Defeating writer’s block is one of those things that all writers eventually experience. Sure, maybe they’re defeating their own writer’s block, maybe sometimes they’re just helping a friend. Either way, it affects us and those around us. Creativity is regenerative: we are nourished and healed when around the creativity of others.
Yet, it wounds us to lose our own forward momentum. It hurts when we see our friends and family lose heart in what they love. So, for writers in particular, writer’s block can be stressful beyond the ability to complete work or meet deadlines.
One reason for that varied response is that writer’s block means different things to different people. Ask a hundred writers for a definition and you’ll likely get as many answers. And that’s totally valid. Every writer is different, and every writer approaches the process with different ideas and intentions and beliefs.
Defining the Block
Still, for the sake of getting on the same page, let’s go ahead and define writer’s block. After all, it’s nearly impossible to counter a problem that hasn’t been properly identified. So, writer’s block is: An obstacle, however literal or figurative, that creates a prolonged period where the writer cannot make progress on their work(s).
In other words, sometimes you can’t write because there’s something’s in the way.
From a literal perspective, maybe your cat decided to sit on your keyboard. There is an actual object preventing your writing progress. Sometimes you can’t get home in time to work on your project. Maybe you just lost the notebook that has all of your notes. Those cases are the easily-dealt-with situations. A cat will eventually deign to allow your continued efforts. Eventually, work will let you go home. Notes can be reborn and crafted anew.
Except, those notes lead right into the figurative losses. The obstacles that aren’t some physical limitation.
Because, how old is that notebook? How much work is in there? How crushing would it be to lose years of ideas and scribbled thoughts?
Or maybe the notebook was brand new, but now your mood is ruined. And we all know that moods provide the true grease for our mind’s gears. When the mind gets in a short-circuited loop, things can get troublesome. It can be difficult to even start again.
The worst cases of writers block are always those internal struggles between motivation and inspiration.
Which, great, the problems are internal and external. They’re physical or mental or emotional. But what then? How do we move forward?
Self-care is a process. A continual series of tasks and considerations that we must do for ourselves. For creatives, the act of creation is often part of their self-care. For writers, it can be soothing to finally set words to paper and wander to faraway places. For artists, to doodle can release the mind and relax the body.
But, and this is especially true for those acting a creative freelancers, our creative processes also become part of our worth. Consciously, we track our progress and assess the completion of ideas and projects. And, even if only unconsciously, we place a value on the hours put into our craft.
So is it any wonder that writer’s block sometimes extends beyond our ability to write? Is it any wonder that a block that was physical spreads and grows until it takes over mind, body, and spirit?
Which is why we have to learn to let go. It can be incredibly important to release ourselves from the contracts we’ve bound ourselves into.
I will write every day. I will finish this by next week. I will release that book at the end of the month.
These are great goals. On good days, good months, these are the contracts of self that push us to reach new heights.
Yet, if you’re stuck in a creative slump? If you’ve been struggling to get out bed because of some lost thread of creativity? Those same goals can begin to feel like unavoidable failures. And, sometimes, you have to go further and remover yourself from outside projects. If your day-job does include creative work, it can help to lower your standards and reduce daily productivity.
Distance can bring peace and new perspective. With distance, it can be easier to see the way back to where we want to be.
When writer’s block really hits, when creativity really dwindles away, it can feel like it will never return. However, by releasing yourself from previous responsibilities, you can restart without trying to pick up broken pieces. You can express your creativity without worrying how it might affect the work you find important.
Most importantly, by releasing yourself from old bindings, you can take the time to assess their importance in your life. You can find out if that really matters to the future you want to create. Sometimes, it never was. Sometimes it’s time to let an idea fade or leave a project unfinished.
And that’s not a loss, not truly. If you stop a project that isn’t bringing you joy, then you’re opening the opportunity to reclaim that joy somewhere else.
Other times? Once you find your new thread of creativity, maybe you’ll remember the dream that sparked an old project in the first place. Sometimes, taking a break can remind you of the inspiration or rekindle a drive to finish.
But, most importantly, you will have given yourself the space to breathe. Creativity is tough, and it takes effort on top of the struggles of everyday life. We can never blame ourselves for failing to be creative, because every act of creation already raises us above and beyond.
Creating elevates us because it is an active resistance against the negative. Creativity pushes back against hate and destruction and entropy. Putting pen to paper, or adding digital words into a document, is an act of witchcraft and wizardry. We are crafting something out of nothing. The world moves from those efforts.