Finally, you have decided to start writing. You have overcome your fear of being creative. You prepared your coffee, laptop or pen and paper. Now you are sitting on your desk, ready to start. But there is one big problem: you are facing THE blank page, and you don’t know what to write. Don’t panic! You are not alone! New writers, as well as experienced ones, also suffer from writer’s block.
This happened to me as well, and I observe it as a sort of self-sabotage or resistance. And from my experience, I have found a solution that worked well for me, which might work for you as well. Just write! I know this might sound unhelpful, but the article you are currently reading is what I wrote when I had a blank page syndrome. So let me explain:
Why are you facing writer’s block?
It is clear that the reason behind writer’s block is purely mental. Of course, a physical condition might also lead to it, but this is not what we are discussing here. Actually, if you happen to have a health problem and you don’t feel like writing, it might be ok not to do so. Your writing abilities and the quality of your work could be affected by it. In many cases, writing might help you evade your thoughts or structure them, so forcing yourself into doing so is something I would recommend. But why do we suffer from writer’s block in the first place? Or in other words, why are you preventing yourself from writing? I did some research about the psychological aspect of it, and I have categorized the causes as follows:
- Negative emotions:
Stress, anxiety, extreme emotional states, and mental illness are the most mentioned reasons when it comes to writer’s block. People tend to find it harder to write when there is high stress in life, such as health issues, stressful life events leading to physical and emotional exhaustion, or cases of depression.
- Lack of motivation and fears:
Fear of criticism or rejection, performance anxiety, and loss of enjoyment. A writer might experience this if he feels pressure to perform well or when he receives negative feedback.
- Lack of planning:
Perfectionism, problems due to errors in planning (not planning well enough in advance or being too fixated on the outcome), rigid thinking. Having a structure might help you stay on track. The block is related to the work itself.
- Difficulty to execute:
Procrastination, being too busy to write, having Attention deficit disorder (ADD), or change in writing routine. Some writers are just being busy with other obligations or procrastinating rather than executing.
- A combination of the above
So If you are experiencing writer’s block, you are probably suffering from one of the causes mentioned above. Which are primarily self-sabotage. In fact, all of them can be avoided, and what they are just doing is holding you back from moving toward your goals. So let’s dive a step deeper and have a look at the work of our subconscious mind.
The real origins of creativity’s block
These causes have their origin deep into your childhood and the environment you grow in. For example, abusive parents, critical significant people (such as teachers), unfortunate life events, and many others might lead to your suffering.
Unfortunately, we tend not to perceive some aspects of our personality (or prefer to hide them from ourselves). It is usually the work of our defense mechanisms. That’s why we need an external neutral person (a psychotherapist or a friend) to help us uncover what we already knew but somehow can’t put the finger on. That damn foggy perception of ourselves! To understand yourself better, you have to be ready to break some barriers and reveal what was buried. You always look successful, so how is it possible that you have a fear of success? Do pretentious people have a high or low ego? These statements might seem simple but in reality, they are much more complex than that. Here are some of the unsuspected causes of writer’s block:
- Lack of self-worth:
“You are not good enough” “You are not smart enough” that’s what you are telling yourself. Which translates to a lack of self-confidence. You will not be able to achieve results if you keep thinking that. How we feel about ourselves is how we are presented to the world. When we lack self-esteem, we will do things to stop ourselves from achieving our fullest potential. And that’s sad because for sure you have potential in some areas and you can succeed in them.
- Fear of success
You worked so hard on this project. What if you become successful? Is it something that you really desire? or deserve? Success comes with even more responsibilities and increased attention. Are you ready to face them? What if they think you are a fraud? All these thoughts lead you to engage in behaviour that limits your success, and this is why so many people stop just right before seeing the outcome of their work. Overcome your fear and embrace your success, and maybe it will come out as one of the best things you did in life.
- Not taking responsibility
Failure might hurt our ego, and when the idea of failure is so unbearable, we might start displacing the responsibility of achieving our goals into other factors. I have often seen this in exams. Especially when the person experiences a blackout where they can’t remember anything anymore. There are two mechanisms behind this situation. The first one is that you are placing the fault on an external factor. The second one is that your mind shows you that you might face your deepest fear (like failing the exam), and it will still be ok. In the case of writer’s block, it is also the same. “I didn’t write because I wasn’t inspired” Unfortunately, the result is still a failure.
- Wanting control
Being in control is something that reassures many of us, and we feel good about it. This might seem strange, but accepting a negative outcome ahead of time makes us feel like we are in control even though it is not what we want to happen. Thus, we control our failure when we apply this self-sabotaging behavior and thought patterns.
- Fear of failure
This is the most overwhelming reason behind self-sabotage. You fear that you will do all your best to achieve something and still not be enough. So you give up early on, and you don’t try harder. It is easier for you to accept failure and give yourself reasons for it than to truly give it your all and still not succeed.
Solutions to writer’s block
Understanding the problem is half the solution. I found myself in such a situation, and depending on how I felt, I either chose to commit to writing and kept doing it, or I just changed the project I was working on. If you really don’t feel like writing, there are other things that you may try to get back to creating with more energy. You can take a break from writing and go for a walk or meditate. Other suggestions would be discussing your ideas with other people or changing your writing location. A study from the University of North Florida has shown that some solutions are more effective than others. Here is the list ranked from the most to the least effective:
- Take a walk
- Discuss ideas with others
- Work on a different project
- Meditation / Yoga
- Change writing location or habit
- Keep writing
- Take a break
- Read a book or watch TV
- Re-read/ revise current work or skip ahead
What is most important is that you understand that life is not linear. Going without complications from point A to point B rarely happens. You just have to define your final goal, set up a schedule and track your progress along the way. This can be something like writing a book or starting a blog. For which you can set smaller goals like writing 2000 words daily or two articles per week. I would highly recommend time blocking as it is an effective way to stick to a schedule. Experts are the ones who do the work, especially when they don’t feel like it. So handling the frustration and trying to be disciplined or a good way towards your goals.
What if my creativity’s block stays for too long? I would then highly recommend you to open up and talk about it either to a person close to you or a professional such as a coach or a therapist or me :p (I would love to hear your stories and help you)
I said at the beginning of this article that I was experiencing it. Maybe it was not a complete block, but I didn’t know what to write about (even though I have a document full of brainstormed ideas), But now, as I am almost done with this article, some ideas are starting to pop up in my head. Remarkably, I know what I am going to write about next time: coffee.