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How to beat Writers Block

So it has happened. You’ve had an idea and all of a sudden, bam! Writers Block! The poets worse nightmare has become a reality. The dread of the pen drying up with every attempted stroke it makes. The picture you thought you were painting starts to dissipate and you start to recluse further and further away from your writing and back into your shell.

Having personally suffered, time and time again from writers block, the papers thrown away, the self doubt and hatred towards the art has at a stage felt to real to me. It is one of those things we just have to accept about writing, it can be tough and we should not be so hard on ourselves all of the time. Sometimes, it is as tough as leather to even begin writing and other times, it is beautiful, effortless and flows straight through you. It speaks the language you didn’t even know you knew, but the picture painted is clear and powerful.

In this article, we will be discussing some ways of overcoming writers block. These methods are what some writers have suggested and can really steer you clear of becoming obsessed with the block and not being able to write.

What is the cause of writers block?

Writers block has been known to have many different causes, for one, I think the biggest is perfectionism. Whenever we see the cursor blinking on the white empty screen, it can be absolutely terrifying because now, we have got to write. Blankness takes over. Stephanie Weisman calls it well as “blank page syndrome” and this can definitely be something extremely daunting. This can create fear in us and the “blank page syndrome” really sits in as we get lost in the white screen with no thought.

Sometimes, that fear even extends to our actual writing. Many writers have a fear of their work being critiqued and judged by the public that they end up not wanting to put their ideas out there. It is one of the reasons why writers don’t end up becoming writers.

Lastly, time is not always on our side. Lots of the time we are either to tired to write, or too busy with other things in our life that we neglect our writing. When this happens, we might struggle to sit down again with our pen and paper and this inevitably creates writers block.

How might we over come the block?

Just with as much causes there might be for writers block, there are an equal amount of solutions. Charles Bukowski said that “writing about writers block is better than not writing at all”. Sometimes our creative juices just need time to fuel up, sometimes we just need to let go of our anxiety about writing and pick up the pen and start. This allows us to hone our skills and manage to write through the block. You could write about anything! Maybe you could even write about the emotions that the writers block makes you feel, or even writing about your day, or about a movie or book. Some writing is better than no writing.

I find going for a walk is another excellent way to kind of free the mind and stop the block. As you walk be present in that moment, try to keep your mind from over thinking. Think about the breeze in the air, hear the sounds of the leaves rustling or birds chirping, feel as the changes below you, how the trees look, what emotions it evokes. I feel this allows us to think more deeply without being critical and this might help you come up with some cool ideas. As John Muir says, ” in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – Sometimes our writing hold ups can be solved by a fresh perspective.

A pretty obvious one might be to source inspiration from other writers. This might seem rather obvious, but often underrated. Getting stuck in a great book or watching videos on poets lay the hearts out can give one inspiration and writing ideas. One thing I vehemently agree with is that we are never too old to learn and inspiration is lurking behind every soul if you just wish to see it. So, pick up a book, come to one of our poetry nights in Johannesburg, or jump onto Youtube to watch poets pour their hearts out. The inspiration is everywhere.

One of our poetry nights in Melville

Another fantastic tool to get yourself writing more is to use the stream of consciousness writing style. It allows for your thoughts to flow and put everything down on paper, once we have done that, thinking of words or ideas might become easier. The stream of consciousness writing has produced great success in many writers and has even produced amazing books like Requiem for a dream and Fear and loathing in Las Vegas. This style of writing is not one easy to master, but definitely one to get rid of the enemy, writers block.

Often, people are over critical of their work and this leads to an obsession of being perfect. As mentioned earlier, this will be the death of becoming a writer. Not every piece will be perfect, not every script is Netflix ready, not every story is a top selling novel. However, every piece of writing is unique. It is emotions being expressed. It is beauty. I think that is how we have to view our writing in order to overcome writers block. We cannot be so critical about it as it will lead to us believing we cannot write causing that creative energy to dissipate. Be kind to yourself and take it easy. Writing is tough work, but it can and does create magic.

A good way to get in the flow of things is to always have a schedule that you stick to for writing. This encourages us to take writing more seriously. Writing is not only just based on creativity and fun for the craft but also on hours of dedicated practice, editing, deleting, re-editing and deleting again. Having a set time to write everyday/week could greatly improve your writing and discourage the great enemy, writers block.

In the words of Octavia Butler, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”. Keep practicing and keep making the wonderful act of writing and in due time the block will be beat.

Calen Critchfield

Calen Critchfield is the founder of Writers Bloc. He has been running it since the start of the organisation and hopes to see it and the poetry scene in South Africa grow.