Unblocking writer’s block

-Riya Ganguly

Have you ever stared at your screen as attempting to write gradually turned into a word search on your keyboard? Or sat with the tip of your pen hovering over the clear sheet of paper as your mind went blank?

Writer’s block is a very common condition where an author faces difficulties in beginning or proceeding with a writing project. It is often confused with procrastination. Writer’s block entails a creative rut of sorts characterised by a lack of ideas despite attempting to focus on the project whereas procrastination implies a simple delaying and avoiding of the writing task at hand.

Writer’s block can get very frustrating to deal with and this often discourages authors from attempting to write. Often due to causes such as anxiety about one’s writing ability and self-criticism or an excessive eye for detail and obsessive perfectionism, the writer faces a temporary inability to conjure a beginning or continuation to their work. Several popular authors such as J.K. Rowling, Virginia Woolf and Leo Tolstoy have faced such issues in their careers, but this simply proves that writer’s block is only temporary and can be overcome easily in the following ways:

Just start writing

One of the main causes of writer’s block stems from an anxiety to write and being overtly critical about the quality of authorship. As several authors such as Maya Angelou have recommended this tactic, forcing oneself to write, no matter how good or bad the quality of writing be, will habituate the author to come up with ideas and pen them down. Once the author revives their natural flow of writing, they will automatically stop forcing inspiration and scrambling for ideas.

Take a break

“Writing involves you being completely, revoltingly sedentary while your brain works overtime.” – Benjamin Law

Often, fixating stubbornly on a piece of writing can do more harm than good. As condoned by author Hilary Mantel, shifting focus to some other creative activity such as drawing, singing or dancing or indulging in physical exercises such as going for a walk or swimming helps rejuvenate the mind and body and helps the author get a fresh perspective of their writing project.

Shift your workstation

Writer’s block arises due to an overwhelmed mind anxious about writing. Making small changes such as temporarily shifting one’s workstation or even changing the font style or colour may provide creative stimulation and help authors get a fresh perspective and prevent them from feeling stifled by their same old routine.

Re-read your work

“Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.” ― Norman Mailer

It is the opinion of several authors such as Alexander McCall Smith and Norman Mailer that writer’s block is not a real issue and is simply the mind’s reaction to bad writing, an alert against taking a wrong step. In such cases, authors are recommended to pause on attempting to continue writing; re-reading and re-evaluating one’s work are like a blueprint to one’s writing capabilities, and tracking their own progress often provides the much-needed spark of perspective and helps ideas to blossom which can help authors to put an end to writer’s block.

However, writers must also caution against using writer’s block as a means of procrastination and not let its fear discourage them from pursuing their writing projects. A writer cannot always expect inspiration to guide their works or attempt to write only when they “feel creative”. It is thus important for writers to accept that every paragraph they write need not necessarily be their best work and ultimately ensure that they be regular with their writing.

Also read: Write with style

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