You stare at the blank page in front of you, check your emails, and then scroll on Twitter for a few minutes only to come back to… the blank page. If you find yourself doing this, then you probably have writer’s block.
So, What is Writer’s Block?
Writer’s block is a common affliction that affects screenwriters, novelists, journalists, and anyone who writes. Essentially, it means you are having trouble putting words onto paper. It can strike at any time lasting from a few minutes to weeks.
If you are going to beat writer’s block, you need to look at the causes and symptoms in order to successfully overcome it. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the psychology and sociology of the issue so that you can get back to what really matters – writing!
What are the Symptoms of Writer’s Block?
Like the common cold, there are easily identifiable symptoms to having writer’s block. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, chances are you might be struggling with it:
- Do you procrastinate when you should be writing?
- Are you feeling worried or anxious about what you write?
- Have you found yourself getting frequent headaches whenever you try to write?
- Have you felt a low mood that makes you feel unable to write?
- Do you start looking for more ‘important’ things to do during the time you allocate to write?
What Causes Writer’s Block?
The struggling writer is a common trope used across media from novels to films. Shakespeare in Love (1998), written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, is the story of a writer who loses his mojo and then got it back in an unexpected way. Adaptation (2002) written by Charlie Kaufman, was literally about the struggle Kaufman went through to adapt a novel into a screenplay.
It’s clear that the creative process itself is something widely documented within many different forms of entertainment. The reason for this is simple: it’s relatable. Even the Hemmingways, Sorkins, and Kings of this world will have felt the weight of writer’s block from time to time.
Identifying the root of our writer’s block is going to be our first tool in combating the issue. So first let’s look at the possible external factors that could be to blame.
Do you have a lot going on at home? Is your neighbour starting an extensive DIY project that disturbs your inner sanctum? Have you forgotten to pick the kids up from school? Maybe grandma is coming over for dinner? All of life’s little (and larger) stresses could be causing a mental block on your ability to write.
If you’ve looked outwards and can’t see anything glaringly obvious that could be to blame, then it might be time to look inwards and do some self-reflection.
Are you feeling self-doubt? Imposter syndrome? Is the pursuit of perfection stilting your growth? Maybe you just feel a general lack of motivation? Maybe you’re taking on a high stakes project and the pressure feels overwhelming?
Any of these sound familiar? Well, all is not lost, there are solutions you can explore to help open the creative flood gates, and get your writing mojo back on track.
4 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block
We’ve identified the symptoms and the possible causes that are preventing you from reaching your full writing potential.
Now, let’s look at how we can take positive steps to overcome and conquer writer’s block, so you can become a total writing machine. Or at the very least, a happier writer with realistic and attainable goals.
1. Achieve a Zen-like State
You don’t need to join a monastery and shave off all of your hair (unless you really want to).
Simple changes to your environment can do wonders for your mental health. Here are suggestions for achieving your own inner peace:
- Go for a walk (even if it’s raining, umbrellas were invented for this!)
- Organize your workspace
- Book a spa day
2. Join a Writing Group
Sometimes there are deadlines and we have to get something written. Joining a writing group can be a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable to your goals.
The best part about joining a writing group is having people you can talk to about your struggles who can relate. Just having these conversations with other creatives can empower you and motivate you out of a slump.
This may be surprising, but writing can, and should be, really fun. When you are struggling with writer’s block it can be difficult to remember this, which is why freewriting a great exercise.
The aim of the game is to just let your subconscious mind direct what you write by giving it a prompt and not stopping (this part is very important, don’t be tempted to go back and amend as you go.)
Here are some suggestions of prompts:
- What is the funniest thing to ever happen to you?
- What was the worst date experience you ever had?
- What is your most embarrassing memory?
- What are you looking forward to most?
Give yourself a time limit of a few minutes and write! Don’t stop until the timer stops, and when you are done … delete everything.
There’s no pressure to ever show this to anyone so you can be free to express yourself however you want.
4. Do Something Else
Sometimes the best way to write is to not write at all. Give yourself permission to do something else you enjoy.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Go for a swim
- Play a game
- Bake a cake
- Learn a language
- Save a cat from a tree
You’ll be amazed how much sidestepping the agony of facing the blank page can reignite your passion and creativity.
Writer’s block can be hard to manage, but knowing what works best for you will help you throughout your writing career. These techniques will hopefully take your mind from a total roadblock to just a bump in the road.
Keep going and the words will come, we promise!
Looking for tools to help you write? With affordable tools for narrative ideation such as a script editor, and storyboards, sign up for Celtx scriptwriting and pre-production solution and get access to all studio tools, free for 7 days.