A Vicious Cycle Anyone who’s ever written—and that’s just about everybody—has experienced what is known as writer’s block. Typically, it manifests itself as a paralysing anxiety brought on when the writer sits before a blank page or computer screen and is unable to find words for the task at hand. Whether it’s finishing that long-awaited novel, a term paper, or even a letter to a loved one, writer’s block can strike with debilitating force. The more one concentrates, the harder it is to begin, in turn, creating more anxiety.
It’s All Part of the Process During the dream stage of sleep, the body is paralysed. This has a practical purpose: quite simply, it prevents someone from ‘acting out’ what he is dreaming about, perhaps endangering his life and those of others. In the same way, a blocked writer should trust that the natural rhythms of the creative process are also serving an important purpose.
For one, the subconscious does a lot of creative work behind the scenes. While a writer may feel driven to pursue an idea, the subconscious may not have entirely worked it through. It’s much easier for the writer to understand that being blocked occasionally is part of the writing process and to have faith that work is being accomplished. Once the subconscious has worked it through, words and ideas will flow once more, richer, denser, more subtle.
Also, creativity has its own schedule. If an idea is in the gestation stage, it makes no sense to hurry it along. Forcing an early delivery tends to lead to an underdeveloped result. And there is so much extra effort required in order to produce it. It’s best to let the ideas simmer, trusting that when the time is right, ideas will flow naturally.
Strategies Even the most prolific writers experience writer’s block. However, professional writers tend to have a bag of tricks for dealing with it when it strikes. Some examples:
- Automatic writing—Spend twenty minutes with pen and paper writing whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial. Many writers liken this to taking out the rubbish, freeing the mind to work on the important ideas.
- Write with the other hand—If you are right-handed, spend several minutes writing with your left, and vice versa. This helps to spark the creative side of the brain.
- Do something else—Procrastination can serve a purpose. Take a walk, clean the fridge, pull weeds. Activities like these take away the pressure of the blank page, allowing the subconscious to flow freely.
- Talk to someone—Find an interested friend and talk about your ideas. You may discover that you are much further along in the process than you thought. Plus, encouraging nods and praise may help you shape your writing further.
- Skip ahead—If one part of the project isn’t coming together, move on to something else. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting into the groove of writing.
The Stream of Creativity As with all worthwhile endeavours, writing requires perseverance and commitment. The creative process exists within. It’s simply a matter of cooperating with the hardworking subconscious and trusting in the results.