Writer's block is the bane of every writer. All writers (regardless of experience) have experienced it at least once in their lifetime, and it can be really frustrating.
You are staring at a white screen or a blank piece of paper, begging your brain to come up with something (anything!) and your brain stubbornly refuses to do so.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what writer’s block is and give you some practical advice on how to overcome it.
So first of all let’s address the possible causes of writer's block.
Causes of Writer's Block
Not having enough confidence.
Writing is particularly hard for people who are naturally shy and self-conscious when expressing themselves. The longer your writer's block lasts the less confident you become.
The myth of linear narrative structure.
Inexperienced writers often make the mistake of assuming that they have to start narrating at the very beginning and follow the linear structure until the end.
However, the writing process is messy and disorganized and there is nothing wrong with jumping from one scene to the other. Just write about the idea that inspires you and come back to the scene that troubles you later.
Fear of breaking the rules.
Even though writing a composition is a way of expressing yourself you still have to follow certain rules. You have to pick the right vocabulary (metaphors, similes etc.) make sure that the punctuation signs are in the right place, and so on.
This is especially hard if you are endeavoring to write in your second language and the fear of not getting it quite right might cause writer's block.
The limitations of written language.
Sometimes it is hard to choose the right words to express in detail how we feel inside. And in some cases, the emotions that go through your mind might not even have a name yet. Writers know that these limitations of a language will prevent them from expressing their complex ideas. Or at least it will take multiple paragraphs to make the reader understand what you’re feeling.
Writers may misconstrue these limitations of the written word for their ineptitude which can be demotivating.
Editing as you write.
Many writers get obsessed with editing each and every sentence as they write.
Not only does this type of premature editing slow the writing process down but it might also cause you to lose your train of thought and cause writer's block.
Fear of the audience.
At some point, somebody else will read what you have written and the thought of that is just too much for some writers to bear so they get paralyzed.
Not being able to see the big picture.
While it is a good idea to split up the assignment into smaller tasks it might also prove to be counterproductive.
If you view scenes as separate entities you might be good at writing dialogues for each character, but once you "zoom out" you may not be able to connect the dots and spoil the overall flow of the narrative.
Not writing about the topic that interests you.
Another major cause of writer's block is the lack of intellectual motivation. This may happen because the writer does not have any personal interest in the topic they have to write about.
Not having a clear plan.
And last but not least, in order to achieve success in writing and avoid writer's block, you need to make a clear plan of where you are going with the story.
It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan but it is absolutely necessary to make a rough outline of the plot.
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with all the factors that might cause your writer's block, let us have a look at how to get out of it.
How to overcome writer's block
1. Keep the ball rolling.
The most effective way to beat writer's block is to stay active. Instead of worrying about how you are going to write the next paragraph just sit down and write a couple of sentences.
Even if they are completely useless and you have to delete them afterwards it doesn’t matter. Keeping up the habit of writing is what counts.
Even genius writers had to rework their writing multiple times. So do not be afraid of going through the trial and error stage; it is how all writers learn.
2. Putting your thoughts on paper.
This is closely related to the previous advice. In order to jumpstart your brain just write down anything and everything that comes to mind related to your topic. Even if you think it is the silliest idea in the world do not be shy; write it down!
Let’s say that you have been given the assignment to write a composition about communication. Think about some examples of communication from your own life. Write about how you communicate with your family members, with your friends, with your colleagues, etc.
Don’t worry, nobody is going to read what you have written; once you have finished you can just press delete. But performing this written task will help your brain generate ideas connected with the topic of communication and eventually you will come up with something that you can use in your composition.
3. Do not procrastinate.
In today’s day and age, we are surrounded by all sorts of distractions. Whether you are into videos, scrolling through photos, playing video games, there is a distraction out of there to attract every type of procrastinator.
But you must not succumb to the temptation. Identify what your weakness is and be mindful of it.
If your eye wanders towards Netflix every time you fire up your laptop then perhaps it is better to write a couple of pages by hand with some good old-fashioned pen and paper.
4. Identifying useful sources.
Before you start writing make a list of all the useful sources you might use. Otherwise, if you keep researching while you are writing you might need to rewrite what you have already written multiple times. This may lead to a loss of confidence and eventually to writer's block.
5. Ask yourself questions.
If you get stuck at a certain point in the narrative start asking yourself questions. The more questions you ask yourself the harder your brain will work to find answers to them.
There is no clear-cut list of questions you should ask yourself but some of the most useful ones are as follows.
Why would the reader be interested in finding out more information about this topic?
What will they think about the characters of my composition?
Have people always thought in this manner or have their opinions changed due to some event?
How are the ideas in my composition connected to one another?
What real-life or theoretical examples can I name to support my point of view?
How might somebody oppose my ideas?
And many more.
6. Speaking out loud.
If you can share the contents of your composition with a friend or a classmate then talking to them is a good way of overcoming the writer's block.
Sometimes it is easier to view the topic realistically after you have talked about it with a trusted person.
On the other hand, if you wish the content of your composition to remain a secret there is always a mirror you can talk to.
If you have a pet at home they could also play a role of a listener. Whatever it takes to get the ideas flowing.
7. Go for a walk.
Sometimes all we need to do to overcome writer's block is just put ourselves in a different environment, literally.
Many writers will go for long walks and observe the real world around them in an attempt to generate fresh ideas.
If the scene you want to write about takes place in a café why not go to one?
Order yourself a cup of coffee and watch the people around you. Imagine that some of them are characters in your composition. Seeing real people in a real setting might give you some great ideas for your work of fiction.
8. Sleep on it.
Sometimes a writer's block is not the question of talent or practice it is just a matter of your little grey cells being too tired to come up with anything good. If this is the case a good night’s sleep will solve your problem.
9. Learn from the masters.
Most new writers get inspired to pick up a pen by other writers. If you are one of such newbies and you are experiencing writer's block why not go back to your favorite authors, re-read their stories and remember what inspired you in the first place.
Pay attention to how they build their narrative, what techniques they used, what was their tone in a certain situation.
But keep in mind that there is a big difference between inspiration and plagiarism, so even if you are experiencing the worst case of writer's block your objective should always be to write something that is unique, something that expresses who you are.
In conclusion, writer's block might be dreaded by all writers but if you know the ways to overcome it, it is really nothing to be afraid of.
The most important thing is to have faith in yourself and to remember that writer's block has one constant and positive characteristic, it is always temporary.
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