To all my fellow writers who find themselves afflicted with the painful apathy of writer’s block (and that’s just about every single writer out there…), I salute you. You are not alone.
For the past six months or so, I have had the glorious experience of writing unencumbered by the crushing weight of writer’s block. I produced a full-length novel, wrote several short stories, and learned the ins and outs of indie publishing, all (seemingly) without taking a breath. Now, about five chapters into book two, I find myself facing a dilemma: I no longer have the energy to write. I no longer have the energy to do anything, really. When I get home from work, all I want to do is curl up on the couch, turn on the TV, and forget about my responsibilities until bedtime.
But I know, of course, that I am not alone in feeling this way.
Writer’s block is a very real phenomenon that occurs when a writer gets burned out. Sometimes it even happens before we start writing at all. The trick, it seems, is to just power through it. That seems to be the advice everybody gives, anyway. “Just put your nose to the grindstone, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start writing. After a while the words will start to flow.”
The problem is, writer’s block is just a symptom. It’s not a diagnosis. The root causes of writer’s block can vary widely, and therefore I believe that so should the treatments.
#1 – Inspiration Block
Sometimes we simply run out of things to write about. Call it a brain fart, a lack of creativity, whatever. It is when the idea well simply runs dry and no matter how hard we try, we can’t figure out where to take our story next. That’s when we need to re-inspire.
We are all inspired by something. For me, it is epic fantasy. When I am looking for inspiration, I’ll read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game. Anything to spark my imagination and get the gears turning. Maybe it’s a film that I haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe it’s a video game from my childhood. Wherever your inspiration comes from, go there and spend some time feeding your mind. You’ll find that more often than not, it’s exactly what you needed to jumpstart your writing.
#2 – Lack of Structure
Have you ever sat around on a Saturday, aimless and unable to bring yourself to the computer to write? Have you ever known that you should use this free time wisely so that you can churn out another chapter or two? If so, then you may be suffering from what I call a lack of structure.
If you are a responsible adult, then your work week is likely structured and predictible. Wake up at this time; drive into work at that time; do my job, drive home, repeat. Our lives are this way because we are creatures of habit, and when we allow ourselves to fall into a pattern, our productivity increases. It is important that we take a similar approach with our writing.
If you don’t yet have a method or pattern, make one. Dedicate a time slot, find a quiet room, and write until time runs out. Make it a part of your routine. “I won’t check Facebook until I have at least five hundred words on the page”. When writing becomes part of your life, just like brushing your teeth, you’ll find that writer’s block won’t effect you as often, and, most importantly, you’ll write more book.
#3 – Burnout
Last but not least, we have burnout. This is what I am currently working through right now. It feels like the fire that once burned within me has been snuffed out, and finding the energy to do anything productive at all seems like an impossible task. It is caused by trying to do too many things at once, from pushing yourself beyond your limits, and from refusing to take time to rest and recharge your batteries.
From what I can tell, there is no easy solution to overcoming burnout. I know from past experience (not in writing, but in other areas of my life), that the best way to overcome burnout is rest. Take a vacation. You’ve earned it. Try to sleep a little more; eat healthier. Change up your schedule a little bit. Just like all things, this too shall pass. With burnout, all you need is some time to get your spark back. And don’t fret because it will come back.
Now, none of this is to say that sometimes you don’t need to just power through it. There are days when that is great advice – just sit your butt in the chair and start writing. But I guess the point I am getting at is that a lot of the time writer’s block is caused by a myriad of different things, and so our approach should be more tactical in the way we overcome it.
This is far from a perfect list, and guess what? I’m still struggling through a bit of writer’s block at this very moment. But it is helpful to identify the root cause so that you can hasten your way to a speedy recovery👍🏻
Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts. Until next time, cheers.