Facing a blank page or screen can be a daunting experience for even the most ardent writer and, for many, it can bring forth feelings of self-doubt and criticism. Any lull in our creative process can grind a well-thought-out manuscript or short story to a halt.
Our mindset is a powerful tool when it comes to creativity. Without a desire to weave words, we may experience lethargy and despair. These thoughts become all-consuming until we no longer feel that glow of excitement as we open our notebook or switch on our laptop.
What is a writer’s block?
Block is when a writer struggles to produce new work. The words won’t come. Block can impact mental and physical health. It can get stop writers achieving their goals, halting progress for weeks, months or even years.
Do you recognise yourself in any of the following?
- You’re too busy: Writing can require planning, time, and dedication. If you’re also holding down a full-time job and have a family to look after, it can be tricky to find the time. That overwhelming to-do list can cause a block.
- Lack of planning: Getting started can be the hardest part. For some people, if even the briefest outline, plot or plan is not first drafted, the project can feel too vast, causing a block.
- Fear of failure: This is common among writers. You’ve got a great idea for a story, but what if your peers, family and friends don’t like it? A block can occur when you talk yourself out of writing in a bid to keep yourself safe from rejection.
- Imposter syndrome: You don’t believe you could produce anything worth reading, so you subconsciously create a block.
- Burn out: If you’re passionate about writing, you are more inclined to keep going until you have nothing left inside. Add ‘real life’ to this scenario and you can experience a loop where your shattered mind and tired body rebel against you to force you to slow down or stop for a while, creating a block.
There are many other reasons why blocks happen, not just the ones I’ve listed here, but these common examples can help you recognise when it’s happening to you.
Breaking through the blocks
Once you identify the reason behind your block, you can work to correct it. If you’re too busy, then it might mean rethinking the activities you’re juggling to see where you can make changes. Acknowledging you have imposter syndrome and learning to accept praise as well as constructive feedback can break that cycle. Taking your mental and physical health seriously and allowing yourself a break might be what you need right now.
Serious blocks may need further investigation. There are a range of supportive forums, writing groups and individuals who you could turn to for support.
For day-to-day blocks that stop you working on that next chapter, writing a short story or producing poetry, for example, there is one, simple tool worthy of every writer’s toolkit:
The writing prompt.
What are writing prompts?
A writing prompt acts like a warm-up exercise, loosening your creative muscles.
Many prompts come in the form of a story starter. Here are some examples:
- I still remember the day I was born…
- I’d been planning the perfect holiday for months, but then…
- We were supposed to meet on the bridge at midnight but she never showed up…
- It all started when I picked up the wrong bag at the train station…
You should feel a tingle of inspiration reading the prompt.
Simply write the words that follow.
Alternatively, you could pick a ‘word of the day’ such as:
Try using a word of your choice to inspire a piece of writing.
Whatever prompt you use, your task is to free write for five minutes. No editing, no reading back, no sharing. Just write.
If you’re experiencing block, try dedicating a small amount of time to a writing prompt today. It could be just what you need to free your imagination.