Ah. Writer’s block. The dreaded affliction that all writers will suffer from at some point, if not at many points, in their careers.
We all lament those moments where the inspiration and words just won’t come and the cursor blinks accusingly at you from the blank page on the computer screen. But what exactly is writer’s block and what steps can you put into place to try and overcome it more easily?
Writer’s block is not just one thing, and because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Before you can hope to shift the block, you need to determine what is causing it in the first place.
Fear of Failure
This may be one of the more common writer’s blocks because it stems from a sense of perfectionism and self- criticism. Although your mind may be teeming with stories just itching to be told, there is that crippling self- doubt that thunks the big old ‘nothing-I-write-will-ever-be-good-enough’ block smack bang in the way.
This is made even worse when you edit while you write. If you strive for perfectionism in your first draft, you will continuously re-write the same piece to attain the final version of your story before your story is even finished. Each time you do this, you chip just a little more motivation away, because the longer you get stuck in this loop, the further away from the end goal- finishing your story- will seem.
Possible Solutions: Don’t edit while you write! I know it is difficult (I am terrible with this), but your first draft is not supposed to be perfect, it isn’t even supposed to be half– perfect. It is the first draft. Relax your expectations. Get it down, finish your story and then start going back over it and making changes. Take a break and relax a little, failure is part of any endeavor, especially creative ones. It does not mean that it is not worth doing anyway. It is only through failure that we learn the lessons we need to succeed.
Fear of Rejection
Rejection is a looming and ever-present fear that most, if not all, writers will experience. The concern that your writing will fall short of the expectations of your readers is valid, we rely greatly on the feedback we receive from readers to perfect our craft.
Criticism is scary to receive, especially the nasty reviews that don’t do much other than to punch our self- esteem in the gut, but what you need to remember is that not everyone is going to like what you write. Does this make you a failure? No. Even some of the world’s best selling authors don’t appeal to everyone. There will always be people that do not like what you have written. There will also be people who love what you write, and you never know, your book may become someone’s favorite. While the fear of rejection is very real and very valid, don’t let it stop you from unleashing your work onto the world.
Possible Solutions: Start by writing for yourself. Don’t write what you think other people want to hear. Once you have told your story and have edited it, send your book for Beta Reading before you publish and ask for constructive criticism. Finding places that you can make improvements on with the criticism from a safer space will not only make receiving criticism a little easier (although I will not lie, it does still sting) but it will also allow you to make changes to areas of your book that may have been weaker or unclear before release.
Lack of Motivation and Loss of Connection to Your Characters
Sometimes your characters obstinately refuse to talk to you and try as you might, you cannot seem to connect to them the way you were when your story flowed out of you. Maybe you just feel very disconnected from what you are writing, struggling to form the sentences or find the right words. The images you used to see so clearly in your head are now fuzzy and halting. It is okay, this happens. Everyone feels burned out occasionally and it is important to allow yourself time to recuperate.
Possible Solutions: Take a break from writing for a little while. Read a book, watch a movie or take part in another hobby to give yourself some breathing room from your project. Reassess your priorities, are you writing because you love to do so or are you being motivated by an external factor such as money? Consider switching to another writing project for a short time and then returning to the one you have the block on. A new perspective after a break may highlight some places that you need to make changes to let the story flow more freely again.
The reasons we get writer’s block varies, and so do how we can overcome it. At the end of the day, you need to find what works for you.
I know that I suffer from a lack of motivation and fear of failure regularly. I have found that moving onto another project helps me get over the block on my main project. I have to be careful that I don’t digress too much, a trail of unfinished projects is the aftermath of that flaw. But another way I have found that works for me are designing aesthetic boards for my work in progress.
Persevere, writer’s block does not last forever.