ideas for what to write about, and the one where you are unable to actually write about said ideas, whether that is because of not being able to find the words, a fear of what others might think of your work, a worry that you will not get everything right the first time, or something else entirely.
If you are suffering from the first type of writer’s block, my main advice to you is to not worry about ideas too much. Instead, stop thinking about writing and try doing something that might inspire you. For example, you can leave your cosy writing sanctuary and go for a walk, looking at the people around you and trying to visualize their stories. Another tip is to exercise (she said while lying in bed). Running, hiking, biking around; anything that gets your blood flowing and your energy levels up. If you’re not into sports, random dance parties can also be very helpful – at least in my experience. Lastly, emerge yourself in anything that is creative. Whether you do this by reading a book, watching a movie, going to see a play or concert, visiting a museum, or anything similar, it doesn’t matter. Just do it. Let other creative things inspire you – but be careful not to directly copy them, because plagiarism is usually frowned upon (and rather illegal).
If you are struggling with the second type or writer’s block and seem to be unable to actually write, either out of fear for a certain type of reaction or out of perfectionism, the key is to just sit down, get rid of any unnecessary distractions (i.e. the Internet) and just do it. There are many different exercises to stop thinking and just write, but the most important thing is to stop worrying about the finished product. Instead, write whatever comes to mind and save the revision for later. I once went to a book signing where the author told us that the way she dealt with writing a who-even-knows-how-many-word novel is to just sit down and finish her first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect – first drafts never are. It just has to exist. After finishing that first draft, it is time to leave your work for a while, take your mind off it, maybe forget about it for a little bit, and then come back to it when you are ready to revise.
Another tip is to not keep your text to yourself. As scary as it is, sometimes the best way to move forward with your work is to get a fresh perspective, someone who hasn’t been caught up in your text for hours to help you reach its potential. As always, we at WB would be happy to work with you on this, but you can also ask a friend or a family member or even just a random acquaintance who you know would be willing to help you out. A thing I have tried before is meeting in a café and writing together. You can then motivate each other to just get anything down on paper, and critique each other’s work (kindly) afterwards.
Writer’s block can be an intimidating and outright annoying thing to deal with, but if you are stuck in one, know that you are not alone. Even great writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald went through them. Just remember to not sit around staring at a blank screen waiting for the words to come to you, keep the self-pity to a limit, and don’t worry too much. The words and ideas will come to you, even if that means you are typing them five minutes after your deadline in the early hours of the morning.
(Header image courtesy of Getty Images)