I used to question and doubt the existence of writer’s block. That was before I started to go through prolonged periods of feeling like I had nothing to say. While I now do believe in writer’s block, I also believe that there are certain steps one can take to get through this period, however long it lasts. It is my hope that this series will be a resource for those who don’t know what to write about, are stuck in their current project, or just want to try something new.
In writing, I have often found that there is a distinct difference between lacking the creativity to write and lacking the motivation to write. Both are important aspects when it comes to the process of creation, be it fiction or otherwise. Going through a motivation block is like opening a Dr. Seuss book and finding no color in the illustrations. Something that you once swore was vibrant and expressive (Dr. Seuss books/life) has now become unexpectedly dismal. You want to want to care, but you can’t. This can be quite problematic. If you were just frustrated, or just unsure of where to go next in your plot, you could simply take a few classes online or check out a book at the library or vent your feelings online to understanding, fellow writers. All would be perfectly acceptable methods of dealing with writer’s block. But when dealing with emotional block, something less talked about in the writing community, how do you move forward?
Here are some steps that I have been using:
1.) Breathe. Breathe again. Repeat for eternity. (You may move onto step two upon a few breaths.)
2.) Remember that emotions are fragile. They do not exist forever, especially if we do not want them to. It is not as simple as turning off an unwanted feeling, because our minds our not instruments of technology that respond to the flip of a switch. However, with determined work and effort, we can move closer to where we want to be. The next step explains how to do this.
3.) Stop the work, just for a bit. Even five minutes will do. There may be pressure to keep on plugging on, but try to remember that your brain doesn’t have the spark or encouragement to keep on working through your project. A break is needed.
4.) Seek something comforting. It can be something on YouTube that makes you laugh, a blog that gives you encouragement, a quote that empowers you, a song that reminds you of a better time. If none of these options are available to you, even closing your eyes and picturing a memory that gives you a smile (or even the temptation to smile) will work. Exist just in that moment. (There may be times throughout the process in which you are interrupted by persistent, unhelpful thoughts. Let the negative thoughts come in. Do not use energy trying to block them out or make them go away. Though it might sound counterintuitive, it will help you stay focused.)
5.) Understanding this going into it that, upon completion, you may not feel better. You may not want to do anything. This is okay. After all, if you have been experiencing a lack of desire for some time, it is not likely to go away within a few minutes. The above step may not have provided you with any sort of relief—yet. Remind yourself that this is the first time you have attempted the exercise. The more you surround yourself with positive thoughts and the more you strive to work with what you have, the more likely it is that your brain can change. The brain is, to a certain degree, flexible. If it helps, think of it like a storage unit. Right now, the storage unit may be filled with sharp, dark objects. Continuing to fill the unit with sharp, dark objects is not going to bring in the light again; only the addition of light, colorful objects can do that.
6.) Continue to find those colorful objects to fill your “storage unit” with. Do this as much as possible. It is going to feel stupid and foreign and worthless. It is going to require energy. But that energy is not going to be wasteful if it means finding joy in your work again.
7.) Go back to your work. Look at it again. Is there anything you didn’t see? Anything that feels worth pursuing, even hypothetically? Take note of this.
8.) Repeat steps 1-7 for as long as needed.
This is just what I have been doing. Reader, do you have anything you do that helps when you are stuck in a writing/work/life rut? Feel free to share down below.
*Photo Courtesy of izquotes.com.