When I was around 9 years old, my mom took me to a hair salon to get my hair cut. She held my hand as we walked toward the front door. I had never been to a salon or a barber shop before. The door jingled with a bell as it closed behind us. We sat in the worn-out red seats with scuffed metal frames and waited. I watched the hairdresser finish up with an old lady, whose hair was big and curly, and more blue than white. It made me think of Grandma. The hairdresser used a hairspray that made me choke and gag. I waved my hand up and down in front of my face to waft it away from me.
It was my turn to climb into the big black cushioned chair. The hairdresser put a booster seat under my butt to make me taller in the chair. I didn’t smile. She draped a heavy dark grey cape around me. I listened as she chatted with my mom and used a green bottle to spray water on my dark hair. “I bet you get lots of compliments on your beautiful black hair.”
I barely nodded. But I wanted to say, “It’s not black! It’s dark-dark brown!” which is what I told everyone.
She used a large comb to brush through my hair. Every time she found a small tangle, I winced. “Your hair is so long and thick. How short do you want it?”
I continued staring blankly at myself in the mirror.
My mom chuckled. “Just a trim. I think she’s a little nervous.” Then she turned to me and said, “Lighten up, honey. You look like a ghost. Smile!”
Ever had a moment like that when you were looking forward to something, even if it was the unknown, and in the middle of it, you just froze? Writer’s Block is a lot like staring at yourself in the mirror with a blank face - feeling like a nervous ghost.
The New Definition of Writer’s Block
Don’t you hate it when you sit down to write, but your brain feels blank and no words flow onto the page? A blank screen stares back at you with a blinking cursor, “What will you write today?” it silently asks. But you got nothin’.
Most people call that Writer’s Block.
But does Writer’s Block really exist? Do writers ever feel uninspired? Unable to continue writing? Procrastinating starting a new project? Is the writer being lazy? Or is Writer’s Block just a bunch of hogwash?
Yes, Virginia, Writer’s Block is real. It comes when you least expect it, when you round a corner of doubt, or when you’re excitedly working toward the end of your story.
There are two camps of thought when it comes to Writer’s Block: either you believe it exists or you believe it is hogwash. But that depends on how you define it.
The basic definition of Writer’s Block is when a writer feels unable or uninspired to write or continue writing. The Wikipedia definition says this:
Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.
But I'd like to pose another definition, the NEW definition of writer's block:
Noun. 1) Writer’s Block is a nonmedical psychological condition when a writer feels stuck and unable to move forward in a manuscript. 2) A temporary lapse in the ability to solve problems due to feeling less creative than normal.
Think about it. We all hit roadblocks from time to time. It doesn't matter if you're a mechanic, a doctor, a musician, a runner, or a parent. We encounter things that stop us in our tracks because we simply don't know how to move forward.
When you’re writing a novel and you don’t know how to make the character get from point A to point B, it’s a problem. When you don’t write for a month because you can’t decide which tense or point-of-view (POV) to write your story, it’s a problem. When you have character A doing something in chapter 4 and character B doing something in chapter 6 and they’re supposed to connect in chapter 8, but you have no idea how to make the connection, that’s a problem. Those kinds of creative slowdowns are just as difficult to overcome for a writer as it is for a runner to break their own PR.
4 Things That Cause Writer’s Block
What causes writer's block, anyway? There are four reasons why writer’s block happens:
A lot of writers use Writer’s Block as an excuse to not write. So they can be lazy. There’s something unpleasant about the writing task that causes procrastination. This reason is what leads many to believe that Writer’s Block is a myth - pure hogwash.
Perhaps you aren't quite ready to write the masterpiece you had in mind. That’s timing. When that happens, you'll hit a block for sure.
Fear is what paralyzes most people from taking action with anything. For writers, it's the fear of rejection. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not being perfect. The fear of failure. The fear of success. The fear of feeling like a fraud. The list goes on and on.
The fear creeps up and inserts itself smack dab in the middle of your story. Usually at a critical point where a character needs to make some kind of decision. It's like time has frozen and the clock keeps ticking, but nobody sees any way out. It's a stone cold block of ice. But somehow, you've got to chisel your way out.
Or maybe you're stuck in your writing because you don't have all the research (fear that your writing won’t be good enough until you get all the research done), or you haven't figured out transitions or point-of-view yet (craft-related problems).
All writers solve problems (or create them) every time they add a new chapter, a new character, a new action, or start revising their stories. You can’t always simply “write through it.” To solve these problems, it often requires reflection, deep thought, and different options to try out in order to bust through the mental block.
Most of the time, for fiction writers at least, “Writer’s Block” happens because a writer can’t seem to figure out the plot on one or more levels. But how can you chisel your way out of this problematic writer’s block and turn it into an exquisite wooden statue of a bear, an angelic ice sculpture, or your own marble masterpiece?
7 Surefire Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
How do you bust through that tough block of wood in the backyard of your brain? Learning how to overcome writer's block is a skill you can learn. While there are lots of things you can do, the simplest thing is to "Just Do It." Yes, write through the pain. Sometimes during a run, I feel a slight kink in my neck, or a strange click in my hip, or a small twinge in my knee, but usually when I run through the "pain" it works itself out and I feel a lot better afterward. The run loosens me up. Makes me more flexible. Works out the stiffness.
When you are feeling that stubborn stiffness in your writing, it's time to take action! You can't simply not write and expect the Muse to show up and help you with your writer's block problem. Creativity is the antidote to writer's block. So how do you boost creativity when you feel paralyzed by the fear of not knowing where to take your story next? PLAY!!!
To combat this common writing problem, try the seven best ways to bust through Writer’s Block and boost your creativity and play in the following ways:
Keep writing, keep running.
TWEET THIS: Writer’s Block is a lot like staring at yourself in the mirror with a blank face.
TWEET THIS: Creativity is the antidote to writer's block.
Christie Wright Wild
Founder, Writers Who Run
Creator, Plot Like a Novelist
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