The page is blank.
Or it’s halfway there.
Or – even more infuriating – there are only a few words left.
But your brain is nothing but slush and that song from the 90s by someone you haven’t heard about since the 90s.
This. Is. Writer’s block.
At some point in your writing career, you will go head-to-head with this monstrous demon. You’ll scour the internet for something, anything to inspire you. Maybe you’ll even wander outside, take a gander.
Yet, back at your desk, your fingers rest on your keyboard as if on vacation. It sucks.
But it’s in your best interest to give in and let go.
Probably not what you were expecting, huh? People will say, “Just power-through! You’ve got this!” And yeah, it’s encouraging. And yeah, it actually does help sometimes.
Most times? It’s like knocking repeatedly on an empty skull.
Today, I’m going to give it to you straight: what’s the scientific dealio with writer’s block + how the hell do you get rid of it?
Writer’s block isn’t random; it’s science.
First – I should clarify writer’s block is not an exact science. In fact, most of my research turned up open-ended theories as to why us writers often feel cursed.
However, the theories that are out there all hold some substance – no matter how unlikely they may seem.
The most satisfying of theories came from The Recording Radio Film Connection & Casa Schools’ blog from a Ms. Lyla Swift.
Located in the frontal lobe, “Broca’s area” is the region thought to factor into story creation. It’s this region and areas located in the right prefrontal cortext that light up on an fMRI when subjects are asked to write or brainstorm possible stories. Also located in this vicinity is the “anterior cingulate cortex” an area said to enable us to make associations between unrelated concepts, a quintessential skill for writers to have.
Smith continues to explain that the association between these two areas of the brain could mean that writers would find help getting rid of writer’s block by partaking in creative projects outside of writing.
For example, you could try doodling, photography, scrapbooking, or even spitballing rhymes with a friend. The general idea is to still be creative, just in a new way.
Something practically every theory has in common is the fact that solving writer’s block depends completely on the writer.
It’s a different solution for every person, and it’s never as easy as sticking a bandaid on your forehead and hoping the word pour out through your fingers.
What’s causing your writer’s block?
There are a number of reasons why you may feel cornered by your work-in-progress. More often than not, they stem from pent up emotions.
If you’re anything like me, then maybe you use your writing as a vehicle for navigating tough times. This is common, but it could also be the root of your problem.
If you’re trying to write about anything but the thing that’s running circles in your brain, then your writer’s block could just be your body saying you need to address the real issue.
Whether it was a fight with a friend or family member or a mistake you made that’s left you feeling guilty – your writer’s block is simply a coping mechanism.
Another prime reason is not getting enough rest.
Your creative part of your brain is a muscle. Is it good to exercise it every day? Yeah, of course, but if you exercise it too much, then you’ll pull it.
Your writer’s block could just be that your writing muscle needs a break to heal. You should be cautious and be sure to get rest, especially if you’re working with stressful deadlines.
I get how powering-through can feel like the best course of action. Sometimes, it is. Most times, however, you’ll do so and produce work you’re not as proud of. Why? Because you were all out of sorts!
Save yourself some editing time and just take a break. There’s no reason for a million-day hiatus (unless there is). Just give your brain some breathing room. You can’t rush a masterpiece, after all.
Finding your individual cure for writer’s block
Now, you’re probably at this point thinking, Great. So there isn’t a singular, easy solution. I’m going to be stuck for eternity.
That’s not true.
Maybe there is a singular, easy solution for you. You just have to figure out what that is.
How do you do that? Unfortunately, it’s going to take trial and error.
But also, I found these helpful tips (some of which are my own from personal experience) that you could try.
- Keep a dream journal + document every detail you remember
- Join online forums + be active in the community, answering questions or coming up with your own
- Go for a drive on the interstate + blast soundtracks from your favorite films
- Read the work of writers you’ve never heard of + experience jealousy (it can be a powerful motivator)
- Guzzle whiskey (yeah, it may be a stereotype, but it also sometimes works)
- Do some research with that Google-thing
- Go to therapy or enlist someone to be your temporary therapist. Talking can do wonders.
- Go to sleep; sometimes, you just need a fresh mind
- Watch TV/films in the same genre as your writing
- Use Pinterest
- Listen to classical music
- Hangout with your cat
- Get some friends together and go hit the town
- Maybe just write something else, something fresh
- Go people watching at your favorite cafe
These are just some ideas. Like I said before, curing writer’s block comes down to the person.
When you’re in doubt, tired, and stressed – take a break. I cannot stress that more.
As an over-perfectionist and someone who struggles with major anxiety, I understand how it feels to not get something done. It sucks. It makes me pull my hair out, binge eat chocolate, and wrack my brain for solutions.
It took me a long time to find my solution to writer’s block. And, guess what? It was to take a breather. I personally like to take a steamy bath with The Office on. It takes my mind off things.
Whatever your solution may be, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find it right away. Curing writer’s block is part of self-discovery, knowing what works for you and what doesn’t.
Have more suggestions for writers to try? Comment below. Let’s keep this list growing. That way, whether it’s you or the next writer that’s stuck – there will always be a list of ideas to conquer.